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T&T’s Beijing 4×100 team: Thanks for the love… But don’t forget Olympic promises!

“We were promised in July that something would be done to assure that we were rewarded for our efforts and representing T&T with integrity. There were media releases and pictures taken… and then nothing!

“We were forgotten about and disappeared to them like magic.”

The following statement was posted by three-time Olympic medalist Richard “Torpedo” Thompson on behalf of Trinidad and Tobago’s 2008 Olympic 4×100 team of Keston Bledman, Emmanuel Callender, Marc Burns, Aaron Armstrong and himself:

Photo: Done the old talk... Make it rain allyuh! Trinidad and Tobago's 4x100 metre relay team of (from left) Richard Thompson, Marc Burns, Emmanuel Callender and Keston Bledman pose with their London 2012 Olympic Games silver medals in a ceremony at the Anchorage, Carenage on 29 June 2016. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago’s 4×100 metre relay team of (from left) Richard Thompson, Marc Burns, Emmanuel Callender and Keston Bledman pose with their London 2012 Olympic Games silver medals in a ceremony at the Anchorage, Carenage on 29 June 2016.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

On behalf of the Men’s 2008 Olympic 4x100m team, I’d like to firstly thank everyone for the outpouring of love shown to us today on hearing the fortunate news that T&T has been upgraded from Silver to Gold.

We may sound repetitive, but we really mean it when we say that every opportunity that we’re given to represent T&T is truly an honour. We’ve experienced highs and lows but regardless of what time or place the result board shows, there’s no greater pride than seeing the TTO next to our name.

A few months ago we got the news that we may be upgraded, and this morning we woke up to messages confirming that we are now, in fact Olympic Gold medalists. Every athlete works hard to cross the line first, every athlete strives to stand at the top of the podium and hear their anthem play and we all want to come back home to the fanfare but unfortunately, this is not our fairytale story.

However, I want to let it be known that we still hold our Jamaican brothers in high regard and cannot/will not judge your unfortunate circumstances for we do not know the intricate details of what transpired.

As we move forward, what does this medal mean for us, the men who have literally sacrificed our livelihoods to represent T&T?

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago's London Olympics 4x100 metre relay team of (from left) Richard Thompson, Emmanuel Callender, Marc Burns and Keston Bledman pose with Sport Minister Darryl Smith (centre) in a ceremony at The Anchorage, Carenage on 29 June 2016. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago’s London Olympics 4×100 metre relay team of (from left) Richard Thompson, Emmanuel Callender, Marc Burns and Keston Bledman pose with Sport Minister Darryl Smith (centre) in a ceremony at The Anchorage, Carenage on 29 June 2016.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

It seems almost like deja vu of the London 2012 Games. We competed and our medal was upgraded to another colour a few years later. In 2016, we returned our Bronze and were given our silver medals.

There was a function held for us by the president, which we so greatly appreciated, there was a big buzz from the T&T people and media, then there was a follow up convo that we had with Minister Smith regarding retroactive financial compensation as well.

We were promised in July that something would be done to assure that we were rewarded for our efforts and representing T&T with integrity. There were media releases and pictures taken… and then nothing!

We were forgotten about and disappeared to them like magic.

To make matters worse, in trying to prepare for the Rio Olympics, we endured an immense struggle to receive elite funding, which was intended to assist us with our Olympic preparation. To this date, I still have not received funding despite several attempts to coordinate with the minister, his assistant and the ministry officials.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago sprinters (from left) Richard Thompson, Emmanuel Callender and Rondel Sorrillo watch the electronic scoreboard after their disqualification from the 4x100 metre event during the Rio 2106 Olympic Games. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago sprinters (from left) Richard Thompson, Emmanuel Callender and Rondel Sorrillo watch the electronic scoreboard after their disqualification from the 4×100 metre event during the Rio 2106 Olympic Games.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

I spent over $150,000 of my own money, and so did the other members of the 4×100 team to prepare for Rio, which included coaching fees, massages, physical therapy, doctor’s visits, supplements, meals, transportation and flights to competitions.

I am now being told that I will be unable to receive any reimbursement. Imagine Marc Burns calls into the Ministry’s office to see about his funding and the lady asks “So what sport are you in exactly?”

This is our longest standing National athlete in probably any sport in T&T and he has served us beyond remarkably in 4 Olympic Games.

Another issue we’ve addressed, that has been ignored, is that we all pay to stay in hotels the many times a year that we come to Trinidad, including for the National Championships. Hopefully being Gold medallists, we can now be rewarded with accommodation similar to our 1976 and 2012 Olympic Champions and 2013 World Champion.

We have worked extremely hard to fly the flag at an elite level for over a decade.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago sprinters (from left) Richard Thompson, Emmanuel Callender, Marc Burns and Keston Bledman on the podium at the London 2012 Olympic Games. (Courtesy AFP 2015)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago sprinters (from left) Richard Thompson, Emmanuel Callender, Marc Burns and Keston Bledman on the podium at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
(Courtesy AFP 2015)

Marc Burns, Emanuel Callender, Keston Bledman and I have won Olympic medals in 2008 and 2012 and three of the four of us also appeared in the Rio 2016 Finals. Not to mention the World Championship, Commonwealth, World Relays, Central American & Caribbean and Pan American medals that we’ve all won in between that period.

