Criticised for a medal-less Olympics in Tokyo, Japan in 2021, T&T’s athletes have answered most appropriately in sports only a year later (2022).
Shamfa Cudjoe, Minister of Sports and Community Development during her speech at the Annual Awards of the National Association of Athletic Administration (NAAAs) at the Hotel Radisson in Port-of-Spain on Saturday night, said the athletes made people eat their words, as she reflected on a year in which sprinter Jereem ‘The Dream’ Richards forced the world to listen to the country’s national anthem on the national instrument—the steelpan, when he won the 200 metres final at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England.
Richards, a native of Point Fortin also won the country’s first-ever 400-metre gold medal at the World Athletic Indoor Championships at the Stark Arena in Serbia in a time of 45.00 seconds flat. In addition, the quartet of Jerrod Elcock, Eric Harrison Jr, Kion Benjamin, and Kyle Greaux finished in a season’s best 38.70 seconds in the 4 x 100 metres relay to take the silver medal in the final.
On Saturday, Richards was adjudged the Senior Male Athlete of the Year and Michelle Lee Ahye, a winner of the National Championships 100 metres sprint and semifinalist at the World Championships in the same event, was voted as the Female Athlete of the Year for 2022.
They were among many other achievers in track and field last year, including three administrators—Jinelle Edwards, Michelle Stoute-Lopez and John Andalcio being appointed to top technical positions at the Carifta Games.
Cudjoe described it as a watershed year for track and field from junior to senior levels. “This year was a watershed year for athletics and I’m being very diplomatic, not like the previous president who said the NAAAs or the athletic discipline out-performed all the other disciplines this year. I am Minister of Sports so I would simply say this year was watershed year, as we saw the likes of Jereem Richards, Akanni Hislop, Machel Cedenio and all other athletes who broke records, blaze trails and brought honour and glory to T&T, especially following what we experienced in 2021 at the Olympics and all the negatives that the athletes had to face.”
“We came back and showed perseverance and persistence and made people eat their words. I think it was a really good comeback to see our athletes coming out of the darkness of 2021 and shining so brightly in 2022. And not only our athletes, but our administrators, the managers and everybody who put their hands, minds and heads towards such an outstanding performance in 2022, deserve to give themselves a round of applause.”
She lauded the NAAAs for their hard work and dedication toward developing young talent and enhancing the performances of athletes, noting that in January last year when it was decided to roll out sports from the stranglehold of the covid-19 pandemic, the NAAAs was always ready to go. “Even when the COVID protocols were in full, we were telling National Governing Bodies (NGBs) to be very careful and yet the NAAAs was always up and running and we had meets at the Hasely Crawford Stadium and the Dwight Yorke Stadium,” Cudjoe explained.
Since then, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley sought to tighten regional integration ties with the region’s athletic powerhouse -Jamaica, by making arrangements with the Jamaican government to assist T&T in athletics.
Cudjoe said T&T’s part in the agreement between the countries is to help Jamaica in the sport of swimming and other disciplines. Because of this, a team from T&T is set to leave for Jamaica soon on a sports mission.
Cudjoe said this agreement was followed by other arrangements for the top athletes at schools in Jamaica and throughout the Caribbean, to attend all invitational meets here in T&T, while top local athletes at schools here will be accepted to participate at meets in Jamaica.