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Shah: Saluting speed, strength and stamina; but is T&T glorifying mediocrity?

By the time I was ready to turn in on Sunday night, my pulse rate was back to normal. And, like the Buddha you encounter at the entrances to many Thai restaurants, I wore a silly grin, like a man whose appetite was sated.

No, I did not overeat: I was overfed with athletics performances—and it was only Day Three of nine days of track and field events at the Rio Olympics.

Photo: Jamaica's Usain Bolt celebrates after winning the 100 metre Olympic final for a record third successive time at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on 14 August 2016.  (Copyright AFP 2016/Wired868)
Photo: Jamaica’s Usain Bolt celebrates after winning the 100 metre Olympic final for a record third successive time at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on 14 August 2016. 
(Copyright AFP 2016/Wired868)

Usain Bolt, who has stamped his authority as the greatest sprinter ever, almost gave me a heart attack by trailing druggist Justin Gatlin up to the half-way mark in the 100 metres final. Then he delivered, in style—but I was nervously massaging my chest!

Earlier, in the 400 metres final—in which we had a stake in the youthful Machel Cedenio—and a kith-and-kin interest in the form of Grenada’s Kirani James, we were treated to one of the most spectacular quarter-mile races in history.

In the 43-or-so seconds one had to watch the race develop, most eyes were focussed on the duel between joint favourites LaShawn Merritt and James. Few observed South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk, cast into the difficult Lane 8, run the race of his life, which, by the 325-metre-mark, would change dramatically into the best 400 metres race in our lifetime.

It’s not as if keen athletics fans like me, who monitor all the competitive meets year-round, and dig into the statistics, were unaware of Van Niekerk’s tremendous achievements by age 24. He has been among the top in the IAAF’s 400-metre rankings for the past few years.

And, at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing, he beat Merritt to claim gold in a stunning 43.48 minutes.

Photo: South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk (far left) pulls away from the pack in the Men’s 400m Final at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on 14 August 2016.  (Copyright Fabrice Coffrini/AFP 2016/Wired868)
Photo: South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk (far left) pulls away from the pack in the Men’s 400m Final at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on 14 August 2016. 
(Copyright Fabrice Coffrini/AFP 2016/Wired868)

Even more impressive, Van Niekerk is the only athlete who has run sub-10-seconds in the 100-metres, sub-20 in the 200, and sub-44 in the 400. The boy was destined for greatness.

On Sunday night, I imagine all of us hoped that 21-year-old Cedenio would somehow run past the favourites to win a medal. Or, failing that, Kirani would flog Merritt.

But it was the South African wunderkind—looking neither left nor right, only straight ahead, and running like a man possessed—who broke Michael Johnson’s 20-year-old record of 43.18, clocking an astonishing 43.03!

And to think that up to 1990, with apartheid still law in South Africa, talents like Van Niekerk’s will have remained buried under rabid racism.

As I sat watching this spectacle in shock, I noticed Kirani fend off Merritt for second place, and saw Cedenio place fourth, at long last breaking Ian Morris’s 24-year-old national record with a deserving 44.01. Next stop for Machel must be a 43-point. At age 20, his prospects are boundless.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago's Machel Cedenio (second from left) beats (from left) Grenada's Bralon Taplin, Bahrain's Ali Khamis and Botswana's Karabo Sibanda to the finish line in the Rio Olympics' 400 metre final on 14 August 2016. Cedenio finished fourth behind South Africa's Wayde Van Niekerk, Grenada's Kirani James and the United States' LaShawn Merritt. (Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago’s Machel Cedenio (second from left) beats (from left) Grenada’s Bralon Taplin, Bahrain’s Ali Khamis and Botswana’s Karabo Sibanda to the finish line in the Rio Olympics’ 400 metre final on 14 August 2016.
Cedenio finished fourth behind South Africa’s Wayde Van Niekerk, Grenada’s Kirani James and the United States’ LaShawn Merritt.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

Now, only Keshorn Walcott and Michelle-Lee Ahye remain in contention for an individual medal. Cedenio and Ahye will also have another realistic shot in the men’s 4×400 and the women’s 4×100 metres relays—and that’s it for track and field.

Look, I applaud local Olympic Committee president Brian Lewis for trying to psyche up our athletes and sports administrators with his mantra of “10 gold medals by 2024”. Brian is well-intentioned. But it takes more than good intentions to pave the track to Olympic glory.

