Five-time First Citizens Sportswoman of the Year Cleopatra Borel excited teenagers attending Tuesday's installment of the Atlantic and Ministry of Sport 17th Annual Sport Desk Leadership Symposium held at the Petrea Hall at the Centre of Excellence, Macoya, declaring that self-discipline ensured she was ready to conqueror the world both athletically and educationally.
The champion shot putter was at the time responding to questions from a male participant who first wanted to know if she had a back-up plan considering that one major injury was all it took end a flourishing sporting career, and barring injury, if she planned to throw a metal ball for the rest of her natural life, or had a contingency plan to live comfortably in retirement.
"I have dealt with many injuries during my time and never something to serious to end my career. I do not want to throw the shot put for the rest of my life. I went to university. I have a bachelor's degree. I have a Master's degree. The degrees are related to health and wellness promotion and it's just a continuation of what I have done as an athlete. Even if you are an athlete and you enjoy competing, there is life after that. You can get into management and there are a host of things you can do.
Never do one thing and pigeon hold yourself. Always have a back-up plan and having a good education is always a great back-up plan, because no one can take that from you," she explained.
The champion Pan American Games gold medallist was a past pupil of Mayaro Government Primary School. She successfully wrote the Common Entrance Exam and passed for Mayaro Composite School and continued onto St Stephens College. Her desire to pursue higher education took her to the University of Maryland, Baltimore, USA, where she earned a degree in Health Psychology and Pre-physical Therapy, before moving on to Virginia Tech (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University) where she attained a Master's Degree in Education and Health Promotions.
"I am sure I could have done something else if I wanted to be famous and something easier if I wanted to be rich. But that's not why I do it. I do it because this is what I love. It is what I enjoy doing the most and I think it's why I have a big impact on young people like yourselves, to let you know that you can dream. You can come from Mayaro, you could dream about going to the Olympics, travel the world doing what you want to do. I hope I can inspire you guys to give your best life a shot, to enjoy what you enjoy doing the most," she said.
As eager and brilliant young students continued to engage the accomplished athlete, Borel was asked to respond to concerns regarding sport development in the nation's primary and secondary schools. She expressed satisfaction with existing systems designed to attract and develop athletes within the school system.
"Things are a lot better from when I was growing up. My vision is that we should have a system to identify athletes, identify people who want to be in management, even medical. Sport medicine is a huge field. There are a lot of medical things that are attached to sport. I just think that we need to develop a stronger system to get people from point 'A' to point 'B'. I am sure that the people in charge are working on that and when I am in charge, I'll work on that," said Borel.
She proudly communicated what patriotism meant to her and extolled simple virtues that could become part of everyday life in T&T. "I spent time around Americans and when the say 'this is America!' it means something different from when we say 'this is Trinidad!' We just have to understand that this is paradise; 365 days of lovely sunshine. We have gorgeous beaches. We have industry and infrastructure.
"As a young person I think that you can take care of our country in small ways, like not littering, driving like a decent person; saying hello to your neighbor and just making your surroundings pleasant. And when you do that the next person will encourage another person. I think that we will really begin to appreciate our beautiful islands," said Borel.
The three-day symposium which attracted the likes of world batting champion Brian Lara, former world Cup goal-keeper and now ESPN commentator Shaka Hislop, former world boxing champion Ria Ramnarine and gymnast Thema Williams togther with Sports Minister Darry Smith ended on Wednesday.