TTOC: Akeem Stewart’s golden throw could be game changer for differently-abled

One world record throw by 24-year-old Trinidad and Tobago Paralympic athlete, Akeem Stewart, and, hopefully, an equally seismic blow on behalf of the country’s differently abled.

Stewart, who is from Tobago, broke his own world record twice yesterday en route to Rio 2016 Paralympic gold in the javelin event. And Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis expressed hope that Stewart’s remarkable accomplishment will start a much needed conversation about his countrymen who live with disabilities.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago's Akeem Stewart celebrates his gold medal performance in the javelin event at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games on 9 September 2016. (Copyright Alexandre Loureiro/Getty Images)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago’s Akeem Stewart celebrates his gold medal performance in the javelin event at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games on 9 September 2016.
(Copyright Alexandre Loureiro/Getty Images)

Stewart, who will seek a second gold medal in the Paralympic discuss final on Friday 26 September, competes in the F42-44 category for athletes with lower limbs affected by limb deficiency, leg length difference, impaired muscle power or impaired range of movement.

“It is a tremendous achievement and it is a game changer in terms of the Paralympic committee,” Lewis told Wired868, “and it is a platform for a different discussion on how we treat with Paralympic athletes [as well as] a broader discussion in terms of our society and how we treat with the differently abled, whether in terms of facilities and amenities.

“It is an opportunity not only for a conversation about sport but a discussion about equality and inclusiveness in terms of how the society treats with the different ability.”

Trinidad and Tobago managed a solitary bronze medal at the Rio 2016 Olympics through javelin star Keshorn Walcott. But, despite sending just three representatives to the Rio 2016 Paralympics, Lewis suggested that the medal potential was always at least as high in the second competition.

Stewart has set world records in the javelin, discuss and shot put events over the past 15 months and became Trinidad and Tobago’s first gold medalist at the Parapan American Games in the F44 discuss competition last year.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago's Akeem Stewart shows off his world record performance at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games on 9 September 2016. (Copyright Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago’s Akeem Stewart shows off his world record performance at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games on 9 September 2016.
(Copyright Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

On his first attempt yesterday, Stewart threw 57.23 metres, which eclipsed his own record mark of 54.77. He had already secured gold when, on his final throw, he set a new world record of 57.32.

Canada’s Alister McQueen was second with 55.56 followed by New Zealand’s Rory McSweeny with 54.99.

Sport Minister Darryl Smith hailed Stewart’s golden arm.

“We are tremendously proud of Akeem [Stewart], becoming the first man to medal at the [2016] Paralympic Games for Trinidad and Tobago and doing so with record throws,” said Smith, via a press release. “Akeem is a gifted athlete and worthy ambassador for Paralympic sport. He has distinguished himself among the world’s best in the throwing events, and in doing so, positions Trinidad and Tobago as a force to be reckoned with.

“We congratulate Akeem on his achievement and look forward to what he will produce in his favoured discus event next week.”

Already Stewart’s accomplishment has assured the Tobagonian of a US$10,000 medal bonus from the TTOC, although his golden return will not go towards Lewis’ vision of 10 gold medals by 2024.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago's javelin gold medalist Akeem Stewart (centre) shares the podium with Canada’s Alister McQueen (left) and New Zealand’s Rory McSweeny during the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games on 9 September 2016. (Copyright Alexandre Loureiro/Getty Images)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago’s javelin gold medalist Akeem Stewart (centre) shares the podium with Canada’s Alister McQueen (left) and New Zealand’s Rory McSweeny during the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games on 9 September 2016.
(Copyright Alexandre Loureiro/Getty Images)

“We included the Paralympic athletes in our athlete welfare program because I believe in equality,” said Lewis, “but this does not go towards the 10 gold for 2024 [plan] because we are different entities. There is a Trinidad and Tobago Paralympic Committee and they would have their own aspirations…”

Lewis said he initially projected that the TTOC would need to pay out medal bonuses four times for the Olympic and Paralympic Games each.

Walcott was the country’s lone Olympic medalist but there is a chance for more precious metal at the Paralympic competition where Stewart is due to compete again as well as his teammates Shanntol Ince and Nyoshia Cain, who will challenge in swimming and track respectively.

Stewart is Trinidad and Tobago’s second Paralympic gold medalist after Rachael Marshall won the L5 women’s javelin and shot put crowns at the 1984 Paralympics.

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  3. Well done Akeem!!! Keep it up!!! You are making us very proud!!! 🙂

  4. Akeem had a super record coming into the games. The surprise would have been if he did not medal. Interesting that I could not rely on TnT media for a prompt report on Shantol’s first race. I had to go to the Rio website. Stark contrast to the coverage of the first group of Rio medal hopefuls.

  5. 1000 % congratulations to my homie.

  6. Congrats to him. Thing is as happy as I am for him what isn’t cool is his father demanding a house & land in an interview. Wait until you’re offered & be humble.

