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Boldon calls for new blood on TT squads

JOEL BAILEY Sunday, May 14 2017

ATO BOLDON is arguably the most successful medallist for Trinidad and Tobago at the Olympic Games, having claimed four medals during his glittering career – bronze in the men’s 100 metres and 200m at the 1996 Atlanta Games; silver in the men’s 100m and bronze in the 200m at the 2000 Sydney Games.

Now he is the coach of youth sprint star Khalifa St Fort, as well as noted track and field commentator.

Boldon was in Curacao during the Easter weekend, as he watched St Fort take gold in both the Girls Under-20 100 and 200 metres, as well as TT’s overall performance where they bagged 22 medals (seven gold, five silver and 10 bronze).

“Curacao was good,” said Boldon, during a recent interview.

“(We had) a different team than in Grenada last year. This team was a lot more focused, seemed to be a lot more serious at the task at hand.” He continued, “they weren’t just there to be tourists. It’s no surprise that the outcome is better. Last year I said ‘it’s unacceptable. We’re fifth now in CARIFTA’.

And some people said ‘well Ato’s crying down the youths’. I wasn’t crying down the youths at all, I was calling it like it is. “We had a pattern in the last couple of years, coming back here (after) not having performing well at CARIFTA and saying ‘oh we did well’. Well we did not do well. This year we did well. So, as a result, I’m very happy for these kids and they deserve it.” Trinidad and Tobago’s first Olympic gold medallist Hasely Crawford was also part of the national contingent in Curacao, but Boldon made it clear that their presence were not only meant to spur on the crop of TT athletes at the 2017 competition.

“Hasely is there, I am there. They don’t have to look to us to realise that they can go from the level that they are now to being the best in the world,” said the 43-year-old Boldon. “So, I would hope so but the truth is that track and field is not an easy sport.

“If you have to find external forces to motivate you, it’s probably not going to work. The pain that you have to go through to be a good track and field athlete, it really has to come from inside. So maybe one or two percent of their focus or their drive comes seeing somebody like Hasely or Ato Boldon. But I would really hope that most is really self-motivated.” Commenting on St Fort’s performances, Boldon stated, “she’s having some health issues. You could hear her voice (was) completely gone. She’s been recently struggling for the last (few) weeks but I am prouder of this double than anything she has done.

“And she’s been Pan Am Junior champion,” he added. She’s been CARIFTA champion before, World Junior bronze and World Junior silver (medallist). This I’m proudest of, even though the times were not particularly good. I told her ‘anybody can win and perform when they’re feeling well. Champions do it even when they’re not at 100 percent’.

So I’m very happy, particularly with the 200 (metres) because she really was having a crisis of confidence after a very narrow win in the 100 metres.” Boldon admitted that he has no problem combining both roles as coach and commentator.

“At the end of the day, it’s still track and field. I think each of them helps the other. I think broadcasting has made me a better coach (and) coaching makes me a better broadcaster.” The main track and field competition this year is the IAAF World Championships in London from August 4-13.

But Boldon, in his typically outspoken manner, made it clear that changes will be needed in terms of the personnel representing the twin-island republic.

“We did not have a particularly good Olympics (last year in Rio de Janeiro) and that is a source of concern. It means that, what has to happen this year if we are going to come home with medals from the World Championships, we have to have some new blood. Maybe it’s going to be in the person of Khalifa who can make the team individually for the first time, or maybe it’s a (youngster in the) field event. I don’t know. “But the truth is that when you look at last year’s personnel, we have some aging veterans and you can’t count on your aging veterans to deliver at a World Championships, because they are on the other side of their careers.

To me, we have to figure out who is going to be the future as we look to 2020 (Olympics in Tokyo, Japan).

So it’s going to be a very important year but it’s going to be tough for us to (get) medals in 2017.” The great Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt will be retiring this year, but what are Boldon’s hopes for the sport in 2017? “The headline is Bolt only running the 100 metres for the first time at the World Championships, that is being his swansong,” he noted.

“But I think we’ll have some intriguing things coming. We have Shaunae Miller from the Bahamas who is going to a 200-400 double at the Worlds. We have Wayde Van Niekerk who broke the world 400 metres record at the Olympics. He’s doing a 400 and a 200m. It’s the first time that a final is going to line up without Usain Bolt in maybe 12 years. It’s going to be interesting.

“The Olympics showed us while we love Bolt and we realise that Bolt is a once-in-a-generation talent, there are great matchups. I just think it’s going to be a very good World Championships,” Boldon ended.



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