Former Olympic and Worlds medallist Ato Boldon believes former young sprinting sensation Khalifa St Fort will return to competitive action. He also believes coaches and athletes alike have to accept blame for the state of athletics in Trinidad and Tobago and hopes the Government can establish an independent anti-doping organisation in this country.
“The younger athletes, especially in the sprint events, have not come forward. Can you imagine that for the first time since 1991, we have not had an individual qualify for the 100 metres? That says a lot and we have to note that significance,” Boldon said on the ISports Saturday programme on I95.5FM with host Andre Errol Baptiste over the weekend.
“Our country, I have been told by the IAAF that T&T has the most qualified coaches per capita but we are not producing the athletes.”
Boldon made the comment as he sought to clear up a misunderstanding about a comment he made last year when he said “some women were lane fillers.”
“I made that comment to relate to persons who were being selected, it appeared, ahead of Khalifa St Fort, one of the fastest young women in the world, by the NAAA ahead of the Commonwealth Games in 2018.
“And for some reason, I believe persons told Michelle (Lee Ahye) that I was referring to her. But I would never do that and I can tell you on my children that Michelle, who has been our best sprinter and competing at the highest level for many years, could never be considered such. But it appears that was said to her so let me clear this up here, I would never call Michelle a lane filler.”
On the news earlier this year that St Fort had parted ways with Boldon, he confirmed this was true.
“Yes, what happened is that Khalifa came to me and said she wanted some time off at this time and I told her okay, but we will go forward a certain way and the next thing I saw was that she was doing something different and I felt then that I had to publicly part ways with her,” he said.
“Because as I told her, I had vouched for her with various sponsors in Trinidad and I could not just let this happen, as I have given my assurances. The only time I knew things got bad was when Khalifa took herself out of the WhatsApp group we have and then she unfollowed Briana Williams from Instagram and that is a big thing in those young people circles and the fact that Briana worshipped her, made it even further significant.”
Boldon admitted that he has not spoken with St Fort since.
“I know many said it was because I was neglecting Khalifa in favour of Briana but that is not true, as I actually was giving Khalifa the most attention at this time.”
On whether he expects St Fort to return, he said, “No, honestly no, I do not at this time.”
He did, however, have some advice for local sprinters Jereem Richards, whom he believes needs to change his style to medal in the Tokyo Olympics next year and Kyle Greaux adding to his regime.
“Jereem has to change his template. He cannot get slow starts and give four or five runners a big lead coming off the turn, I think he has regressed and he has to get going now,” Boldon said.
“As for Kyle, I was impressed with him and actually had him in a medal chance but now I heard he was injured. I think he should consider being a part of the 4x400 metres relay team. I use to do the anchor and once you can run sub-20 in the 200 metres it would be a good idea for him.”
Asked if he would be interested in coaching some other T&T athletes, Boldon, who coached Kelly-Ann Baptiste and Richard Thompson for a short while in 2015/2016, noted: “After the experiences with both Kelly and Richard, who I still talk with very regularly, it is that when a professional comes to you, I have realised that many times they are set in their ways and how they are accustomed and then I am set in my ways and accustomed to things being done my way, so I have to be cautious with pros, they have to buy-in to what I want done.”
Boldon also believes the Government needs to ensure a law is passed for the establishment of an anti-doping organisation in this country and it is processed quickly.
“Sometimes it appears that once one government does something, the other party that comes in does not follow through. We need always to put the athletes and our sporting people first,” he said.