How does one rationalise Cleopatra Borel’s effusive boast, after she finished sixth in the shot put finals, that after three Olympics, she had achieved her dream? With the greatest respect to Cleo, you go to the Games to win, not to “make de finals”.

That mentality of glorifying mediocrity, or worse, aspiring to it, is one reason why our achievements have been… well, ordinary.

Wendell Mottley, Edwin Skinner, Benedict Cayenne, Edwin Roberts, Hasely Crawford and Ato Boldon shone brightly in their time in spite of governments and administrators, not because of them.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis (left) with a delegate at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto. (Courtesy TTOC)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis (left) with a delegate at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.
(Courtesy TTOC)

The athletes of today are showered with largesse for achievements that, in other countries, merit only thanks and some assistance, preferably through scholarships, and encouragement.

Let me put this as politically correct as I can: if Bolt were a T&T athlete, he would own half of the country, gifted to him by grateful governments. If the other Jamaican superstars were ours, we’d have to annex or conquer Grenada, St Vincent, maybe even Venezuela, to reward them with mansions and estates.

Get my point?

I have always loved athletics, so my interest in the Olympics has been there since my boyhood. I support my country’s athletes once I know they are working hard to achieve the loftiest goals. I extend my support to Caribbean competitors, since I see the region as one.

Most of all, though, I admire and support athletes who perform superbly—be it a Bolt, a Diekerk, a Kirani, a Shelly-Ann Fraser-Price who has done us proud in three Olympics, or an Elaine Thompson, the new sprint queen.

If speed, strength and stamina be the pillars of satisfaction, race on, give me excess of it…

Photo: Jamaica's Elaine Thompson celebrates winning the Women's 100m Final at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on 13 August 2016.  Trinidad and Tobago's Michelle-Lee Ahye is second from left. (Copyright: AFP 2016/Franck Fife)
Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson celebrates winning the Women’s 100m Final at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on 13 August 2016. 
Trinidad and Tobago’s Michelle-Lee Ahye is second from left.
(Copyright: AFP 2016/Franck Fife)

About Raffique Shah

Raffique Shah
Raffique Shah is a columnist for over three decades, founder of the T&T International Marathon, co-founder of the ULF with Basdeo Panday and George Weekes, a former sugar cane farmers union leader and an ex-Siparia MP. He trained at the UK’s Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and was arrested, court-martialled, sentenced and eventually freed on appeal after leading 300 troops in a mutiny at Teteron Barracks during the Black Power revolution of 1970.

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  1. Lasagna was Dr.Hypolite the manager of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic team?

  2. “For most countries, the Olympics aren’t about racking up medal after medal. They’re about trying not to come home empty-handed or embarrassed.” – from an article in NYtimes, tried to post it

  3. Hey lets be real when we send then to the games we know well what they will do if all stays the same, yes i want them to win too but people sit back look at their times prior to going there, they had to run out of their skins to defeat the best, Micheal did her best times ever yet it placed her fourth.She has the potential to regain her tail end finish, she came back from injury. Our gold chain cyclist had to wear his chains for the world to see when all others want to be aerodynamic his top open, Reality is this ask Ato or Maurice green if you cannot run under ten seconds constantly at 100 meters then forget about medals at the Olympics cannot break 20 in the 200 same thing. Yes when we see them there as anything else we want them to win and when they do not medal we vexed, stop it is about times, The “terror from Toco” has the best chance he did over 90 meters just before the games our relays have a chance their times are good, some of us should show up at one of the stadiums and try to run under 15 seconds in the 100 and we will understand the difficulty, yes i know we do not train for it but we will understand.

  4. we always settling for mediocrity. why should i contribute to losing athletes. Look back at the last Olympics, the team was prepared. Prior to this current team, was obe bacchanal after the other. we werent hearing about some of the athletes preparation. so why is Romany making excuses?

  5. What we need to ask ourself is if the ministry of sport know what it doing

    Do elite athletes pay taxes on their foreign income?

  6. Lasana Liburd, I was just reading the online release of Friday’s news and saw that Larry Romany former head of TTOC suggest that “the public expectations of our Olympians is too high”. Therein lies the source of many issues. Let me also be very clear “we all love and support our Olympians!” But who does not want to win?

    • We feel their pain. I would like to say ‘wow’. But then Trinidad and Tobago sporting bodies have often had their teams overnight at airports where they would sleep on the ground…
      And that’s hardly the worst of it.

