T&T 22nd on final medals table

Richard “Torpedo” Thompson believes the showing of Trinidad and Tobago’s track and field team at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, here in Glasgow, Scotland, is an indication that the country is progressing well in the build-up to the 2016 Olympic Games, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“We’re on the right track,” Thompson told the Express. “We’re definitely improving, not just on the track but in the field as well. I still feel as though the team could have done a little better, but we’re grateful for where we’re at right now, and we’re showing signs of improvement every year representing Trinidad and Tobago on the world stage.

“We’re on the right path. We just have to continue to work and work hard, and hopefully by Rio we’ll be able to produce nine medals at the Olympic Games, which is a step up from Commonwealth.”

In Glasgow, seven of T&T’s eight medals were captured by track and field athletes. The country’s very last podium finish at the Games came on Saturday night, from the men’s 4x100m combination of Keston Bledman, Marc Burns, Rondel Sorrillo and Thompson.

Bledman and Thompson exited the individual 100m event at the semifinal stage, while Sorrillo suffered the same fate in the 200m.

“Especially after a disappointment in the individual event, with Bledman and myself not making the final—that was really gut-wrenching—we are thankful for that (relay) medal. We’re also thankful to be able to come out healthy. It was cold, it was raining, and those are conditions where people easily get injured, so we just give thanks.”

Thompson went into the 2014 Commonwealth Games as the men’s 100m favourite, following his victory at the T&T Championships in a national record time of 9.82 seconds—a clocking that placed him ninth on the all-time world performance list.

The 2008 Olympic 100m silver medallist said that falling short of expectations here in Glasgow will make him a better athlete.

“Every time you fail you have to use it as a learning experience. If you don’t take anything from a failed experience, then you’re not coming off any wiser. I’ve definitely learned from this experience, and I just have to go into next year learning from the mistakes that I made this year.

“After my Senior Championships, I felt as though there were a few things I could have done differently in between then and now. I know what to do, my coach (Dennis Shaver) knows what to do, and we’ll get it right in the years to come.”

Running in lane one in his 200m semi-final heat, Sorrillo finished third in 20.57 seconds—too slow for a “fastest loser” berth in the final. The T&T sprinter had taken the “faster loser” route to the semis after finishing third in his opening round heat, the “back door” qualification resulting in his bad lane draw in the penultimate round of the event.

“In the first round it was cold,” Sorrillo told the Express. “I tried to come off the turn as hard as possible, but then my hamstring started getting tight on the left side. I really wanted to run in the other round so I had to try and save..hope that I didn’t exert too much and pull up. That’s the reason that I looked like I shut off in the first round, but it’s just the coldness I was getting accustomed to.”

Burns has been part of the T&T men’s sprint relay set-up since 2000, when he represented T&T at the Sydney Olympics as a 17-year-old. He’s 31 now, and plans to continue doing yeoman service for the country for at least another three years.

A Commonwealth Games 100m bronze medallist at the 2006 Melbourne Games, Burns told the Express he is also keen to challenge for selection on T&T teams in the individual sprint events in the years ahead.

“I’m now finding my form after all these years of injuries. Most people don’t know that’s what kept me out over the years. But it’s track and field and that comes with it, so you just have to put that behind you and try to perform at a high level.

“All the tweaks have been fixed with my foot injuries. I thank all those who helped me get back to where I need to be, and I look forward to some big years.”

Burns is a true patriot. In recognition of his selfless commitment to T&T sport, he was given the honour of carrying the Red, White and Black at the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics. Swimmer George Bovell was the flag-bearer at the London Games closing ceremony.

At the opening ceremony here in Glasgow, Olympic men’s javelin champion Keshorn Walcott performed flag-bearing duties.

And for last night’s closing ceremony, three-time Commonwealth Games women’s shot put medallist Cleopatra Borel did the honours, carrying the T&T flag with pride.

Both Borel and Walcott earned silver at Glasgow 2014 as Team T&T finished with eight medals in total—three silver and five bronze.

“Any time we come to a major championship,” said Burns, “we try to fly the T&T flag high and give our best at all times. A medal count of that number we’re most grateful for.”

T&T finished 22nd out of 71 countries at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. England emerged as the top team with 58 gold medals, 59 silver and 57 bronze.

Gold Coast, Australia will host the 2018 Games.