We also cannot forget our sterling Semi-final leg by Aaron Armstrong in Beijing to help us qualify for the final.

I mention many of the things above—not to sound bitter or ungrateful for some of the luxuries afforded to us in the past—but to illustrate to the people, the obstacles that we face in order to perform against the best in the world.

We hope that our athletes are taken more seriously and are shown more respect for the efforts made to represent us all. We will continue to put our best foot forward and do things the right way.

We look forward to having further conversations with the Honourable Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and the Minister of Sport so that we can all be on the same page and allow for many other Gold medals from T&T while we’re active as well as after we have left the sport.

Much Love,

T&T 4x100m team

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago's 2012 Olympic Games 4x100 metre team (from left) Marc Burns, Keston Bledman, Emmanuel Callender and Richard Thompson.
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago’s 2012 Olympic Games 4×100 metre team (from left) Marc Burns, Keston Bledman, Emmanuel Callender and Richard Thompson.

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74 comments

  1. Sad that the Jamaicans lost the gold but the entire world will mourn if it is reported that Usain ever touched or consumed a banned substance. Lets keep Caribbean sports drug-free!

  2. For getting gold 2 million each an a house

  3. Drugs are a big part of live in the US period. And I’m talking about a wide array of over the counter drugs.

    • If the comment is about over the counter drugs then the US isn’t exceptional in that regard, in fact, over the counter drugs are a “big part of normal life” globally. If the statement was made with regards to illicit/controlled substances or performance-enhancing drugs, then to say that such is a “big part of normal life” in the US is hyperbolic, at best.

    • Nigel S. Scott I absolutely disagree that the Caribbean indulges in over the counter drugs in anything like the same quantity as the United States. And I would love to see you provide evidence as such.
      I knew exactly what I meant to say and that’s what I did. So we disagree.

    • Lasana Liburd the professional or amateur athlete today would not risk their career by taking ban drugs….the last 10 yrs. drug cheat paid a heavy price….Russia get hit the hardest…the few Americans who got caught….MISS BIG PAYDAY…Nesta Carter just happen to get caught…Sports today have the most high tech equipment for cheaters….

    • you cannot compare illegal parking to a professional athlete…you talking millions of dollars an athlete would risk if get caught taking ban drugs..TODAY not eight yrs. ago…Nesta is history now…

    • Royce, you are welcome to your conspiracy theory if it comforts you.

    • what conspiracy????? i said drug cheats today is taking a high risk if they take a ban substance…that is conspiracy??????

    • “that the Caribbean athlete do not take illegal drugs and this is a conspiracy against Usain Bolt record breaking Gold Medals…what you say…”

    • I think he was quoting something he read on another post.

    • But I happened to be listening on the radio yesterday and some folks were calling in to give their 2 cents. I couldn’t believe how many people commented that they out to get Bolt or Black people or Caribbean people. Some people were saying things like why did it take so long to test Carter..not understanding that you have to create the test for a particular drug and test creation always seems one step behind masking science. Athletes who cheat must know they will eventually get caught but don’t care because they make the money for the years they could get away with it. Taking bread from clean athletes mouth in the process. Imagine how much more marketable and bankable our relay guys would have been 8 years ago. It would have also done a world of good for track locally because it’s not that popular a sport here. Young athletes would have been so much more inspired. Instead the bitterness being felt by our relay team might translate to the opposite effect. Like why waste time trying to compete clean and reach the top when it looks like even your own people don’t respect and laud your achievements.

    • Ok Royce Russell. Sorry if I misread your post.

  4. so Drugs is not a big part of normal life in the Caribbean????????? Among athletes????????

  5. Drugs are a big part of normal life in the US? Among athletes?

  6. I am reading some post about the 2008 Beijing Olympic involving Jamaican 4 X 100 relay team…one post said that the Caribbean athlete do not take illegal drugs and this is a conspiracy against Usain Bolt record breaking Gold Medals…what you say…

    • Many Caribbean athletes train in the US where drugs are a big part of normal life. But it is a small world and they can easily access it if they wanted. Temptation is the same for all parties.
      Baseless conspiracy theories should be ignored anyway I think.

  7. It’s a great achievement to be an Olympian and it’s an even sweeter achievement to win an Olympic gold.. the country is overwhelm by this achievement and so the nation as a whole needs to celebrate this achievement. Many countries support such achievement.. take note sports is a great way to let people about your country .. where ya from .. ohhh yes the olympians, Yorke , Lara, ato, hislop etc the ministry needs to support these victory for the preparation of others to follow pursuit …

  8. We’re those not payments for the achievements on the “road to Germany”?

  9. The Olympic gold was 2008. I specifically said 2016! Amateur status still allows an athlete to collect large sums in sponsorship as per diems, out of pocket expenses such as housing, vehicles etc and image rights as well as appearance fees.
    The money referred to by Tisha-Marie Dayal was bonuses owed by TTFF which the govt decided to pay for political reasons. The same govt gave awards and houses to several athletes after 2012. Some of our Cricketers earn literally millions per year, and our govt spends millions sponsoring CPL which in turn pays our players huge fees. I would also add that winning Olympic gold to the paramount triumph in sport aside perhaps from winning a World Cup. But my comparison was for all of the athletes that don’t win even a Caribbean title.