  7. Mr.Shah is absolutely correct

  8. Lasana et al, so yesterday I posted my opinion on the gushing accolades for the TT team, which I think are somewhat excessive, I don’t believe we should praise people simply for effort but rather for outcomes, of course the backlash was YUGE (as the Donald would say) …. becasue of course, no one is supposed to hold an opinion that is contrary to what the group thinks is sacred ….lmao ….

  9. Put your money where your mouth is Mr.Shah. Our sportsmen/women are trying to build something out of nothing. Every river leads to the ocean. Some of these Olympians don’t have the kind of financial support and training facilities as afforded to their competitors of other nations.

  10. ..And here’s what the Germans think about two sisters representing them in the marathon who crossed the line together:

    ..“Victory and medals are not the only goal,” German Athletics Federation director Thomas Kurschilgen said in an email to the New York Times on Tuesday. “Still, every athlete in the Olympic competitions should be motivated to demonstrate his or her best performance and aim for the best possible result.”..

    The German public is ALL over them for turning their performance into ‘a fun run”. Live with it. Comes with the territory..

  11. ..Here is an excerpt from a report on the progress of the Brasilian team in the Olympic football tournament, and the fans love-hate relationship with Neymar:

    ..”Brazilian fans had jeered and mocked Neymar after disappointing performances in the first two Olympic games – scoreless draws against South Africa and Iraq. But his recent level of play – victories over Denmark in the group stage, Colombia in the quarterfinals, and Honduras in the semis – has been more than enough to bring the fans back to his side.”

    Need I say more? You want to be a top performer without supporter pressure, justified and/or injustified (in your opinion)? Wait on that nah..

  12. What most people don’t get especially columnists like Mr shah, is that whether our athletes come first or last, they’re champions because they represent US! these men and women compete against the worlds best because they ARE the best. There are thousands of countries in the world yet we show up there every Olympic set. Perhaps what we should address is the mediocrity of patriotism and snap judgements, even by those who are educated and listened to, and think about what these men and women accomplish even in the face of initial lack of support, diet and finances. Inferior training facilities, with coaches that are barely recognised and hardly ever well paid and a nation that knows nothing of their struggle, but quickly throws them under the bus for entertainment. This HAS ALWAYS BEEN Trinidad and Tobago’s problem

    • Nice but that does not cut it. We have been performing the same way for decades. We could do better. To do so we, the citizens, need to hold the TTOC, the MOS, and the T&T sports organizations accountable for the billions of TTDs allocated to sports over the last 3 decades. Additionally, being frustrated when our sports ambassadors under perform is not being unpatriotic. It’s because we are patriotic and we are holding all accountable for performance that’s how performance improves. Holding people accountable. This is not a free ride. It cost millions annually to prepare for the Olympics. We, like you, have a right to express our frustrations because we know we all can do better. We must raise the bar.

    • Yes and I like you have a right to express what I feel because I’m aware of the side of the coin that many don’t pay attention to. It’s easy to say that we should take the men and women that perform to task, but it’s not nearly as cut and dried as we would like to believe. With all the money that’s being spent on sports, who is it going to really? I can afford to make my statement because the facts PROVE that not much of whatever is spent is being used to facilitate and help the athletes and coaches to reach their full potential. I highly doubt any of our athletes are getting a “free ride” as you put it and certainly none of them are trying to be anything less than number one. No one goes out there to lose, so perhaps we should stop THIS type of hype and take your OTHER suggestion and hold the organizations and governmental bodies accountable. Yes we CAN do better, but that statement should also encompass how we address issues as a nation. The general CULTURE of the Trinidad and Tobago person is to cut and comment first. We’ve ALWAYS been a tough crowd, so I concur with SOME things you may say comrade, but let’s agree to disagree as I have my own information and am also well within MY RIGHT to say what I feel I must, for those who can’t or won’t get to say it for themselves

  13. Maybe just maybe one day we will take sport seriously, should we choose to recognize that some very talented youths slip through the school system with no one seeing that they will not be doctors or lawyers but a gold medalist at the games and start placing emphasis on them in schools,then maybe we will find our Bolts ect. The powers that be that are responsible for the upkeep of facilities and making them available is awful, our Regional Co-operations sport administrators think just cut the ground and it to quote one Chairman”it perfect” Keshon will know too well about what is being said, prior to his gold medal ask him his conditions in Toco. Sport needs to be treated as a subject in our schools and not a pass time or free time for teachers we need specialist coaches in the schools and not P.E teachers sending you to sweat. Hey Q.R.C Fatima, St Mary’s and the south schools know this

  14. So from a man’s sickness to our sports men and women! Who next?

  15. Sometimes Raffique is a little too critical for me.

  16. Lasana. What have we come to when two of our dailies have the news of an athlete coming sixth in a race as headline, front page material. So what happens if Keshorn comes first? If he doesn’t, given the hype already, there will be a lot of disappointed people.

