I first met Derek Walcott, who died on March 20, in the late 1960s when we both worked as reporters at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Evening News in my native Trinidad.
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Back to the drawing board for T&T sports
Tired bodies but even tougher minds departed from Glasgow, Scotland, over the past two days, as T&T athletes bid farewell to the Commonwealth Games which closed on Sunday with a gala ceremony. After 12 days of intense competition T&T emerged with eight medals—three silver and five bronze—to improve T&T’s overall medal count at the event to 52 (eight gold, 20 silver, 24 bronze).
T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis, is encouraged by the effort of all the athletes and applauded their successes. “I am proud of our medallists and those, who made the finals and did their season’s best,” said Lewis in his first major competition as the head of the TTOC. “It augurs well for Pan Am in Toronto next year and Rio Olympics (2016),” he said.
It was slow start to the 20th edition of the event but Ayanna Alexander sparked some life into the T&T camp on the seventh day, by winning this country’s first medal, a bronze in the women’s triple jump event, leaping to a distance of 14.01 metres at Hampden Park Stadium.
A day later, it was Cleopatra Borel and Lalonde Gordon making it three for T&T as the duo went on to nab a silver and bronze, respectively. Borel’s toss of 18.57m earned her a third Commonwealth medal, bagging bronze at the 2006 Melbourne Games and a silver at the Delhi Games in 2010.
Gordon’s battle-to-the-end attitude saw him cross third in the men’s 400m. It was the first of two bronze medals he secured, leading the 4x400m team that also included Jarrin Solomon, Renny Quow and Zwede Hewitt, two days later. Jehue Gordon ran a season’s best 48.75 to win a silver medal in the 400m hurdles final, which made it four for T&T last Tuesday.
On Saturday, the final day of track and field, the expectations were high for T&T to make it unto the podium. Olympic champion Keshorn Walcott and both the 4x100 relay team of Richard Thompson, Marc Burns, Rondel Sorrillo and Keston Bledman and the 4x400m did just that.
Walcott, only the previous day, had broken his own national record throwing 85.28 in the opening round to better the 84.58m standard he had set in winning gold in 2012, had his best throw on the sixth and final round of 82.67, to capture the second major title of his career, a silver medal.
Earlier the week, both Thompson and Bledman, both Olympic silver medallists, missed out on qualifying for the 100m final while Sorrillo was eliminated in the 200m event. Failures that left a sour feeling with the trio, however, they did well to bounce back and placed third in 38.10 with the help of Burns. Lalonde, Solomon, Quow and Hewitt combined to clock 3:01.51 in the 4x400m final to seize a bronze.
The night before though, at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC), Michael Alexander nabbed a bronze medal also. Despite being defeated by Northern Ireland’s Joe Fitzgerald in the semifinals of the men’s lightweight division, Alexander was guaranteed a medal even before entering the ring as losing semifinalists are awarded bronze medals.
Lewis, who got a chance to see the local athletes in action, said, evaluating some of their performances, that he saw promise which was good for the future.
He said: “Dylan Carter showed his potential as did Michael Alexander and Judo's Christopher George.
“George Bovell showed he is still a world class swimmer.”
Both Bovell and Carter missed out on medals in the 50m freestyle and the 100m freestyle finals, respectively.
Bovell (22.31), who also reached the final of the 50m backstroke but chose not to compete, and Carter (49.56) placed fifth in their respective races.
T&T’s team sports were totally outclassed. The national netball team placing tenth from 12 teams, winning only one match over Barbados (38–37). The “Calypso Girls” suffered losses to South Africa (56–40), Wales (50–31), Australia (69–34) and England (70–24). In their classification match against host Scotland, they lost 46–28.
The men’s rugby sevens team lost all of its pool matches to South Africa (36–0), Kenya (35–5) and Cook Islands (33–10), to be relegated to the bowl competition and lost to Canada, 33–0.
Down in the Shield contest, the local did manage to win a match against Malaysia, 15–10 in the semifinals but fell to Sri Lanka (43–7) in that finale.
“At times I must admit it has been a difficult Games in that sense because it is never easy watching younger athletes get a baptism of fire,” said Lewis.
Both men’s and women’s hockey teams were also outplayed by their opponents to place tenth in the respective divisions.
The local stickmen though, did create history, by winning its first ever match at a Commonwealth Games, beating Malaysia 4–2 in the final preliminary match.
“We don’t afford our team sports the competitive programme that they need and it makes no sense stopping and starting is either we committed to it or we not we can’t be halfway committed then complain about the cost. If we want our teams to perform well and build and develop we have to invest the money in terms of the high level competitions.”
“The people that are making these decisions need to face reality International sports at this level have changed. We have a lot to improve.
Roger Daniel, who thrived in the last two Commonwealth Games, with two silver (2010) and a bronze (2006), left empty-handed. Daniel best showing was in the 50m Pistol event, where he placed seventh.
With competitions like the World Championships, Pan American Games and even the Olympics quickly approaching, T&T athletes will look to recuperate and dive back into preparations.
“The TTOC have to do a comprehensive review of everything we do because there are a lot of things that other countries are doing and if we have to compete we must do.”