“I do not know why persons who do wrong, especially with false credentials, nowadays get promotions and a pat on the back but when you sacrifice to build your own credentials with positivity some folks think twice to support the effort.
“Nonetheless, we athletes have a responsibility with what we say and do to keep kids in sports and off the streets like I once was.”
Trinidad and Tobago sprinter and three-time Olympian Emmanuel Callender—who was part of the 4×100 metre silver-winning London 2012 team and Beijing 2008 team who could feasibly swap silver for gold—speaks out about the cost and challenges of representing his country:
This is the first time I feel the need to speak on this recent issue. I cannot speak for or or behalf of the other team members primarily because we each have matured with varying degrees of perception.
We enjoy different degrees of economic and social status. But we are at the end of the day one team, one family and we truly believe in our national words: together we aspire, together we achieve.
I will however use this opportunity to speak on behalf of the voiceless. The development coaches, parents and young athletes all sacrifice their time for track and field and get nothing in return. They should be adequately compensated at some point.
At least water or nutritious juices could once again be provided to the kids after training. Transportation from school to practice and from practice to home is a major issue. Athletes who get to National Champs semis and final should at least get passage to go back home, if anything, for supporting the meets.
One cannot place first in a final if there is no one to run against.
However, we have a reliable justice on time prisoner service that passes in front of my home daily in Arouca. Parents, coaches and kids who are in traffic that head to training have to move aside for the “Black Maria” to pass.
When is there going to be a ‘Sport on Time’ service?
Needless to say, I will like to thank the public servants who look after my documents and provide service in training facilities each year.
I cannot expect anything more in return if taxpayers continue to believe that I am not giving them value for their money. Apart from seeking personal excellence, I must emphasise that I run for my beautiful country, Trinidad & Tobago.
It was a privilege to run against the likes of Usain Bolt and Nesta Carter and now there is a chance of receiving Olympic gold from the same race. This is however in no comparison to receiving an accolade in a year that I am achieving personal bests.
Achieving top 10 ranking in seven billion people in the world gives you access to $250,000 TT [in elite funding from the Ministry of Sport]. Outside of medalling allows only access to $60,000 TT annually from the Ministry alone.
This is $5,000 per month that I must provide bills for. My chances of accessing $250,000 in one year is slim but $240,000 accumulatively in four years is a bit more realistic.
The Ministry has been the most realistic source of funding over the years. I don’t think the goalpost has shifted much for the high ranking required for individual elite funding.
Elite funding does not exist for teams that perform in the Olympics, such as the teams I was fortunate to be a part of over the years. T&T senior relays are usually ranked top 10 in the world.
I am nonetheless grateful for the funding.
The best engineers and engineers of sport in T&T may not even have to ask the government or associations to help fund their career training—yet they still have casual, sick leave and gratuities to look forward to.
I cannot buy certain brands of cough syrup if I get sick because it may contain a banned substance. Each day is a work day until I retire, whether I am sick or not. After my stint, I have to find work to survive.
I don’t get food cards or provided with housing, even to pay a mortgage. I can’t pay NIS toward my future. This is mainly because it is difficult to work part-time in CEPEP in the morning and train in the evening. I won’t stand a chance to [then] chase down Bolt, Yohan Blake, Asafa Powell, Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay and, yes, Carter—much less Richard Thompson.
More so, athletes cannot threaten to shut down the country’s elite participation before major games for a 5% increase. But we have got to take 0-0-0 for country and minus 0-0-0 if we come back empty handed as we have bills to pay.
At this time, if anything is offered by the people of Trinidad and Tobago I will accept it with grace. If nothing is offered by the persons in authority, I will accept it with the same grace.
Notably, the precedent of reward has already been set, though not by me.
I do not know why persons who do wrong, especially with false credentials, nowadays get promotions and a pat on the back but when you sacrifice to build your own credentials with positivity some folks think twice to support the effort.
Nonetheless, we athletes have a responsibility with what we say and do to keep kids in sports and off the streets like I once was. Disenfranchised groups such as para-athletes also have to be encouraged to continue performing for this country at major games.
What is their reward for being different and representing T&T?
My job is to run to the best of my ability and do my best to stay clean. The region may not have the facilities for us to test ourselves. Asafa was tested positive and the supplier did not list the banned substances in the product. He got sanctioned.
This is the direction that T&T and Jamaica could aspire to especially if we need to have sport tourism and have international tournaments.
I will continue to do what I have to and let the NAAAs, TTOC and Ministry do what they have to. The Minister always says leave the stars to the astronomers.
At the end of the day, I am responsible for owning my failures and sharing my performances. I am a star no matter what anybody says. Who says otherwise can come challenge me at a competition or on the training track for a workout session.
At the end of the day, I can listen to the anthem anytime. I can stand under a flag anytime in Trinidad and Tobago with the same amount of pride as in the Olympics. The glory and honour of my achievements belongs to God as He is on the highest podium.
As I continue to celebrate Him, I must contend that this is perhaps the longest celebration of victory in world sports and I am just contented and proud to be a small part of it.