Four-time Olympic medallist and former 200m World Champion Ato Boldon believes T&T’s Women’s 4x100m team can win a medal at the World Championships in Beijing.
Speaking to the Trinidad Guardian this week, the 41-year-old said: “We do have the foot speed. We put three women into the semifinals, and Semoy ran a season best with 11.13 and it means in the heats, even with Khalifa anchoring, our slowest woman is 11.19.
“Based on what I have seen in practice, the name of the game is get the stick around safely, let everybody else make the mistakes. I see this team very similarly to how I was with the 2001 team that got silver at the 2001 World Championships. You just have to focus on what you can control, get the stick around, we have the foot speed, but foot speed is not what wins the medals. It is going out there and thinking and being smart and getting that stick safely around.
“I believe this team is capable of mounting that podium. We will be back to work this week. They will probably get a rest, but resume working on the handoffs,” stated Boldon.
The likely order for the team will see Kelly-Ann Baptiste leading off, followed by Michelle-Lee Ahye and Reyare Thomas, with Khalifa St Fort running the fourth leg if Semoy Hackett is rested for the heats because of her commitment to the Women’s 200m.
Boldon, who coaches St Fort, says he would not run the 17-year-old in the finals on Saturday.
“While I am biased, even with my bias, Khalifa is young and inexperienced at this level. We have four very experienced women and I would never put my wants over the needs of the country. Khalifa, I feel, can do a good job in the heats, but then let her sit in the stands and watch our experienced runners propel us to a medal.”
Regarding T&T’s withdrawal from the Men’s 4x100m relay, following injuries to three of its six sprinters, Boldon said: “We have injuries, but this is a World Championships so everybody has an excuse. The bottom line is our athletes have to realise that if your preparation is not meticulous down to the very last detail, it is not going to work at this level.. This is professional track and field.”
Expanding on the issue, he stated: “What I mean is that you have to have your season planned almost to the week, the minute, to the hour. The people who are on that podium tonight, for instance Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, they sit down in the off season and plan every meet she is going to run.”
Boldon also addressed the recent controversial comments made by Keston Bledman.
“I am seeing stuff in the papers. ‘I wanted to go to this meet, I didn’t want to go but the Federation made me go’. That kind of stuff throws off a season and in the case of Keston, we saw that he was sent to a meet he did not want to go to and he believes, right or wrong, that this caused his injury… We need to have a better relationship between the Federation and the athletes, where everybody is on the same page,” he declared.
Boldon added that he was enjoying his moment as part of the T&T coaching team in Beijing.
“I have been here since the 15th, and all credit to Doc [Ian] Hypolite, who is the head coach but he has kind of allowed me to get involved in the women’s relay. He is supervising, but giving me room to operate... It has been rewarding to me.
“It is nice to be able to work with Kelly-Ann, Michelle, Semoy, Rhea, Kamira and of course, Khalifa, and I believe we are now beginning to have the sort of core the men have had over the last decade and a half and for me that is very rewarding as the relay has always been very close to my heart.”