LAST Olympic Games of the Twentieth Century were held in Atlanta in
1996 and Trinidad and Tobago's 13 athletes were among those who witnessed
another exceptional opening ceremony created and choreographed by one
of this country's top Carnival designers, Peter Minshall.
was now the main member of the track contingent: a World Championship
bronze medal in 1995, and a time of 9.92 seconds in winning the 100m
title at the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Oregon, made him one of the
favourites for the short sprint gold medal, along with world champion
Donovan Bailey of Canada and Namibia's Frankie Fredericks.
Neil De Silva and Robert Guy also returned from 1992 and were joined
by long jumper Wendell Williams, javelin thrower Kirt Thompson, long-distance
runner Ronnie Holassie and female high jumper, Natasha Alleyne-Gibson.
After being written off after the Barcelona Games, Gene Samuel experienced
another resurgence over the next few years and surprised everybody when
he won the time trial crown at the 1994 Pan American Cycling Championships
in Santiago, Chile. He later got a bronze medal at the Pan American
Games in Mar Del Plata in 1995, and surpassed the qualifying standard
Amateur boxer Kirt Sinnette had to cross two hurdles before he became
Trinidad and Tobago's third ever fighter at the Olympic Games. After
losing out in a qualifying tournament in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the
light-middleweight was allowed to compete in another Pan Am tournament
in Halifax, Canada - having achieved a sufficient standard in Puerto
Rico. This time around, he made it to the final and earned his ticket
to Georgia. Table tennis player, Dexter St Louis, also had to go through
the rigours of a regional competition (in Havana, Cuba) before earning
Debra O' Connor's world ranking was the reason she was able to go to
the Olympics, while female swimmers Siobhan Cropper and Cerian Gibbes
had to make qualifying times before they could be allowed to join the
contingent. O'Connor's Olympic adventure lasted just one game, as she
lost 3-11, 0-11 to Canada's Denyse Julien in the opening around of the
ladies badminton singles. Sinnette had everything going his way against
Ethiopia's Yarod Wolde until a final round knockdown paved the way for
the latter to triumph 11-10 on points. St Louis went out after failing
to win a game in a first round group which comprised Sweden's Jorgen
Persson, South Korean Kim Song-Hui and Brazil's Hugo Hoyama.
also preliminary heat exits for Cropper in the women's 50 and 100m freestyle
and Gibbes in the 100 and 200m breaststroke. At the Olympic Stadium
(which has since been converted into the Turner Field baseball stadium),
Boldon cruised through his heats easily enough. However, prior to the
final he and others were forced to contend with the distracting antics
of British sprinter Linford Christie. The 1992 gold medallist refused
to leave the track area after being disqualified for a second false
start. When the starter's gun did eventually go off without a second
report, Boldon did have an early advantage. But, Donovan Bailey suddenly
accelerated over the last 40 metres to cross the line in a world record
time of 9.84.Frankie
Fredericks claimed the silver medal and Boldon, with his bronze effort
in 9.90, was left with the consolation of capturing Trinidad and Tobago's
first Olympic medal in 20 years. He would add a second bronze in the
200m after having to witness another world record performance from behind.
This time, it was American Michael Johnson's 19.32 effort which vaulted
him into history as the first man to complete the Olympic 200-400 double.
Fredericks was once again second. De Silva reached the semi-finals of
this event, just as he had done in the 400 to atone for the early elimination
of Guy. Holassie was this country's first ever competitor in the men's
marathon and he completed his historic run in a creditable 75th place.
An embarrassing situation occurred when it was discovered by track officials
that Wendell Williams' alleged qualifying jump in Germany had actually
been wind aided and the athlete was refused entry into the long jump
competition. The other two field athletes were unable to provide much
of a consolation: Thompson placed 17th in the first round of the javelin;
Alleyne-Gibson was also a first stage casualty in the women's high jump
-- she recorded a best leap of 1.85m. As expected, Boldon was the most
celebrated athlete on his return to Port of Spain, and the 22-year-old
showed his gratitude by donating his medals to the display case at Royal
Bank's branch at the corner of Park and Henry Streets.