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Fictitious ‘National Field Programme’ angers Lopez

Saturday, January 19 2013

THANK God for Minister of Sport Anil Roberts, his ministry and the Sport Company of Trinidad and Tobago.

This is the feeling now among the track and field fraternity after a fall-out between president of the National Association of Athletic Administration (NAAA) Ephraim Serrette and javelin thrower Keshorn Walcott, before the Olympic Games, had threatened to prevent the Gold medal performance of Walcott.

Walcott’s 84.58 metres throw made him only the second non-European and first athlete in the Western Hemisphere to have won an Olympic gold medal in the javelin.

Newsday understand that because of the fall-out the lanky Toco-born athlete could not get a proper javelin to compete at the Carifta Games in Bermuda last year, as well as prepare for the Olympic Games in London, England.

A release from Walcott’s manager Sean Roach revealed that Serrette blatantly refused to make a request for a proper javelin for Walcott and instead advised him to get his own javelin as he was receiving Elite Athletes Funding from government. Walcott who had won gold in almost every meet he contested as a junior, demanded a javelin to use before the Carifta Games, as the old javelin he had been using had caused an injury to his elbow.

According to Roach, it was due to the generosity of Equipment Manager Noel Hyland and Roberts that Walcott got a javelin to go to the Carifta Games and prepare properly for the Olympics.

Roberts at a press conference presented Walcott with four new IAAF certified Gill Athletics javelins that were used only by the top 10 javelin throwers in the world.

However Serrette in a recent newspaper report denied reports that there had been a fall-out with Walcott before the Olympics, saying “We had an issue. Before London, we had competition javelins that were not used for training. We felt at that time that he may have been given some assistance to get his own equipment. I don’t think that was anything and I didn’t make anything out of it.” Roach also revealed that his athlete also encountered problems getting a pair of shoes from the NAAAs ahead of the Carifta and Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games. After being told that the NAAAs did not have his size of shoes, the lanky 19 year old athlete was made to get his own shoes (Nike). Yet he was chastised for the brand (Nike), as it was not the same as their sponsor Adidas.

Meanwhile Serrette was also the victim of a stinging attack by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Sport Ashwin Creed, other officials in his ministry, Roach and Ishmael Lopez Mustrapha- the coach of Walcott, for attempting to snatch the credit for Walcott’s Olympic Gold medal performance.

In the daily report Serrette explained that Walcott’s successes at the Olympics, Carifta and World Junior Championship were due mainly to a National Field Programme that coach Lopez-Mustrapha was used in. The NAAAs boss said “We have seen the fruits coming out of our national field programme. Keshorn came out of that programme and had a great year, winning the Carifta, CAC, World Juniors and Olympics.” He also added “With regards to the field programme in Toco, we used to have coach Lopez Mustrapha go up to Toco twice a week, Tuesday and Thursdays”.

However Creed, Lopez-Mustrapha and Roach described the programme as fictitious, saying they never heard of the national field programme before. Creed even called on Serrette to present the names of the other coaches of that programme.

A release from Lopez-Mustrapha stated that Serrette did not want to work with the Cuban coaches- who came to Trinidad and Tobago as part of a bilateral agreement between TT and Cuba’s National Institute of Sport, Physical Education and Recreation.

Lopez-Mustrapha said he was only able to work with Walcott and other athletes through the Ministry of Sport Primary School Programme. “When I saw Keshorn I immediately saw his potential” He added “In an effort to expose Keshorn and other aspiring young athletes to develop their sporting talent, I made a request to take them to a professional training camp in Cuba during the period April 13- May 10. The sport company took care of all expenses for this initiative.”

Meanwhile Creed is sending a message to Serrette that his ministry does not operate by guess, saying that a certain amount of research is done before the ministry decides on coaches to be used for the development of local athletes. Lopez-Mustrapha was among nine coaches from Cuba who came here as part of the exchange programme.

There were also coaches in the disciplines of boxing, basketball and volleyball among others.

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