  17. Anytime we are competing on the world stage, we are competing with the world’s best. As Fazeer Moh’d said this morning, it is who presents better on the day..
    Keshorn won with a throw of 84.30 in 2012… Some of his rivals records are much higher than that.. But he was better on the day…

    We need to celebrate that we are reaching finals, despite financial issues, political issues, lack of sporting accommodations for some..
    Our thoughts towards sport in Trinidad is mediocre and archaic… When the powers that be change their attitude toward sport, maybe our medals will start coming..

  18. ..Good for Bovell too. I want medals..

  19. ..And that is the question. What they doing that we can’t? We need to send an NAAA Commission of Enquiry to Jamaica. Serious..

  20. Nobody really knew about Elaine Thompson before these Olympics ..it was Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce…and now she is double O champion..what is Jah doing to produce such an athlete…??
    We could spring dozens of reasons..
    In my opinion, any O athlete who makes a FINAL in any event…must be recognised…
    In our case, a dot on the world map, bigger kudos…

  21. Just gonna drop this Ghandi quote here, seems fitting: “Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment, full effort is full victory.” – Ghandi

    • Now Keith i still with you that PB’s can be used as benchmark, but mind you that i keep hearing: The WR holder did not make qualy, the past Olympic Champ did not make qualy… and i think we all had the one or the other bad day in our lives…. i saw a few of them live on TV last night…. the question i think is how you deal with your under performance, are you just gonna dismiss it or are you going to have a breakdown like that Hurdler last night who broke down in tears and couldnt catch herself?

    • ..Thanks for being with me but I ain’t with Ghandi. LOL. Just gimme some wins and I good. And yes, we must handle failure better than that female hurdler last night..

    • actually she made one thing very clear and no one will doubt that one second: she was unhappy with her performance. And maybe that is something: when you under perform, be humble about it, don’t simply dismiss it…

    • Ghandi ain’t god …he’s just a man like myself …. and some people need more than just satisfaction in the effort applied. In fact that’s the difference between a fete match and a contract.

  22. We need to aim for the stars to reach the moon .. if we only aim for the moon chances are we will always fall short .We must encourage them to want more …

  23. Leh Raffique go to hell. all yuh dam ungrateful.somebody has to win somebody has to loose.wen jamaica wasnt meddling wat Raffique was saying then.Before he run his mouth, these countries have proper sporting programmes in place from primary school straight up to olympics,and d whole country rally around their athletes wen they pack their stadium etc in their respective countries, we dont. Tell me, anybody ever saw Raffique at ah sporting event supporting our athletes. TALK DONE.

    • Earl Best

      I want to suggest that you go and re-read the piece with an open mind.

      And to suggest that you also open your eyes the next time you go to an athletic meet.

      Or that you simply google “Raffique Shah” and keep your eyes open.

  24. Steups ….. what nonsense you talking? Go to yuh fricking class!!

  25. When we have teachers giving kids ultimatums of come to class or fail rather than take the time off to train for a sport then we’d always have mediocrity.


    Pierre de Coubertin got the idea for the phrase adopted as the Olympics Creed from a speech given by Bishop Ethelbert Talbot at a service for Olympic champions during the 1908 Olympic Games.

    The Olympic Creed reads: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

    The creed and motto are meant to inspire the athletes to embrace the Olympics spirit and perform to the best to their abilities.

    • Earl Best

      How true, Lance. But I am tempted to lament in Latin “O mores, o tempora”

      And to suggest that Juan Antonio Samaranch and Jacques Rogge and the 20th and 21st century version of the Baron have only contempt for those ideals.

      Try to get your hands on Lords of the Rings and flip thru; you don’t have to read the whole thing to see that unless the whole book is a complete fabrication, we have moved far far away from De Coubertin’s principles.

      Which is not surprising, Lance; you can’t stop PROGRESS. Ha!