  7. What an incredibly deserving athlete.

  8. Well done Akeem. You have made T & T Proud!

  9. I really hope that the house and land and airplane would one day stop being what we see as fitting rewards for athletes. Sit down and please realize what would really matter to a 24 year old with a disability in sport. How about a diplomatic passport to avoid lines and waits when travelling. A law to ensure every sport body contributes to a para sport arm. An athlete needs a guaranteed comfortable income. Medical bills covered for a period. Let’s think a bit more. The value can be worth the millions but let it more beneficial to him or them.

    • Of course. But what would it look like if they move the goalpost know that a Paralympic athlete is up for State reward?
      I say give him reward befitting an Olympian and then put policy in place for future champions.

    • Well if the timing may be questioned then I guess so. The goalpost in my view wouldnt be moved. Where are the dignitaries who came down last month. No one here now so why pretend its the ssme. When will we ever get this right.

    • I know the Govt can argue with some justification that because of the popularity of the Olympics, success there goes much further in terms of spreading Brand T&T.
      If they rewarding visibility as opposed to success, they would have a point.
      It will be interesting no matter what they do.
      Was Akeem Stewart on the front page? I think there is already a difference in the way the country views the two events anyway. We’d be lying if we said otherwise.

    • Fully agreed and for that I think a fitting reward system if timely now as it will be done early and avoid prolonging a non productive system. We not sure what and who will be in charge in 2020

    • Can’t move the goalposts until after Akeem gets his reward. Then system in place there after.

    • A house and land and something named in your honour is something that is valuable to everybody and the house and land gives you collateral and therefore power to affect other aspects of your life beyond your sport.
      Medical grants should be afforded to all athletes who are performing at a certain level.
      A diplomatic passport is lovely but I don’t know how that works when you are part of a team. Do you bypass immigration and then sit and wait for the rest of the team? Apart from which a diplomatic passport grants diplomatic immunity, I am not sure that that’s territory you should be in as a result of athletic achievement.
      (But I generally don’t believe in granting anybody diplomatic immunity in any case)

    • A standard medical plan for all national athletes cool. But para athletes demand more. A house is a liability so having one and no income is cause for concern. Please keep in mind this contingent is 3 persons so it’s more individualistic than you think. Grenada did and excellent job at rewarding Mr James and you can have some look to see how it benifitted him in the long run. Again if he gets what you all asking I am in no way going to be angry just wish we think a bit more. Please remember we have a cultural problem with rewarding and then not being able to produce constantly

    • And if we plan rewards based on a three person contingent, we will always have a three person contingent.
      In any case, house and land can be mortgaged and give opportunity to start a business of some sort. With the right advice and right people around the athlete, that business can grow to be the athlete’s sponsor (and maybe sponsor other athletes) and then maybe there can be an end to the constant ketch ass and government reliance.

    • But we could just do this the easy way and ask Keyshorn for his views on his house and land and what more the government could have done for him personally. Meaning not instituting proper programs for the benefit of all, but for him personally.

    • True. Firstly he has a Nike deal which akeem doesn’t have so income different. He has 3 local sponsors which again akeem doesn’t have. it was said he accepted valsayn instead of fed park as it was central to both training and tocó. So many factors must be taken into account. Let me make this easier. If you ask an athlete if he rather a house or in akeem case 10 years of a 10k salary per month and he continues to train etc. Most will take that. Yes a house is worth more but being an elite athlete requires a series of gears moving simultaneously.

    • At this stage his house and land should be a given as that is what his father has said he would want. Moving out on your own is everyone’s dream and is normally what most people work all their lives to achieve. This would be a case for the Equal Opportunity Commission if his wish is not granted. I agree that there should be proper structures in place for jobs for national athletes in line with their qualifications and proper medical support which is another serious issue but for now shifting the goalpost will reek of discrimination of the worst kind.

    • Narada, the Gov’t took Federation Park off the table. So forget about where is nearer to his training. Especially as Keshorn trains in Port of Spain.
      Jehue Gordon still hasn’t gotten the house promised by the State after winning the World Championships in 2013. Maybe someone will say he didn’t want his own house yet.

    • Akeem can speak for himself though. So pops can take it down a bit. And I don’t think athletes should just get to decide whatever they like either.
      That bit just doesn’t come across as gracious.

  10. Paralympians are certainly doing great – kudos to them all!

    • Agreed. I believe a good way to pay tribute to them is for gov’t to provide facilities for differently abled persons so they can lead as normal a life as possible. Who knows how much they lose out on. This of course is in addition to personal rewards!

  11. Sharp as always. Well, we will soon learn. Very interesting notion indeed.
    It is certainly an amazing accomplishment. Gold with the world record to boot.
    Smith and Rowley best put their thinking caps on.

  12. I hope the government believes in equality and he gets his house and land as well as something named in his honour.

  13. Very proud of this young man. Despite his challenges look what he has accomplished. Congratulations Akeem!

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