TRACK AND FIELD stars Machel Cedenio and Cleopatra Borel were crowned Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) Sportsman and Sportswoman of 2015 respectively at the 18th-annual TTOC awards function at the Hyatt Regency’s Port-of-Spain Ballroom on Tuesday evening.

This year’s awards were dominated by track and field athletes; aside from 400m runner Cedenio and shot-putter Borel, teenaged sprinter Khalifa St Fort was named the top junior female, Paralympian field athlete Akeem Stewart was selected as Sports Personality of the Year and Cedenio’s national mile relay teammate, Renny Quow, won the online vote for the first-ever People’s Choice Award.

Swimmer Jeron Thompson received the junior sportsman accolade, while the Alex B Chapman award for outstanding contribution to sport and Olympism was bestowed posthumously on former national netball standout Janet Bailey, who recently passed away.

Hundreds of sporting personalities of various eras and just about every sport attended the ceremony.

Among the VIPs were Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs Darryl Smith, Chief Justice Ivor Archie, Olympic gold medallists Hasely Crawford and Keshorn Walcott, former sports minister and national athlete Marilyn Gordon, the head of Transparency International (TT ) and former West Indies cricketer Deryck Murray and Chairman of the Sports Company (SPORTT ) Michael Phillips.

Talk of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro 2016 pervaded the approximately 90-minute function as well as the greetings and discussions among attendees during refreshments that followed.

In his brief address, TTO C president Brian Lewis reflected on the challenges that the economic downturn would have on this country’s athletes and hinted broadly at what he believed should be the appropriate response.

“What is never in recession is the human spirit, creativity, imagination and mankind’s ability when faced with adversity to emerge triumphant,” he said.

“No matter the scale of difficulties, obstacles, problems or challenges, there are promises to keep.” Lewis added, “Athletes are primary stakeholders and our intention is to treat them with dignity, respect, understanding and trust.

Their efforts and success inspire and motivate the children, youth and young people to strive for excellence in whatever they do and promote in a very real and tangible way Olympism and Olympic values. “Our athletes are apples of gold in a picture of silver and we must not send them forth as sheep into the midst of wolves.” Delivering the feature address, TT ’s 2013 World 400m hurdles champion Jehue Gordon spoke on what it takes to achieve excellence.

“Excellence is not about talent alone; it is rather what you do with the talent that matters,” he began.

Gordon said that making mistakes was not a sin, but repeating them was. He added that failure was not something to fear or be negative about, because it leads to success.

“We learn from them (failures) and can therefore make the changes needed to be more successful in the future. Think of our failures as a valuable learning experience.” The recently-graduated UWI Marketing and Human Resources student concluded: “Your truest potential lies inside of you, and thus you do not need anyone to validate (it). Believe and chase after your dreams, because no one is going to hand it to you.” The junior awards were presented first. Thompson, a 14-yearold swimmer of great potential, was outstanding at the CARIFTA and the CCCAN (Central American and Caribbean) Championships and also competed at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa. St Fort, the US-based 17-year-old with TT roots, won 100m silver at the World Junior Championships and was a member of the senior women’s 4x100m relay squad that took bronze at the World Championships in Beijing last August.

The Sports Personality award recognises “sustained outstanding activity.” Twenty-three-year-old Tobagonian strongman Akeem Stewart won gold medals and broke international records at both the Paralympic (IPC) Athletics World Championships in Doha and at the Parapan Am Games in Toronto; he competes in the shot put, discus and javelin disciplines.

Cedenio’s Sportsman of the Year award was arguably the most predictable.

Still 19 at the time, he ran the anchor as TT won World Championship 4x400m silver in Beijing; before that, the lanky southerner had taken Pan Am Games silver in the 400m and gold with the relay squad. He also won his event at the Diamond League in Stockholm.

“My parents, they pushed me through my journey to my success today,” he said after receiving his award from Chief Justice Archie.

“I’d like to thank the fans of Trinidad and Tobago for motivating me and always giving me their support.” Borel, who won gold at the Pan Am Games, fittingly received her award from another outstanding field athlete, Marilyn Gordon, and the present sports minister, Smith.

It was the fifth time Borel was adjudged TTO C Sportswoman of the Year and the third in a row for the Mayaro-born athlete.

Quow tallied 1,347 votes for the People’s Choice award. In his absence, fellow-Tobagonian Kelly-Ann Baptiste received it from the TTO C president; the 2011 World Championship 100m bronze medallist joined Gordon in appealing for support for those who will follow them.

“Tonight I say that we must do better for future athletes of Trinidad and Tobago,” she said. “I will do my part and I encourage you to do yours.”