London Olympic gold medallist Keshorn “Keshie” Walcott believes the medal bonus initiative by the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) was a motivator for local athletes to perform and can drive them to achieve more medal success.
Walcott, winner in the javelin event, was one of three Pan Am Games medallists at Olympic House to receive their medal bonus and to mark one year to go to the RIO 2016 Olympics. As a gold medal winner at last month's Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada, Walcott picked up US$3,000.
Fellow individual gold medallist, shot putter Cleopatra Borel will receive a similar amount. Silver medal winners, hurdler Mikel Thomas, quarter-miler Machel Cedenio and cyclist Njisane Phillip will get US$2,000, while bronze medal swimmer George Bovell III will receive US$1,000. The 4x400 gold medal and 4x100 bronze medal relay teams will get a combined US$9,000 and US$3,000 respectively.
“I think it's a good idea to begin with the initiative. Some people may not admit it but it is always something to look forward to besides the medal itself, something that will give you a little extra push, knowing you are going to get some reward for all your hard work outside of the competition,” said Walcott. Walcott related that he and Cuban-born coach Ismael Lopez Mostrapa always try to time the big throws for the major championships like Worlds, Pan Ams, Commonwealth, and the Olympics, but said “it was a bit of a surprise” when he launched the spear to a new national record of 90.16 metres in Switzerland on July 9.
“My coach and I always try to the big throw at the right moment but we always expected that throw (over 90 metres) to come this year. I guess it came a bit earlier than we expected,” said Walcott.
Walcott also related that he and Mostrapa pondered heavily on his decision to participate in the Pan Am Games after he injured the left ankle on July 17 in Monaco, days before his event in Toronto. He said he was embarrassed to be pushed in a wheelchair through the Pearson International Airport in Toronto ahead of the quadrennial hemispheric Games.
“I always tell myself tomorrow is never promised, so I always try to do my best when I get out there to achieve my goals while representing the country to the best of my ability. So coach and I sat down and decided this may be my only chance (at a Pan Am Games) and we might as well take it'', Walcott said.
Walcott said he has matured significantly from the dark-horse 19-year-old who shocked the world with a gold medal toss at the 2012 London Olympics, and is a more experienced and seasoned campaigner these days.
And he was especially complimentary of his training partner and fellow Pan Am Games gold medallist Cleopatra Borel, the Women's shot put champion.
“Cleo and I have been training together and knowing how hard she works, it is great seeing that she is rewarded in her performances. Hopefully she can go on an do much better and achieve more success at Worlds and other major championships,” Walcott said.
The TTOC hosted the ‘One year to Rio 2016' acknowledgement at Olympic House on Wednesday in unison with the rest of the world in marking the one-year countdown to the Olympics on August 5 next year.
According to Lewis, the TTOC used the landmark day to celebrate the road to Rio and commemorate the athletes that had achieved excellence in Toronto.
The proceedings opened with a short video presentation highlighting team TTO's performances in Canada and TTOC president Brian Lewis reinforced the vision of achieving the ten or more gold medals by the year 2024. “Toronto 2015 and the performances of our athletes started to make some people believe that it (#10Golds24) may have been possible; that it wasn't far fetched and unrealistic,” he stated.
“Rio 2016 therefore, in the context of ten or more Olympic gold medals by the year 2024 is going to be very important because thereafter comes Tokyo 2020 and then 2024,” he continued.
National Association of Athletic Administrations (NAAA) president Ephraim Serrette said his organisation had a good working relationship with the TTOC and would work hard to facilitate the athletes in their pursuit for international glory.
Also in attendance on Wednesday was Emmanuel Callender and Dan Neil Telesford, both part of the 4x100m relay team, the country's first Olympic gold medallist Hasely Crawford, TTOC general secretary Annette Knot, Pan Am Games Chef de Mission Diane Henderson and former TTOC general secretary, senator Elton Prescott.