...But eight-medal haul quite good, says Hypolite

Trinidad and Tobago’s haul of eight medals here in Glasgow, Scotland has only been bettered by one Commonwealth Games team in the country’s history—the 1966 outfit that left Kingston, Jamaica with nine medals, five of them gold.

Chef de mission of the 2014 team, Dr Ian Hypolite told the Express he expects the Glasgow experience to hold T&T in good stead on the Road to Rio 2016. “My expectation is that we would have benefitted immensely. It was a natural stepping stone for many teams.

“Before the Rio Olympics, we have the 2014 CAC (Central American and Caribbean) Games in Vera Cruz, Mexico, Pan Am Games 2015 in Toronto, the Beijing 2015 IAAF World Championships for track and field--clear stepping stones to Rio. The Commonwealth experience will do us well as we progress along the way.”

T&T ended the Games with three silver medals and five bronze. Olympic men’s javelin champion Keshorn Walcott, 400 metres hurdles world champion Jehue Gordon and shot putter Cleopatra Borel were the silver medallists. Bronze went to triple jumper Ayanna Alexander, quartermiler Lalonde Gordon, lightweight boxer Michael Alexander, and the men’s 4x100m and 4x400m relay teams.

Keston Bledman, Marc Burns, Rondel Sorrillo and Richard “Torpedo” Thompson combined for the sprint relay medal. And in the 4x400m final, Lalonde Gordon, Jarrin Solomon, Renny Quow and Zwede Hewitt wore T&T colours. Quow sat out the qualifying round, and third leg duties were performed by Jehue Gordon.

Hypolite, an executive member of the T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC), described the eight-medal haul as “quite a good performance”.

“Overall, everyone was expecting a bit more,” the leader of the T&T delegation continued. “I was too, even though it was never verbalised. But people need to appreciate we are dealing with a very high level of competition. Therefore, eight medals is good. I expected some of them to be gold, and that’s my only regret.”

Hypolite is Jehue Gordon’s personal coach, and said that his 22-year-old charge was one of the athletes with the potential to strike Commonwealth Games gold here in Glasgow.

“Unfortunately, (sprinter) Michelle-Lee Ahye had to withdraw with injury. Richard Thompson’s chances were also particularly good, and Jehue and Keshorn as well as the men’s relays. But as I said, the competition was always going to be tough, so it’s no shame coming out with a medal nonetheless. Even Kenya’s (800 metres) world record holder and Olympic champion David Rudisha had to settle for silver.

“We had a great performance,” Hypolite declared, “and athletes enjoyed and reveled in their performances.”

Seven of the eight medals bagged by Team T&T went to track and field athletes.

“I want to view us as going through a growing process. Track and field has a pathway that allows it to perform well at this stage. Some of the other sports do not yet have that pathway of exposure to a high level of competition regularly. Track and field has it from the junior level, and you can proceed as a senior all the way to the world level. A lot of other sports need to find a pathway.”

The team sports found the going particularly tough here in Glasgow, T&T finishing low down in rugby 7s, netball and men’s and women’s hockey. Hypolite made the point, however, that the Commonwealth Games is a virtual world championship in these sports, citing rugby 7s as an example.

“Rugby Sevens is going to happen in Rio, and this is essentially the Olympic level here. The top countries are from the Commonwealth.

“In some of the team sports,” he continued, “there are opportunities to graduate to another level through the collegiate system and clubs in the English leagues. They need exposure to higher levels than we have in the region, and exposure also influences approach to fitness--a very important component.

“We need to get a lot fitter to compete at international level. At the TTOC we emphasise beep testing, which is not popular with every sport,” Hypolite ended. “But they need to understand the importance of fitness.”