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Letter to the Editor: Olympic sprinter, Callender, speaks out about representing T&T

“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:

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago’s bronze medallist Emmanuel Callender (right), Jamaica’s gold medallist Lerone Clarke (centre) and Saints Kitts and Nevis’ Silver medallist Kim Collins take to the podium after the 100m final of the Guadalajara 2011 XVI Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico on 25 October 2011. (Copyright AFP 2017/Luis Acosta)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago’s bronze medallist Emmanuel Callender (right), Jamaica’s gold medallist Lerone Clarke (centre) and Saints Kitts and Nevis’ Silver medallist Kim Collins take to the podium after the 100m final of the Guadalajara 2011 XVI Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico on 25 October 2011.
(Copyright AFP 2017/Luis Acosta)

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.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago sprinters (from left) Keston Bledman, Emmanuel Callender, Richard Thompson and Marc Burns celebrate after winning silver in the 4x100 final during the 2008 Beijing Olympics at the Beijing National Stadium on 22 August 2008. Jamaica won the Olympic final with a new world record of 37.10 seconds. (Copyright AFP 2017/Jewel Samad)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago sprinters (from left) Keston Bledman, Emmanuel Callender, Richard Thompson and Marc Burns celebrate after winning silver in the 4×100 final during the 2008 Beijing Olympics at the Beijing National Stadium on 22 August 2008.
Jamaica won the Olympic final with a new world record of 37.10 seconds.
(Copyright AFP 2017/Jewel Samad)

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.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Olympians Jehue Gordon (left) and Emmanuel Callender catch the bus during the Rio 2106 Olympic Games. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Olympians Jehue Gordon (left) and Emmanuel Callender catch the bus during the Rio 2106 Olympic Games.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

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.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago sprinter Emmanuel Callender (right) competes with Jamaica’s Usain Bolt and Britain’s Christian Malcolm in the 200 metre heats of the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu on 2 September 2011. (Copyright AFP 2017/Olivier Morin)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago sprinter Emmanuel Callender (right) competes with Jamaica’s Usain Bolt and Britain’s Christian Malcolm in the 200 metre heats of the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu on 2 September 2011.
(Copyright AFP 2017/Olivier Morin)

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.

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)

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.

Photo: The Trinidad and Tobago quartet of Keston Bledman, Emmanuel Callender, Marc Burns and Richard Thompson pose on the podium after winning bronze in the London 2012 Olympics 4x100 relay final on 11 August 2012. The Trinidad and Tobago team were subsequently upgraded to silver. (Copyright AFP 2017/Johannes Eisele)
Photo: The Trinidad and Tobago quartet of Keston Bledman, Emmanuel Callender, Marc Burns and Richard Thompson pose on the podium after winning bronze in the London 2012 Olympics 4×100 relay final on 11 August 2012.
The Trinidad and Tobago team were subsequently upgraded to silver.
(Copyright AFP 2017/Johannes Eisele)

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.

Stay Balanced

Emmanuel Callender

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26 comments

  1. Is something wrong with our society. Why the gimme gimme attitude. I agree with rewarding individuals for performances. I have no problem with giving money to athletes who do not have a professional contract. How come Jamaican athletes who have contract don’t look to the government for funding. Why is it that I don’t see this from bajan Jamaican athletes etc.

  2. A another breath of air. A sigh. Thanks man for speaking up.

  3. Why should this Always have to be the story of local sports when it’s the ONLY catalyst that can change a country’s economic fortunes overnight but it’s greed and the one eyed dog in a klim pan syndrome that wins out.. but alas there is always one equating factor??

  4. Thanks for courageously speaking out! When the people pay attention; the politicians also will!

  5. Many many truths here. Kudos for saying what he said

  6. Brave and insightful comments, we always expect our people to be winners when representing our country but most times they have to perform without proper funding and preparation to get the job done and they come up short we are quick to condemm them without looking at the whole picture. When will our country unite as a team and get things right.

  7. Very mature and fothright perspective…keep fighting the good fight brother…the reward is within!

  8. Well said brother, I don’t know why the government and cooperate tnt don’t put things in place for these guys.

  9. Love it have nuff respect for him #balanceyuhself Emmanuel Callender

  10. The Govt may have to seriously look at using some funds from the NLCB to pump into all sports so that the athletes can focus on training and have the funds to proper supplement . The support of the private sector is just not enough .

    • Agree private sector involvement is not enough. But we also need to be in continuous fund raising mode not wait until an event to start sourcing sponsors. And instead of waiting for athletes to do well and then taking out ads, let corporate sponsors use that money in a more meaningful way. And we really need to take a more scientific and holistic approach to training to be more consistent.

  11. Fantabulous and emotional piece by Emmanuel and very factual at it. I would to him in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt ” No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

  12. Your point is well made Lasana, and he may even get paid.

  13. I hope Emmanuel goes into administration. I think he is a bright and driven young man.
    Maybe he can help produce the change from the other side.

  14. I speak to Emmanuel fairly regularly and he has stayed at my house after the 2012 Olympics and I can’t wait to see him during World Champs this summer here in London. A real hard working professional with a humbleness that’s so admirable. Man.. I just really don’t j ow what it will take to get through to our administrators or leaders. I really don’t know. Some of them are just so arrogant and aloof it’s embarrassing. But it’s a pandemic in Trinidad and Tobago. Most leaders are incapable of leading effectively. It’s rather disheartening.

  15. Please make time to read this.

  16. Great stuff…blessings to you bro….you have change lives you’ve done your part and continue to do God’s blessings!!!

  17. The first paragraph….says it all…across the board.