George Bovell won his second Sportsman of the Year, Cleopatra Borel won her fourth Sportswoman of the Year…but alas, and that is not the real story. The senior women’s footballers won the Lystra Lewis award for team performance and that too was not the story.
There was even two winners in different categories of the Jeffrey Stollmeyer award for administrators—the National Association of Athletic Administrations (NAAA) and the Archery Federation. Even that was not the story. At least not to me!
The occasion was the First Citizens Sports Foundation Awards, a gala event to honour those who have brought joy, pride and a smile to T&T sports, witnessed by many leading sporting personalities.
This year’s production was different. The use of Nicki Crosby to engage the early arrivals to Queen’s Hall was entertaining. It was pleasing to witness an attempt to improve matters in this area, it is at least a step or two in the right direction.
There was also a clear and convincing dividing line between both Natacha Jones and Wendell Constantine, as they appeared to have learnt about those they highlighted unlike previous years, both in delivery and in smooth transition, several of the sporting persons would be glad to know that the hosts cared enough to educate themselves on their respective sports, this year.
There were two special moments for me.
Dr Keith Clifford is a forward thinking man, even if he has a tendency to be somewhat argumentive and impatient, one is from years of intensive reading and knowledge and the other some say (not me), due to the impending evolution of time or better described as “old age”.
However, to his credit, he not only met the required time, but identified the growing needs of this country and was succinct enough to leave many thinking. Dr Clifford’s invocation to support the most forward thinking idea in sports in this country for a long time, president of the Olympic Committee, Brian Lewis’ idea of ten gold medals by 2024, was spot on.
Another innovation was the decision to have a feature speaker, Dr Hilary Beckles, whose entire resume was shortened, otherwise his delivery time would have been cut in half. Dr Beckles will become the Pro Vice Chancellor for the University of the West Indies in May. He identified that governance in Sports in the Caribbean is in a sorry state. Sadly, there was no one from the West Indies Cricket Board present, as the two T&T directors would have probably been in Jamaica for the futile elections on Saturday. All present were very appreciative of his words.
I would have liked to hear a few words from the Minister of Sports. While handing out the top ten sporting personalities was good, perhaps this area can be addressed again.
As to presentations, it was certainly a lot better organised, except for lack of communication in relation to the appearance of Rhean Chung on the stage, and not a representative. And while it was sad, it was also moving to highlight those from the field of sports who died in 2014.
I was moved by the presence of Hockey matriarch Florence Kelshall, who at the age of 99, caused an uproar and brought the crowd to its feet, every single persons to acknowledge a true leader and administrator, the smile on her face both radiant and imposing. Having met her over 20 years ago, it was great to watch her stand on her own and acknowledge the cheers from an appreciative crowd. It was the sort of poignant moment that will resonate with all of those at Queen’s Hall on the night and even those watching on television or listening on radio.
The other special moment was when Cleopatra Borel said the words: “Chase your dreams.” This young lady is the absolute and complete athlete. She is an unforgiving sport and as her dearly beloved mother Marcelle Borel, who collected the award on her behalf stated, she is in Cuba putting herself through the regime of discipline work ahead of the World Championships in Beijing later this year.
Faye-Ann Lyons and Bunji Garlin were able to inspire this crowd to raise their hands and sing along with them both to start and finish this programme. It was pleasing to watch this interaction and the broad smiles on the faces of all, told a story of enjoyment. Perhaps this explains why for the first time in the many years since I have been covering this event, that I did not realise the show was over, until I saw the President and his entourage leave.
Both Anthony Dennison and Judy Chong-Dennison will be happy, and deservedly so, as well as Dexter Charles, the Marketing manager at First Citizens, who seemed to be everywhere on the night. But let us not ever forget the tireless effort of the effervescent Jennifer Lander, whose sporting background always ensures that these events are well organised.
Congrats to all involved and looking ahead to further improvements in the interactive display and outlook, with links to viewers and those in Queen’s Hall, perhaps even a People’s Choice on the night, based on voting a month before. Just an idea.