How serious do we take the achievements of our Olympic athletes? Do the people of Trinidad and Tobago appreciate the effort that is required of our Olympians and those who aspire to be a champion?
Can we walk through our international airport and see each of our Olympic medallists? Or is it that we neglect and take for granted what their achievements have done for T&T?
Is it a case of out of sight out of mind except for the year of the Olympic Games?
T&T’s Olympic medal quest began with the foundation stone of Rodney Wilkes in London in 1948. Wilkes story is put bluntly as a triumph of one man’s indomitable will and refusal to be characterised by anything other than his own vision of excellence.
In 1952, Lennox Kilgour took up the challenge even as Wilkes continued on. In those days to say that there was little if any help would be stating the obvious. In 1964 Edwin Roberts, Wendell Mottley and the men 4 x 400 relay team lifted a newly independent T&T to the Olympic podium.
There then followed decades of Olympic podium futility when it seemed participating and qualifying represented the best of this country’s Olympic high water mark. But in 1976, Hasely Crawford became the fastest man in the world and T&T celebrated its first ever Olympic gold medal.
Then came two decades of representation and whole hearted endeavour went unrewarded. An Olympic podium finish seemed a step too far. The came 1996 and 2000—the era of Ato Boldon. He doubled up in in the sprints, stepping off the Olympic stage with a bag of four Olympic medals.
George Bovell 111 created history in 2004 when he became the first local swimmer to claim a coveted Olympic medal. Bovell remains the flag bearer for swimming to this day. His dedication, determination and longevity all without the taint of performance enhancing drugs is a reflection of an indomitable will and strength of character that many take for granted.
In 2008, Richard Thompson with his individual silver medal to go along with the podium finish of the men’s sprint relay team Marc Burns, Emmanuel Callender, Keston Bledman and Thompson, came up trumps for the red, white and black.
London 2012 was the high water mark in terms of overall medal haul, Keshorn Walcott, mounted Olympus and claimed gold number two for T&T. The twin Island Republic created its own Olympic history with a four-medal haul.
Lalonde Gordon, the men’s 4 x100 m relay team of Thompson, Burns, Callender and Bledman repeated their feat of four years prior by again straddling the rostrum. The 4 x 400 relay team of Ade Alleyne Forte, Jarrin Solomon, Lalonde Gordon and Deon Lendore also added their names to the Olympic podium honour roll.
Our Olympic medal tally is now 18. Each one is precious, hard earned and a triumph over adversity. The twin Island Republic has been well served by its Olympians those who have medalled and those who have given their all to qualify and participate.
An Olympic year beckons. Those dedicated and committed athletes, male and female, young and old, who carry in their bosoms, sinews and lungs a dream of Olympic glory—not only for themselves but for their their beloved country simply cannot lament on whatever problems or adversity there may be.
They simply have to get on with their relentless and daily struggle in the pursuit of excellence.
There are no guarantees that years of sacrifice and toil will be rewarded. Once every four years an Olympic champion is crowned. But the climb to the podium requires a lifetime of daily effort and an unwavering vision.