  10. This issue raises the question for the need to have a reward/appreciation strategy which will cater for such eventuality. How will Trinidad treat with the house and land and money given to successful athletes should, after a few years, it is proven that had cheated to gain their victory?

  11. Didn’t our national footballers collect state funds.. I seem to remember a court precedent to collect such amounting in the millions.. which I personally find unfair if only given to one sport and ridiculous that you should be paid to represent your country.. but I should on topic.. these boys are more than deserving all our Olympic athletes are unless they’re a dick ?

  12. Most Olympic sports are amateur. There is no comparison to me. I get your point otherwise. But I won’t say footballers are worse off by any stretch of the imagination.
    For instance, the 4×100 team was the best on the flipping planet. You can’t compare that to a Caribbean cup.

  13. While it is true that footballers receive match fees – just the same as top athletes receive appearance fees- footballers are paid salaries by their club and do not receive elite funding. I compared the funding received by way of sportt subventions to clubs (as this money is purely to cover salaries) to that of an elite athlete The $50k per month subventions equals less than $2,000 per month per player. So Jan-Michael Williams (who is by any definition is an elite footballer) received less than $24,000 per year in direct funding compared with $250,000 per year received by an elite athlete. Ok, Jan would also receive additional salary from his club. While an elite athlete would usually receive some kind of corporate sponsorship. The athlete has to pay for their own coaches, medical treatment, and flights and accommodation if they choose to train overseas. So it seems to me that an elite athlete based in T&T could be over $150k better off than Jan who has won lots of awards including being a Caribbean Club Champion for the last two years. He would surely be ranked in the top three GKs in the Caribbean. How many of our elite athletes are in the top three of their discipline in the Caribbean? Let me now say that I believe elite athlete funding is essential and should continue. But so should the subventions for football. Remember, in 2016 I believe the only winners of any major international ( team or individual) tournament were Central FC.
    And their reward for flying the T&T flag as champions was that they didn’t even receive a letter of congratulations from the Minister of Sport!

  14. Congrats! But should ‘professional’ athletes continue to be supported by the state?

  15. The sky should be the limit in our tangible tributes to our belatedly celebrated heroes. These guys have suffered the loss of not being cheered as winners on the day and feeling the pride of hearing their national anthem played at the Olympic Games on their behalf; they have lost out on a national celebration accorded to our Olympic Gold medallists upon their home-coming; they have lost out on the highest national award and guaranteed sports funding from our governing bodies; they have lost out on international publicity as Olympic champions; they have lost out on the monetary endorsements/corporate sponsorship as elite athletes; they have lost out on automatic invitations and top-tier appearance fees at global athletic events; they have felt the pain of being 2nd best since the undeserved loss … let’s do what we can as as nation to make them feel truly appreciated, cause they have given us another reason to feel proud as patriotic citizens and deserve no less than the best.

  16. Wasn’t that silver for 2012? I losing track?. No pun intended!

  17. i think everybody knew in May 2016 that the JAM team was going to lose the medal after Nesta’s A-sample positive.
    To go and go through the whole scene of giving them something for a silver when yuh know the likely to be upgraded again is ridiculous. have some patience fellas. what ain meet you ain pass you

  18. in one word, “CONGRATULATIONS!”

  19. Some may argue our athletes for silver and bronze have gotten way more than many athletes around the world for Gold medals.

    To not have these controversies we need a set reward system…whatever that is for Gold, Silver and Bronze

  20. Are our footballers the only athletes paid a ‘salary’ to represent us?

  21. Some countries give more. Some give less. And you would find that countries that give less often take care of an athlete’s preparation unlike here.
    If you’re referring to Bovell, I’m not sure what point your are making there.

  22. You see …..if only we had a pre set awards/merit policy commensurate with the level/prestige of competition, we could a – avoid such embarrassment, b – hold people accountable when the policy is not adhered to and c – not be subject to the whims and fancies of whatever government of the day but you know …..this has only been discussed, recommended and ignored ad nausem. ?

  23. we are all aware of that, but do countries around the world do what happens in tt, and bye the way how come the most medaled swimmer has never even received a parade in his honor

    • What is your point exactly? These athletes are not even supported in their preparations properly and have to spend their own money. Their careers end in their 30’s, what are they to do with the rest of their lives?
      It is a great personal sacrifice to represent T&T, and if promises were made, they should be honored.

  24. Some people sacrifice and do amazing things for it though. The life of an athlete is harder than you might think.

  25. every body in tt want a million dollars, a house and now a car,

  26. They’re not even asking for rewards. They just want to be supported and feel appreciated; it’s not an unreasonable request. $150,000.00 out of pocket?

    Wow. Athletes are bravehearts yes.

  27. Well the list for rewards must be done soon
    Don’t think anything happen with keshorn for the bronze