“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:
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?
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.
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.
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.
T&T 4x100m team