Retirement is perhaps the hardest decision for anyone, much less an athlete whose entire life has been surrounded by sport. So when George
Bovell revealed yesterday that before his 50-metre freestyle preliminary race he considered retirement, he was giving a look into his future. “Coming into this race, I was considering retiring but it was still a decision. I said I am going to work through and whatever the outcome, I will be okay,” said Bovell. “I am pretty sure I won’t be in Tokyo. But I thought I was done last time. I am not making a decision right now, but it’s definitely something I would seriously consider,” noted the reflective 33-year old Bovell.
Bovell finished third in Heat 8 of the Men’s 50 metres freestyle in a time of 22.30 for an overall position of 27th, missing out on the top 16 and a place in the semi finals. “In the race, I felt I was going faster than that. I did come in with some doubts as I had not swam very fast this year.
I really felt that I needed to get a good swim this morning to set me up, to give me some confidence for the rest of it. Well it is what it is. That’s the way life goes sometimes. It’s an honour to represent my country always,” noted Bovell, the only T&T athlete to have represented the country at five Olympic Games.
Bovell was the second of two T&T athletes to compete yesterday with judo exponent Christopher George, also going into action.
The history-making George, who was the first judoka to ever represent T&T at the Games, fought the fight of his life but the experience of his opponent Myanmar’s Soe Naing Yan proved too much, and he surrendered, going under 2-0.
“I just was not getting deep enough. I thought I was controlling the punches but he countered and was able to get his points and I had to be chasing him,” said a clearly disappointed George.
“I was expecting one big , so I could counter as he ended up doing with me. I had him off balance on one leg, hoping but I just could not get that throw down,” added a frustrated George.
George is confident the experience will serve him well in the future. “I am now going to take some weeks off and re-evaluate everything. I believe my game is coming along and I do not want to go away without an Olympic win, so I will be back in four years,” he added.
But for T&T’s only swimmer to have won an Olympic medal, Bovell, who won the bronze in the 200 metres individual medley in Athens 2004, the grind and hard work of the past year, may be taking its toll. “I think I did everything that I possibly could have done. Everybody’s career is different, so I guess I am getting up there in age and this was a lot of hard work. Unfortunately I don’t think it paid off.”
Asked about coaching in the future, he would only say: “I have not thought about it. As for life without swimming, I will have to reinvent myself, a whole new chapter, a whole new adventure.”
However, Bovell is happy with the future of the sport. “We have a bright future, a great new aquatic centre is going to bring in a lot of newcomers and as more have access to the sport, I can see what is happening in track and field being expressed in swimming.”
Bovell was quick to name Dylan Carter as one for the future. Carter won his heat in the 100-metres freestyle on Tuesday but although his 48.80 was a national record, it was not good enough to put him into the second rounds. “I am very proud of him. I was hoping he would make the semifinal. He is very young and has improvement but will gain a medal in Tokyo if he stays with it. I know his spirit is strong and he is feeling encouraged.”
Bovell, his eyes bright and his mind looking towards the future said: “I feel like I definitely had to recognise that the law of diminishing returns kicked in this year, and that is the way it goes sometimes. You can keep training yourself as hard as you can when you are 24 and 25, you can recover fast. I don’t think you really get old, I think, to a certain extent, swimming gets old.”
And just as the interview was over, Bovell called the media back. “I want the people back there (home in Trinidad and Tobago) to know that I would have loved to be in the final and to be on the podium very much for Trinidad and Tobago, but at the end of the day, it’s a good thrill. As I look back, I ask myself: did you have a good time? Did it enhance my life? Yes, and I am very grateful for it. Thank you all very much, Trinidad and Tobago.”