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Outsiders vie for sporting acclaim

2015 FCB Sports Awards
Published: 
Sunday, March 6, 2016
Aditi Soondarsingh

A total of 54 athletes (29 men and 25 women) have been nominated as hopefuls by their respective sporting association to contest the 2015 First Citizens Sports Foundation Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year awards. 
The First Citizens Sports Foundation, under the Distinguished Patronage of His Excellency, President of the Republic of T&T, Dr Anthony Carmona. The annual sports awards ceremony will take place on March 13, at Queen’s Hall, Port-of-Spain.
        
BADMINTON
                
Alistair Espinoza
For the way in which he managed to carry on the good work into another year, a round of applause definitely needs to be targeted at Alistair Espinoza. At the Caribbean Championships in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, he played his part in Trinidad and Tobago finishing third in the overall team competition. 

Apart from capturing a bronze medal with Will Lee at the inaugural Trinidad and Tobago International championships at the Eastern Regional Indoor Complex in Tacarigua, last May, Espinoza also paired up with Nicholas Bonkowsky to earn a bronze medal in the doubles at the Suriname International in November. He was also very outstanding in local competition.

Avril Plaza-Marcelle
One of the established faces on the local badminton scene going back to the early-2000s, it was Avril Plaza-Marcelle’s ability to maintain a consistent presence near the top of almost every event in which she competed in that made all the difference, last year.

At the Caribbean Championships in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, she took home the silver medal from the women’s doubles competition—along with her partner Leanna Castanada—earned a bronze medals in the women’s singles competition and the team event. There was another bronze performance in the women’s doubles at the T&T International in Tacarigua—this time with Kamasha Robertson

 BODYBUILDING

Kelton Thomas
There is a reason why Kelton Thomas finds himself at the top, year in, year out: focus. Alright, yes. There is also tenacity, determination, discipline and long-term planning. You are not going to achieve your goals without dipping into each of these barrels for sustenance. Thomas continued to serve as an example for others to follow as he challenged the world and held his own. 

He earned a fifth-place finish in the lightweight (70 kg) division at the Joe Weider Amateur Mr. Olympia in Malaga, Spain, last June and also locked up sixth-place positions at Arnold Classic Europe in Madrid, the Joe Weider Olympia in England and the IFBB World Championships in Benidorm, Spain in the 75 kg category.

Thomas also demonstrated his qualities locally: during the TTBBF Championships at the Cascadia Hotel in St Ann’s on August 22, he captured the men’s 70 kg title ahead of Sanjay Lutchman and Cori Baynes. 

Vanessa Hill
Another one of several repeat nominees in this year’s First Citizens Sports Foundation Awards, Vanessa Hill’s consistency boils down to the qualities of focus and determination to hold the edge over her peers when it came to competition.

This she did at the Central American and Caribbean Championships in Nassau, Bahamas, where she won the gold medal in the women’s 166 cm C division. She also claimed two titles at the JC’s Gym & BFASM Inter-Island Championships in St Martin: the bikini overall and the bikini fitness class B competition. 

At the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus Ohio, USA, she earned second spot in the women’s 167 cm bikini fitness event with a score of 14 that placed her behind the champion from New Zealand, Katya Nosova (8). Hill followed up this display with a fourth-place performance in the over-163 cm section at Arnold Classic Brazil. 

At the TTBBF Championships in St Ann’s, Hill captured the overall women’s bikini and A class bikini titles.

 CANOE/KAYAK

Satyam Maharaj
While one may be tempted to speculate that possessing a ripped upper body is the edge-giver in competitive kayaking, the truth is that few of the most successful participants sport anything more than a slender physique.

Indeed, Satyam Maharaj’s continuing ascension has a lot more to do with repetitive training, foresight and yearning for success. His four days-a-week training regime paid off with victory in the long course (14 km) event at the Ortoire River Race on October 17. He steered his Olympic-style kayak through a close hustle to the finish point ahead of John Horsfall and Matthew Robinson. Maharaj, in the end, maintained his concentration and form all the way to the end to notch up another important win. 

Keian Huggins
Trinidad’s south-east is normally an idyllic utopia of fantastic beaches and intriguing swampland, but it was also the scene of a very special moment for Keian Huggins.
She was the only female participant in the long course challenge, over 14 km, at the Ortoire River Race, yet Huggins confirmed her quality by claiming fourth-place overall.  Her clocking of one hour, 30 minutes, nine seconds—just six seconds outside of the top three male finishers, Satyam Maharaj, John Horsfall and Matthew Robinson - was a testament to her serious potential. Yet the fact that she was also the top female participant and fourth-place overall finisher in the Five Islands Races of September 12 and October 10, should have served as a warning to her rivals. 

CHESS
                     
Kevin Cupid
Chess is all about the mind games: understanding the moves, anticipating the opponent and applying the appropriate response to the situation: it gives any competitor the chance to wield mental power like a true warrior, even someone who appears as outwardly unassuming as Kevin Cupid.

The 24-year old captured the national men’s chess championship title as he finished on nine points, with just one loss and two draws. Cupid also demonstrated his top form in other events across the Trinidad and Tobago community, such as the Knight’s Open, Paladins Open and DeVerteuil Open Blitz tournaments, in which he each earned second-place finishes.

Cupid also competed at the Srefidensi Chess Masters event in Paramaribo, Suriname, where he earned 3.5 points out of nine.
                    
Aditi Soondarsingh
Sometimes the living legends are immediately obvious—Maradona, Jordan, Gretsky, Lara—while others establish their greatness over a period of time, in a more comet-like than meteoric fashion (though the class is still undeniable)—Tigana, Dumars, Forsberg, Gomes. Aditi Soondarsingh may just, only just, fall into this latter category.

Soondarsingh regained her TTCA national women’s chess title after she racked up eight points edging out Javanna Smith by a half-point. It is Soondarsingh’s ninth T&T women’s title—a feat that definitely sets the 27-year old apart as one of the most outstanding female chess players in the country’s history.

Soondarsingh also shared the women’s title at the Srefidensi Chess Open tournament in Suriname.