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Emotional Figaro as rugby pulls off upset
Leslie Figaro, president of the T&T Football Rugby Union has described as “emotional” the feat of the men’s rugby squad which was named “Team of the Year” at Saturday’s Spirit of Sport Awards, held at Queen’s Hall in St Ann’s, Port-of-Spain. At the awards conceptualised and produced by the Ministry of Sports and the Sport Company of T&T, the senior ruggermen pulled the night’s biggest upset beating out cricket and hockey for this top honour. Figaro said over the last five years, rugby had gone through a metamorphosis and a lot of changes were made where all national teams were lifted to another level. He cited this country’s hosting of the North American and Caribbean Rugby Association Championships 2013 (NACRA) as a major victory for the sport. It was “excellent”, said Figaro, who recalled that T&T had the honour of fielding two Under-19 teams in both the first and second divisions. This, he said, was made possible when a visiting team second division squad withdrew from the competition.
As fate would have it, T&T’s second division team emerged top at the end of the tournament. Figaro showered praises on the partnership the Rugby Union now enjoys with the Ministry of Sports and its implementation arm the Sport Company of T&T (SporTT). He noted the professionalism of Tobias Ottley, executive manager of the Elite Development and Performance Unit (EDPU), under whose stewardship national athletes were experiencing a new level of development. “They were under his guidance before they went to the Caymans. So the strength and conditioning allowed rugby to go to another level. They have really added value,” Figaro said. The Rugby Union official said 20 athletes were now benefitting from the expertise of the elite unit which meant whatever circumstances hindered a player on the first team, the pool from which to choose a replacement would be equally as talented.
Focusing on the women, Figaro underscored their dedication to the sport which explained their top position in the Caribbean. The quality of their performance, he said, had made the women eligible to compete in various major international tournaments starting this January in Las Vegas. The men’s team is also scheduled to compete in that US state, next month. Their competition roster, however, will take them to Chile to face Argentine and Fijian teams. In February, they will access the US Olympic training camp before boarding a flight to Hong Kong for its rugby 7s in March. Commenting on the Community Champion Award bestowed onto rugby athlete Kwanieze John for her promotion of the sport, Figaro said, John had a life in rugby. “She has developed into an excellent young lady, well respected in the fraternity not only in rugby, but sport in general. She has a level of dedication that is second to none. It is not about money, this is about passion for young people and women,” he said. Figaro added, “She has been coaching before she was born. The fact that somebody so young could pull in such a cross section of young people is incredible. The model she uses for getting young people and women in the sport should be the model nationally for all sports. She should be the first port of call. She delivers! The corporate sector should invest in her because she has a contribution to make in sport and life skills.”
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