Anna-Lisa Paul and Bobie-Lee Dixon
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Commonwealth Games Minister Roberts banking on 10 medals
Sports Minister Anil Roberts is expressing confidence that the T&T contingent at the XX Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, will deliver medal performances to surpass the nine this country earned almost five decades ago. At the 1966 Games held in Kingston, Jamaica, team T&T earned five gold medals, two silver and two bronze. In a G-Sport interview yesterday, Roberts said being a coach, he was not in the practice of making predictions, but declared that he had great expectations from the athletes who would remind the world about this country’s prowess as a respected sporting nation.
“I will put it to you this way. I will be extremely happy if we can hit six gold medals and if we can get a total of twelve medals. Will you call that a prediction? You may! That’s the way I see it based on performances. We’ll watch and we will support each and every athlete as they go by. We also want athletes to get the best times, best performances. Remember we are on a build up to the 2016 Olympics, so we want to see personal best from all the athletes,” he said.
“Our athletes are well prepared. We have many team and individual athletes that have qualified. We have a very large contingent. As you know, you always have expectations, but as a coach I would tell you, the athlete doesn’t really fulfil them until the day, at the time, at the hour in the final. But of course, we will be looking for fantastic performances from Michelle Lee Ahye. The nation would have become aware of her incredible performances for this year. The ministry and I, along with her manager Sean Roach have been watching her over the past four years. She went through some injuries, but she is now looking very good for the 100 and 200 (metre) double, and of course, if she participates in some of the relays, we could get some precious metal there.”
Olympic medallist Richard Thompson would remain a beacon of hope for T&T at the Games, Robert declared. The minister said Thompson was in ripping form in the 100-metre as well as the 4x100-metre relay. “He’s back from injury and has been doing a lot of work with the high performance centre. He has the right attitude. He is a big race horse. After the London 2012 Olympics, I said that the spirit (of T&T) going into Rio 2016 will be Richard Thompson and his attitude; to run from last place back to fourth, and then moved up to bronze, and then to silver–because of his never say die attitude when the baton pass was terrible on the third to fourth leg,” said Roberts.
He added, “So his attitude is what all of our athletes will try to emulate. Then you have Deon Lendore, Renny Quow, Lalonde Gordon and Jarrin Solomon running to form and our 4x400 (metre) men. We have Keshorn Walcott just winning gold in Poland with a distance of 83:90. Hopefully, he can get above 85:00 and win gold. We have Njisane Phillip coming back from illness and looking good and we look for a double in the match sprint, but his competition is very difficult with the British athletes. You know, they are some of the best in the world, but we look for him to fly the flag.”
The minister had no doubt that Olympic medallist George Bovell III in the 50-metre freestyle would do this country proud, but hoped that Dylan Carter competing in the 200 freestyle could draw from the veteran swimmer’s experiences. Despite fierce competition from the Australians, Canadians and English swimmers, Roberts was confident that Carter could get the better of them once he controlled his nerves. Commenting on the team sports hockey, rugby 7s and netball, the minister said it was great they had qualified, and they must deliver the great performances expected of them.
Roberts tackled concerns raised in some sporting quarters about the number of officials accompanying athletes. “These athletes are fine-tuned machines. The ministry will make every effort to have physiotherapist, doctors, massage therapist, chiropractors, trainers, and nutritionists, everybody who are there to ensure the best is available for our athletes. But the minister, like Brian Lewis, president of the T&T Commonwealth Games Association (TTCGA/TTOC) wanted champion performances from judo, gymnastics, squash and triathlon athletes, too. Christopher George was the lone athlete for judo, while Marissa Dick, Khazia Hislop and William Albert were representing gymnastics. Like George, David Cottle was a one-man team in triathlon, while table tennis veteran Dexter St Louis leads a group that includes Curtis Humphreys, Aaron Wilson, Yuvraj Dookram, Rheann Chung, Ashley Quashie, Aleena Edwards and Catherine Spicer.
Colin Ramasra, Kale Wilson, Kerrie Sample and Charlotte Knaggs were representing squash.
“The term small sports is going to become a thing of the past, because we have athletes and we have prowess in many sports. With the coach and with the funding and with the help of the elite (performance) unit and everybody working together as is going on now, we can expect great performances. The mere fact that these sports are now coming to the fore, getting funding (and) have identified elite athletes was a clear indication of the evolution,” he said. Roberts said he looked forward to George’s emergence on the mixed martial arts (MMA) circuit internationally as well as the UFC (Ultimate Fight Club).