Had Hakeem Alexander’s life not come to an end at 16 years, the 2013 Carifta bronze medalist would have brought further glory to this country while in his prime. So said Gunness Persad, coach at Simplex Athletic Club, which Alexander represented. Alexander, was one of two teenagers who were shot and killed by police at Superville Hill, Laventille, close to his home, on Monday. The other boy killed was his 15-year-old cousin Tevin Alexander. Their deaths was followed by conflicting reports of the incident from police and neighbours. Police have claimed they were shot at by the teenagers, while an eyewitness said they were shot while surrendering in a kneeling position with their arms raised.
During his short career, Alexander, a former student at Success Laventille Secondary, racked up a host of accolades including a bronze medal in the Under-17 3000m event at last year’s Carifta Games in the Bahamas, clocking 9:49.59. He also broke the national primary schools’ 3k record. Alexander, however, did not compete for the year, according to Persad, who said he entered him in a number of meets including the 2014 Carifta trials. He might have won gold (at this year’s Carifta Championship), but he did not compete this year in any of the events I signed him up in. He was serious (about athletics). I don’t know what went wrong,” Persad said.
Persad noted that Alexander was one of six young athletes from Laventille who were recruited by Simplex last year, following the advice of a teacher of a primary school in Laventille.
“He definitely had the talent. Many people liked him because of his potential. He was cool, calm and quiet. He seemed to respect me. When he was with me, he listened, just like the boys he was with. They were all cool,” said Persad. He added, “Yes (I was shocked to hear the news). My main purpose was to help (the boys), show them out of poverty, show them that there are other avenues to succeed in life, such as athletics.” Alexander rarely trained with the club as it is based at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium, Marabella, and focuses its training routines primarily on sprints. The club current trains 45-50 runners, notably including Keston Bledman, Machel Cedenio and Kamaria Durant, all of whom Alexander could have joined in glory had he remained alive.