  27. Sad thing is We did have we Own Bolt in *Darrel Brown* yet we all know how that went……sometimes it pains me to see how Bolt has gone this route, yet our own has become a Ghost that only appears and Disappears after receiving Elite Funding!! ..which just goes to show Trinibago eh going no where when it comes to sports in Athletes or any sport Seriously!! smh

    • Earl Best

      Your comment might be valid but I ahve to point out the old wisdom that one swallow does not a summer make. DB’s case certainly is a tragedy but is it typical of what happens here in T&T? Potential talent going to waste, not to say to rack and ruin? Maybe the opposite is true, as Raffique implies. Maybe we tend to take talentless – or not especially talented – people and elevate them way beyond where they should really be by the expectations we put on them. I’m not sure…

  28. We are going to sneak up on them….

  29. I don’t think the comment about Cleo was trite . We all love and support our athletes. The conversation is about how do we use higher performance standards and expectations to get more out of our athletes. What should we be honoring at the levels we do? These are important discussions for a developing country to have

    • I agree with you about the importance of that discussion Brian. I think it was just a poor example as Cleo is someone who gives 100 percent. She can’t be considered an underachiever in my book.
      Otherwise, I do think Raffique made some excellent points and I won’t ignore them just because I didn’t appreciate one example.

  30. I have been saying all week it appears to me that “going Rio” seems to be an achievement in and of itself. No thought of medalling. How we getting those 10 gold medals if other countries don’t even perceive us as a ‘threat’?

  31. Should we be funding people who are professionals rather than focus on the amateurs (budding pros)?

  32. leave TNT athletes alone today for me tomorrow for you. Every dog has their day and every puss their 4 O’Clock

  33. Lasana Liburd did most of our medals at the Olympic games come from professionals or amateurs? We want to invest in the end product and complain after. Where was funding for all these University students before and after they got an athletic scholarship? Where was the funding for coaches and to the university programme they attended? I forgot they did it by the work they put in to get the scholarship thanks mostly to themselves, their family and local coaches who are mostly unqualified doing community service. Yet we take credit when they medal at Olympics etc and complain when they don’t perform. To those who have turned pro, can they fund their training programme? Does the elite funding cover the cost for these athletes who are no longer in school and have to make a living as a professional?

    • The elite funding does not cover preparation for most athletes. Probably all. It just helps.
      When you are in a sport where the equipment is costly, like cycling, that funding is just a drop in the ocean.

  34. Trinidad is an elaborate movie set for a movie about a fictitious Caribbean nation…….then the producers of the movie sent a team of extras to the Olympics to complete against real life athletes.

    It reminds me of Tropical Heat.

  35. At our National Champs. The athletes ran the 5000m in 17 minutes… with four participants. .. Jamaica had a 5000m semifinalist running 13:30 minutes in Rio….

  36. If Haiti move like us dey woulda congratulate that hurdler for not falling down before the first hurdle.

  37. Raff thanks breds. Saved me from writing virtually the same thing.

  38. Trite comment about Cleo and totally undeserved given all she has sacrificed for this country and for her sport.

  39. Steups to many bandwagonist Trinbagonians!So what’s the alternative? Disown them if they do not perform up to our standards? Especially when most of the criticizing population does nothing to contribute to them whether through genuine unconditional support or dare I say financial support?We owe it to our athletes to support them unconditionally they fly our flag. If we don’t who will? They know better than us how hard they want to win.

    • Earl Best

      Do you really mean UNCONDITIONAL support, Crystal-Ann? You are, of course, aware of the adage that says that there are none so blind as those who WILL not see. I agree with your essential point that athletes (in the broad sense, not just the people who go do track and field) deserve to be supported. But I, for one, am incapable of UNCONDITIONAL support and can’t bring myself to ask it of anyone else.

  40. And not for nothing eh, but consoling ourselves by pointing out that Trinidad and Tobago isn’t the only Caribbean nation to perform poorly is the epitome of the acceptance of mediocrity.
    Cotizens of ambitious nations don’t do that!

  41. Would the TTOC sit with.the various athletes and do a postmortem when the games are done?

  42. Too bad fetting isn’t an Olympic event because we’re serious about that. We would have had Michael Phelps and Usein Bolts of our own.

