After the 2020 false start, T&T athletes sweated, cried and bled as they prepared to face the Olympic starters in 2021.
While they did so, some of the country’s most accomplished and known sport journalists assembled their own Team TTO to come up with an interesting mix of nostalgia, analysis of prospects and future-mapping for podium performance in future games.
The resultant magazine, seemingly without a name, commissioned by the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee in the lead-up to the Tokyo 2020 Games, is a nostalgic, critical and hopeful trail mix of local and international situational analysis, interviews, trivia and everything related to sport—from psychology and coaching to marketing and socio-political expressions on the competition field.
The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games are now history, and the 2024 Games in Paris are already fewer than three years away, so why review this publication? The solid reason is that it gives a sense of what the country needs to do to get the quadrennial medal haul to match the undeniable talent of Team TTO athletes.
Ashford Jackman starts the race by noting the IOC’s herculean effort to get the Games into stadia, arenas, pools, on the road in Tokyo and on TVs around the world, 18 months into the pandemic. The ponderings about Tokyo’s ability to pull off the games without mishap have been answered resoundingly. Tokyo not only fought well, but conquered without major disaster.
The opening article not only covers the sport of the Olympic Games, but the performance-enhancing power of mega-money in sport, geo-politics and socio-cultural protest movements and their relevance in 21st century sport.
The magazine takes creative liberties—a 2021 Trinidad adaptation of a French poem, to Brian Lara’s pressure-handling techniques of ‘bad-mind, focus’ and visualisation. The athlete and coach profiles provide insight into the months and years of preparation these sons and daughters of Trinidad and Tobago have to endure to attempt to chase medals.
Kwame Laurence pays tribute to Kelly-Ann Baptiste and how she gracefully endured the niggles of late-career athletes to prepare for her fifth Olympiad, while acknowledging the abilities and potential of young Tyra Gittens.
Before the Games, it provided any serious or casual sport enthusiast from Trinidad and Tobago a schedule of Trinbagonian participants to look out for—from young Teniel Campbell, daughter of former ball-player and long-jumper, Euphemia Huggins to Ayanna McClean and Reyah Richardson, the field hockey officials, to Kwandwane Browne, England’s men’s hockey team assistant coach and former national hockey talisman and captain.
In a Kwame Laurence article, Marc Burns makes one of the strongest observations of the magazine that transcends his personal feelings of deprivation, having not heard “Forged from the love of liberty…” in China’s Bird Nest Stadium, yet being belatedly awarded gold in the men’s 4x100m relay.
“Everyone’s life would have been changed or positioned differently for the better,” said the now 38-year-old gold-medal-winning sprinter, “even to this date.”
As an elite athlete, the Olympic Games dictate your life for an average minimum of at least 12 years… preparation, second attempts, revenge, accolades, gaining experience for downstream careers. The fleeting moments of victory and success at the Olympic Games are extremely powerful and, while the Games are entertainment for most, for the athletes, they are make-or-break moments.
The magazine provides a wide-ranging look at T&T’s Olympic and sporting success, systemic failure and the occasions on which brilliant natural talent plus dedication against odds equalled metal.
When it comes to analysing and forecasting track and field medal prospects, no one is as accurate as Ato Boldon. Before the Games, he called the spade the spade and predicted no medals for T&T.
Jovan Ravello examines T&T’s ‘aspirational’ aim, set by TTOC President Brian Lewis, to earn 10 gold medals by 2024. The overall perspective is that the dream is not dead but deferred. Since 2012, the dream was still-born, and will continue in that state until serious systems are in place to nurture and develop junior talent, then bridge the difficult gap between junior success and senior medals.
The messages from the President of the Republic and the Minister of Sport do not add anything to the publication, really.
President Weekes invokes the names of the legends Lennox Kilgour, Rodney Wilkes, Wendell Mottley, Hasely Crawford, George Bovell, Akeem Stewart and others to hope against sound analysis that Team TTO would have come up with medals. It makes the point, whether the magazine intended it or not, that if nothing else, Trinidad and Tobago is full of Olympic spirit, counting the effort as most important while trying to put the ‘spirit to the test’ and ‘reach’.
With the background of the traction generated by the Black Lives Matter Movement, Lasana Liburd skilfully, but in a gentle way, points out the hypocrisy of Rule 50, banning political statements by athletes at the Games.
He uses the example of Tommie Smith and John Carlos, the 200m gold and bronze medal winners at the 1968 Mexico Games, who stuck their black-gloved fists into the air on the podium to create one of the most striking images in Olympic sporting history.
It is an image used by the International Olympic Committee to show the place of the Games in history-defining moments, yet the IOC insists and warns athletes that any similar display could earn them the same fate of being banned from the Olympic Games.
As Liburd’s analysis highlights, everything at the Olympic Games is political, from plans to allow athletes from the then-segregated South Africa to compete to refugee teams and transgender competitors.
Unfortunately, graphic design and print technology combined to make the first few paragraphs of the piece a difficult read on the glossy paper. Kenneth Henry’s design and layout are, in general, quite good and attractive, although it is sometimes difficult to immediately decipher where an article begins.
If ever there were a manual to get T&T sport thinkers on the right track to plan future success at international competition, this magazine is it.
Its publishers should try to get it widely disseminated digitally, well beyond the limited confines of the capabilities of the copies available in print.