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Olympics 2000......Who will go ?


September 1 2000

THERE can be only one way to summarize Trinidad and Tobago's contingent for the Olympic Games in Sydney: bigger team, same result.

No matter how many athletes Trinidad and Tobago carries to Sydney, the fact of the matter is that this country will have only one serious medal contender at the Olympics : a person by the name of Ato Boldon. This was confirmed last year by Trinidad and Tobago's performances at the Pan American Games in Winnipeg and the World Track and Field Championships in Seville. At those events the inability of local athletes to really cut it at the required level was severely exposed. Boldon, on the other hand, has consistently proven himself to be one of the best in the world in his field - and that has been reflected in the international acclaim that he has earned.

But, when one is not even among the best in the Western Hemisphere in one year, it is difficult to imagine that individual reaching Boldon's heights in the next. With experienced athletes such as quarter-miler Neil De Silva, hurdler Steve Brown and swimmer Siobhan Cropper unable to create an impression in Winnipeg, the point that some of Trinidad and Tobago’s top sportsmen and sportswomen are unlikely to cause a stir in Sydney is underscored. For some of the members of Trinidad and Tobago’s Olympic team, getting past the first round in their respective events will be an achievement in itself. Hence, one can understand why some members of the local community are against what they see as superfluous membership on the team: athletes who are unlikely to win a medal and, thus, are not worth their place on an Olympic team. According to this philosophy, only Ato Boldon has any business being in Sydney.

It is, of course, one of many Trinidadian views that have been born out of frustration: the frustration of only hearing about local athletes being eliminated early in such competitions or even embarrassed. Hence, some of us have decided that the only way to avoid such scenarios is to only carry those athletes who have a chance of winning their events and forgetting about those who are likely to have a short Olympics.

Fair? Not exactly. The fact is that all of the athletes on the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Team have earned their places. One, Cheryl-Ann Sankar, earned her spot by finishing second in her division at last year’s Pan American taekwondo tournament in Miami, Florida. The others, swimmers and track and field athletes alike, have simply achieved the qualifying marks in their events. No doubt about it, all the athletes deserve to be on the Olympic team and, anyone wanting verification should check with the TTOC, the IOC and the Sydney Olympic Games Organizing Committee (SOGOC).

If there were clear evidence of favouritism or of unqualified athletes being picked by the TTOC then, certainly, there would be cause for a nation-wide protest. But, there is no such indication and, with strict qualification standards now the norm, one can safely declare that the local body has abided by the spirit of the games by choosing the most suited competitors at this point. Furthermore, the composition of the team suggests several long-term benefits that may become evident during the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games: there are several promising young athletes on this team. Nic Alexander (1999 and 2000 national 100 metres and 2000 NCAA Division II 100 and 200 metres champion), Julieon Raeburn, Ato Modibo and Simon Pierre have all earned their stripes at both junior and senior level while Fana Ashby, 20, is this country’s top young female track and field athlete. In swimming, while Cropper, 22, and Sebastian Paddington, 23, are pretty much at their peak; it is the 17-year old George Bovell who should benefit greatly from the experience. Of course, the fact that he is already living and training in the USA, should make things all the better for him.

So, an objective examination of the situation seems to prove that the emphasis is not necessarily on who is going to win at the Olympic Games, but on those who have earned the right to be there. When one factors in the virtues of exposure, the concept of sending young athletes to the Olympic Games is justified. In that respect, the chances of there being more than just one favourite at future Games have been enhanced.