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Voisin’s golden touch

Kudos for team manager extraordinaire
Published: 
Sunday, August 20, 2017
T&T’s gold medal winning team of Jarrin Solomon, Machel Cedenio, Lalonde Gordon and Jereem Richards celebrate after winning the gold in the men’s 4x400-metre relay final during the World Athletics Championships in London, England on Sunday. Photo by:David J. Phillip

At the end of every major international event it’s the successful athletes who get all the praise while the coaches and team managers are seldom mentioned, applauded or even recognised.

Team managers are the first to rise on mornings to make sure everything is in place for the athletes and are the last to rest their heads after all those under their charge have checked in and are well tucked in too.

Ask why is it that team managers are so overlooked and arguably under appreciated by many and why they are seen as just pencil pushers?

In an interview, Dexter Voisin, manager of the T&T team that brought international joy after securing two medals (a gold and bronze) at the recent 16th IAAF World Championships in London, England, pointed out that a team manger’s job was in the background.

He lamented: “All supporters and fans see is the finished product, which is the athletes, but there are different aspects of creating and putting that product together and getting ready for display appears to be the least of John Public’s concern, but that’s okay. I’m sure that every team manager wants to see our athletes succeed.”

Voisin, one of several grandsons of T&T’s late queen of parang Daisy Voisin and the fourth of six siblings to parents Cecily and Anthony, said at the end of the day the manager’s job is to make sure the performance of the athlete is challenge free before every event.

The manager’s role is to ensure that the athlete is given all the necessary support to perform at his/her ultimate best when the competition bell rings, no excuses and failures must be aimed or directed at the manager, none. The Manager’s responsibilities and planning starts long before the team is even selected. ”

A native of the Siparia, which is dubbed the “The Sand City,” Voisin chose distance running over all other sports during his teenage years growing up on Coora Road.

He said: “During my teenage years, Siparia was a very rich sporting village with football, cricket, cycling, basketball and netball for the girls of course, but I decided that athletics and in particular distance running would be my thing.”

He recalled, “In 1981 I joined Mendez Athletic Club with the likes of Moses Ranghel, the 1983 T&T Marathon champion, Ben Basanta, my brother Paul, the 1990 T&T marathon winner, Randolph Henry and Kenrick Brown, and we competed in races all over Trinidad. Every weekend we were running, sometimes we would compete in back-to-back races on Saturday and Sunday.”

Voisin, a graduate of the Fyzabad Anglican Secondary School (1981-86) and San Fernando Technical Institute (1986-88), represented T&T at the 1987 and ‘88 Carifta Games in the 5000 metres event, winning the bronze in ‘88, pointed out that London 2017 was unique.

He said: “Once again the team achieved its best results at any World Championships in terms of finalists and medals. The feeling was different, it was the most amount of T&T flags displayed at the medal ceremony. Our Caribbean colleagues stayed back in the stands and sang our national anthem together with us displaying the red, white and black to the world like if it was theirs. What a feeling that was. I felt overjoyed and very proud.”

Voisin’s talent as an athlete earned him an athletic scholarship to the United States, but he decided against it and instead enlisted in the T&T Regiment in 1989, alongside his brother Paul.

At present, he holds the rank of Warrant Officer Class 1, Regimental Sargeant Major to the Defence Force headquarters.

He recalled: “My first tour of duty as a team manager was in 2005, where I was selected to manage the CAC Championship team in Bahamas and later that year the World Championships team in Helsinki, Finland, a selection which was not intentional by the then leadership (former Defence Force Sgt Major Kenneth Doldrun was NAAA president) at the time due to internal politics.

“There I was a young inexperienced administrator with just one year on the executive with a task to manage our senior athletes on the world stage,” he pointed out.

“I remember getting 100 per cent support from Hasely Crawford and other members of the executive. At that championships our men’s 4x 100 metres relay team of the very talented Darrel Brown, Jacey Harper, Kevon Pierre and Marc Burns won a silver medal and I was walking with my chest out and my head held as high as I could stretch my neck,” he laughed.

The seven-time World Championship team manager, the longest reign by an one individual in the NAAA’s history, said he had no regrets when he decided to choose the Defence Force over taking up a scholarship.

“The Defence Force presented me with opportunities to represent and serve my country and there’s no price tag on that. Only so many of us as nationals get such exclusive opportunities. Sports has developed me socially to become the person I am today in every aspect that I can think about.”

After deciding to hang up his road running shoes and track spikes in 1997, he became the head coach of the T&TDF athletic team in subsequent years and was appointed assistant secretary on the the NAAA executive in 2004, a post he held up until 2016, then elected unopposed as general secretary in November 2016.

Looking back and reflecting, he said Helsinki was his initiation to team management and this helped him gain the respect and confidence of other NAAA members to the point where in 2006 he was appointed to manage senior national teams at regional and international meets.

 

Managerial Assignments to date

• World Championships- 2017, 2015, 2013, 2011, 2009, 2007, 2005

• Brazil Rio Olympic Games - 2012

• CAC Championships - 2005

• CAC Games - 2006

• World Juniors - 2008, 2010

• Carifta Games- 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2012, 2011

 

There’s no doubt as to why Voison holds his single Olympic Games managerial stint as his proudest assignment.

“My most memorable assignment is the Rio Olympics 2012, where we recorded our best results in the country’s Olympic history. We won our second Olympic Gold medal in 36 years and in an event (Javelin with Kershorn Walcott) that shocked the world and will remain in the history books for all different reasons. We achieved the most medals in any single Olympic Games.”

For the first time he revealed: “The night before the javelin finals, a decision had to be made by the team doctor and team management about whether to withdraw Keshorn from the event due to a back strain which occurred during the World Junior Championships the week before. The discussions surrounded the view of preserving a 19-year-old field athlete and thrower from T&T with the potential of a great future, of challenging the best in the world. In the end a decision was made by all parties which I participated in and it should be recorded as the decision which changed our Olympic history and ignited and united a country.”

He said the the memory of the team’s return to Piarco International Airport from the event still stands out.

“As we stepped off the plane the newly-crowned Olympic champion, his coach and his manager were hurriedly escorted into a private room while the rest of us were left to mingle with the general public and force our way out of Piarco. We were stuck in traffic for hours. The team doctor an I stood on the pavement joking about what just took place while we awaited our transport to arrive,” he said.

A proud father and husband, Voisin hailed his family (wife Joanne and children Jeneal and Tyrell) as his immediate support team.

Looking back, he said: “The institutional knowledge and experience that I have gained from my 27 years in the Defence Force are the ingredients that I’ve applied to my sporting experience. They have certainly helped me in my planning and execution as a team leader throughout the years.”

He ended: “Let me express congratulations again to those four young men, T&T’s gold medal winning team of Jarrin Solomon, Jereem Richards, Machel Cedenio and Lalonde Gordon for the great job they have done. They have made their country proud...Well done guys.”

Assistant Sports Editor