It was the presentation T&T had been waiting for since last year and on Wednesday night, the 4x100 metres relay team of Richard Thompson, Keston Bledman, Emmanuel Callender and Marc Burns finally got to drape their silver medals around their necks.
The quartet were the guests of President Anthony Carmona and wife Reema, who put on a grand affair at The Anchorage in Chaguaramas, in recognition of the T&T delegation for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero, Brazil from August 5-21.
“I felt it must have a way to tell all those hard-working athletes, we do appreciate what you have been doing over the past three four years preparing for that ultimate goal,” said President Carmona in his address. “And what better way to do this than by having a send off, a blast even, to tell you all that we believe in you all, we support you all and we know you’re going to do what needs to be done.”
The handsomely dressed young men walked across the stage and rightly collected their medals from President Carmona and along the way were congratulated individually by Minister of Sport Darryl Smith and T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis.
All gave addresses, as well as chef de mission Dr Ian Hypolite, to a distinguished group gathered, which included T&T first ever Olympic gold medalist, Hasely Crawford, reigning Olympic javelin champion Keshorn Walcott and a number Rio-bound athletes like sprinter Rondell Sorrillo, shot-putter Cleopatra Borel, sailor Andrew Lewis and boxer Nigel Paul, to name a few.
In their speeches they all praised the athletes for their work ethics, successes and pledged support for those, who will be heading off to the Olympics.
“We are grateful for this opportunity. We are grateful for the acknowledgment by his excellency for putting on this event for us to acknowledge our hard work and everything that we put into this sport and this country,” said Thompson.
“For us to go from fourth to third then third to second is sort of a crazy turn of events but it feels so good when you perform with integrity, when you do the things the right way, you abide by the rules and don’t take any shortcuts. Eventually you get what you deserve.”
History will show that the T&T unit, who crossed fourth at the London Games, was twice upgraded to earn the silver medal. In 2012, the team moved from fourth to third after Canadian team of Justyn Warner, Garvin Smellie, Oluseyi Smith and Jared Connaughton, running the third leg and on the final turn, had taken a step on the lane line, automatically disqualifying them.
Three years later, news came that the entire US squad was stripped of its silver medal as a result of Tyson Gay’s doping case.
It was a bittersweet moment for Bledman, who had a close relationship with Gay.
“It feels good but it’s kind of sad. Tyson was like a big brother to me, we use to actually train together. It’s sad that we took something away from him, but I am happy because it’s an Olympic medal as I said he was like a big brother to me and he helped me with a lot of stuff so that’s the sad part of it.”
Callender, who never strays from his beliefs, thanked God and praised his team-mates.
“It feels good, but at the same time you would have wanted to receive it on the same day but God is good,” said the sprinter, who like Thompson and Bledman will be participating in his third Olympic Games.
“I don’t do nothing off my own strength but of God’s, believe it or not. People think that we just go out there and do it just like that. There is a spiritual side to it as well that you have to connect with God. We formed a team, the 4x100, not just by luck and chance but it’s a kind of love and if you bring the vibes of God into anything you can be victorious. We didn’t gold but silver is also being victorious.”
Burns felt similarly to former teammates, cherishing the moment.
“Getting the silver is a very jubilant feeling. At this point in time it feels kind of the same,” said Burns, not really minding the four-year wait. “I am just happy to get the silver.
It was a bit melancholy for Burns, who will not be making the trip to Brazil, but was very supportive in the group that will be representing T&T.
“I did not qualify at the National Open Championships on the weekend but I want to wish the guys all the best. I know they will do us proud.”
The evening included musical performances by former calypso monarch Roderick “Chuck” Gordon and soca artiste Nesta “Sekon Sta” Boxill and the evening closed off with entertainment by the Prisons Band.