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Medal hopes alive

Sunday, August 5 2012

Trinidad and Tobago’s medal hopes in the current 2012 Olympic Games in London remain very much alive with yesterday’s sterling performance of Richard Thompson, this country’s 2008 Olympic Games 100-metre medallist in Beijing, who ran a close second to former world sprint champion, Tyson Gay, in the first of the 100-metre heats run off yesterday.

Two other nationals, Jehue Gordon, competing in the 400-metre hurdles and Njisane Phillip, cyclist, who advanced to the quarter final stage of the men’s flying 200-metre event, are among this country’s representatives at the Olympic Games who are still in contention for an Olympic medal.

But while hopes for Olympic medals have largely evaporated for other Trinidad and Tobago Olympic contenders, nonetheless yesterday’s performance of Kelly-Ann Baptiste, who came sixth in the 100-metre sprint final will long be remembered. Although Baptiste came in sixth in the finals she ran the race in an impressive 10.94 seconds, a time marginally behind that of the winner who did the race in 10.75 seconds. Indeed, Kelly-Ann Baptiste had the distinction of being among the six finalists, who clocked less than 11 seconds. This is the first time that any of the country’s female athletes has made it to the 100-metre final at the Olympic Games.

Meanwhile, despite reservations that cyclist Phillip would have made it to the next round because world renowned cyclists, for example, Robert Forstemann, of Germany; Denis Dmitriev of Russia, Shane Perkins of Australia and Hersony Canelon, of Venezuela, were in contention, Phillip, one of the fastest cyclists that Trinidad and Tobago has produced, displayed his mettle as a potential champion on the world stage.

In much the same way that other Trinidad and Tobago athletes found themselves up against persons who had excelled on the world stage, the person, who had defeated Jehue Gordon in yesterday’s 400-metre hurdles, Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic had won the event in Athens in 2004.

Today, in countless homes and liming spots across the twin-island State scores of Trinidadians and Tobagonians will gather to cheer on the athletes as they compete in the various events. And although, they will carry with them the hope and belief that the representatives will turn in medal winning performances, including securing the nation’s first Olympics gold medal since the Montreal Games, whether we achieve gold, silver or bronze or simply do well, all will be satisfied that our competitors turned in their best.

Although we have achieved a lot in producing top class Olympians, we need to initiate sustained campaigns of training our people from a young age through hiring the best coaches that our resources can offer. This should be both a public and a private sector initiative, to produce more Richard Thompsons, George Bovells, Keston Bledmans, Marc Burns, Jehue Gordons. Kelly-Ann Baptistes, Cleopatra Borel-Browns, Andrew Lewises and Njisane Phillips among others.

What is of critical importance is that a small country as Trinidad and Tobago, with a population barely above 1,300,000 and with limited resources could have produced such Olympic talent. Not only is this a credit to the athletes themselves, their coaches and trainers, but even as we pin our hopes on Olympic medals the contenders are examples to our young people that discipline, commitment and sacrifice must be crucial ingredients in their lives if they are to succeed. And succeed not only to become potential Olympians but in the classroom as well.

The act of our young people cheering on Richard Thompson, Jehue Gordon and Njisane Phillip today will not be complete without them being encouraged to emulate them.

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