STARTING this week, the TT Olympic Committee (TTOC) will begin distributing monetary rewards to athletes who have already earned medals at the Central America and Caribbean (CAC) Games.

TTOC president Brian Lewis confirmed this in an interview with Newsday yesterday. He said a medal bonus for athletes “is the best way to go”.

Up to last evening, team TTO earned seven gold, two silver and nine bronze medals, in Barranquilla, with five days of competition remaining.

As announced, the TTOC, through its #10golds24 Athlete Welfare and Preparation Fund, will reward athletes with TT$7,000 for a gold medal, $4,000 for silver and $2,500 for bronze in individual events. For team events, each athlete will take away $3000, $2,000 and $1,000, for their respective gold to bronze finishes.

Lewis declared yesterday, “The TTOC is committed to its athlete-centred focus.”

Launched in December 2013, the fund has allowed for the financial reward of TT athletes who medal at international events recognised by the TTOC, including the Olympic Games, Pan American Games and Commonwealth Games. Given the enormity of the Olympic Games, TT athletes who earn gold are awarded US$10,000 each, followed by US$8,000 (silver) and US$5,000 (bronze).

Lewis said he would prefer not to keep the athletes waiting for funds. “We have made it a practice to do so (fund them on time),” he said.

As the one who conceived the fund, Lewis said, “I believe that a performance-based medal bonus is the best way for the TTOC to go.”

He added that corporate interest in athletes and national governing bodies will increase with greater transparency and better governance.

“Corporate TT will come on board when there is improvement in governance... and a strategic marketing athlete-centred approach. There is too much bacchanal in local sport. Our athletes deserve better. Hence the TTOC commitment to medal bonuses.”

The corporate partners supporting the fund include Guardian Group, Flow, Puma, NLCB, BPTT, Scotiabank, Toyota, Tribal Caribbean, Press Play and Michael Johnson Performance. Proceeds from the charity marathon walk, T-shirt sales and donations go toward the athlete welfare and preparation fund, which in turn, is distributed to the athletes through the monetary rewards.

Asked for his thoughts on team TTO’s performance thus in Colombia, Lewis replied, “The medal success to date is encouraging. Those who have won medals now have to step up to the next level – to the Pan Am Games (Lima, 2019) and Tokyo 2020 (Summer Olympics).

“(The medal haul) at CAC Games clearly signals the dawn of a new era... (but) there’s is still much work to do.”