Five-time Olympian Kelly-Ann Baptiste will have the perfect start to Tokyo 2020 when she carries the “Red, White and Black” during the Parade of Nations at today’s opening ceremony, at the Olympic Stadium here in Japan.
The ceremony starts at 7 a.m. (TT time).
Baptiste is 34, and coming to the end of her career on the track. The Plymouth, Tobago, sprinter has enjoyed many successes over the years, and is deserving of the flag-bearing honour bestowed on her.
Baptiste is set for a share of the Trinidad and Tobago record for most Olympic appearances, alongside retired swimmer George Bovell, the 2004 men’s 200 metres individual medley bronze medallist. Baptiste, though, will write her own chapter of history, becoming the country’s first-ever female flag-bearer at an Olympic Games opening ceremony.
Baptiste joins a list of 15 other athletes who have carried the T&T flag, including Olympic medallists Bovell, Rodney Wilkes, Wendell Mottley, Hasely Crawford, Ato Boldon, Marc Burns and Keshorn Walcott. Baptiste is keen to get on the medal-winners list as well.
No stranger to global success, Baptiste has 2011 World Championship 100m bronze to her name. She also has 2015 World Championship 4x100m bronze and 2003 World Youth Championship 100m bronze. Missing from that list is Olympic precious metal.
In fact, T&T has yet to produce a female Olympic medallist. Baptiste has been longing to become the first. Tokyo 2020 looks very much like her last opportunity. The Florida-based track star is listed for action in the women’s 100m dash. She may have a better podium shot, however, in the sprint relay. The T&T quartet will be chosen from Baptiste, Michelle-Lee Ahye, Khalifa St Fort, Ayla Stanisclaus, Semoy Hackett and Kai Selvon.
Those six sprinters are among 13 females selected for Team TTO duty, here in Tokyo. The number is a new record for the country. The 33-member outfit is also the largest Team TTO contingent in Olympic history.
One-lap hurdler Sparkle McKnight, long jumper Tyra Gittens and shot putter Portious Warren will also compete at the Games. In addition to the nine track and field athletes, road cyclist Teniel Campbell, swimmer Cherelle Thompson, judoka Gabriella Wood and rower Felice Aisha Chow are all on national duty.
After press time, last night (T&T time), Chow became the first Team TTO athlete to see action at the Games of the XXXII Olympiad. Competing at her second Olympics, the 44-year-old was drawn in lane three in the second women’s single sculls qualifying heat.
The top three in each heat earned automatic qualification for the quarterfinals. Chow’s qualifying race was stacked with quality, including Ireland’s two-time world champion Sanita Puspure, Mexico’s 2019 Pan American Games gold medallist Kenia Lechuga, and Greek rower Anneta Kyridou. Chow earned silver behind Lechuga at the 2019 Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru.
The rowers who did not secure quarterfinal berths last night have a second opportunity via the repechage route. The first of three repechage races is scheduled for 7.30 this evening (TT time).
At midnight tomorrow night (TT time), Campbell pedals into the history books in the women’s road race. The 23-year-old will become Team TTO’s first-ever female Olympic cyclist.