  43. Justin Phelps how do u change the established and accepted culture of a country, especially TT where we know what’s going on but seem to only concerned when the athlete fails to medal…

  44. I believe athletes set their own benchmarks Jehue was a “world champion” and runs “last” in his first round heat? Kelly Ann was well beaten by poland’s participant who just ran in the u20 finals less than a mth ago….kelly ann ran 11.42 … are you kidding me? Lalonde Gordon won a bronze at the 2012 olympics and is struggling to get to 45 seconds …lendore I saw run 44.36 but can’t even make it out the first round now. ….. ah mean athletes have to do better and sport administrators need to say that what you’ve done is not enough so do better …jus sayin

  45. You buy your children half their booklist? Don’t expect them to come first in class. Lol.
    But you’re right Justin. We have to make the system more efficient to serve sport better.
    I’m still fine with constructive criticism and holding athletes to account. They must be able to justify their own behaviour and performances too. Just with some level of realism.
    We are not sending them to win clearly. But we aren’t sending them to lime either.

  46. Our overall performance is a reflection of the leadership in T&T sports…

  47. I’m with the athletes. I have no problem congratulating effort even if it doesn’t bear fruit. I think we are pretending to be a country that gives its athletes an optimum training environment, and expecting them to perform optimally. The problem is the country not the athletes- everything can be traced right back to corruption- resources plundered and power abused. That’s what causes a country to have no standards and no vision. Coaches wouldn’t help- they’d tief his salary, fire him, choose another, less capable athlete – and then cuss them both. If our athletes can overcome all of that, then making a final IS an accomplishment. Money into athletics without getting rid of thieves and buffoons won’t help I don’t think. Why don’t we apply the same “no excuses” standard to all other endeavors in this place?

  48. ..Ok Lasana. It ‘s not personal and I don’t want to belittle any athlete. But the question is why are we trailing the best Caribbean countries? Lack of talent? Poor training? Not enough ambition? Failure of balls?..

  49. Maybe some could have given more. But look at Semoy Hackett for instance. She made the 100 metre and 200 metre semifinals and you can see she pushed herself hard.
    Sure, she would probably count as “mediocre” if you gauge her with the likes of Shelly-Ann Fraser. But I’d be heartless if I slammed her when I can clearly see that she is putting it all out on the track.
    At her best, she is among the top 20 sprinters in the world but not the top eight. That’s still something.

  50. ..Athletes to blame too. We give people a pass to easily. Some of them not even pushing hard. Giving up. ALL credit to Machel and Michelle. Kishorn to come..

  51. My two cents I wouldn’t want to blame the athletes, they think they are doing their best.. The standards really need to be set at the top first, from the Ministry Sport through all sporting bodies/organizations.

  52. Exactly. Here I was wondering if only I thought this. Thank you sir.

  53. I realised it was just wanted him to add that.

  54. “With the greatest respect to Cleo, you go to the Games to win, not to “make de finals”. I was seriously bothered by her interview and the ‘compliments’ that followed. It’s a HUGE part of our mindset with sports that must be changed… not as individuals, but as a people. Good piece.

  55. I can understand where the guy is coming from. In my opinion Trinidad and Tobago has an attitude of accepting mediocrity in almost every sporting event we participate in. It’s a mixture of a few things one of it being exposure. Mentally our athletes (well most of them) don’t believe they can compete with other athletes from foreign countries. Making a final or losing by 2 goals rather than 4 goals is deemed an achievement…. this imho is bull s*** . Our coaches and managers have to hold us to higher standards but to do so they have to also set a standard with a higher level of coaching to balance the call for better performance. So the guy griping bout rewarding mediocrity but the real question is what can we do to improve our coaching inorder to demand more elevate us to a higher level of consistent performances.

  56. An ok motivator are the incentives that the TTOC introduced for the Olympic games. “The medal bonus for Rio 2016 Olympics in Brazil will be US$10,000 for an individual gold medal, US$8,000 for silver and US$5,000 for bronze. While in the relay it will be US$20,000 for gold, US$15,000 for silver and US$10,000 for the relay bronze.” That’s a start. TTOC needed to add an incentive for setting National records and an additional bonus on the gold medal bonus for setting world records!

  57. Still, 99 percent of athletes at the Olympics don’t medal. So maybe we shouldn’t be too extreme either.

  58. Of course TT is glorifying mediocrity, has the country ever embraced meritocracy? TT is giving its athletes kudos for just turning up at the Olympics, for chrissakes, it’s as if the country simply does not understand that an athlete’s purpose at the Olympics is TO WIN A MEDAL….

  59. ..But the Jamaicans and Kishorn provide a real example. They don’t rely on the US colleges. They are home bred. By home coaches. THAT is an example we must emulate..

  60. I remember one school principal at a prestigious school complained that when they started having national tests in almost every form, there was a big and notable increase in the number of students that enrolled in sport.
    So you are right Jeremy Francis.

  61. The Ministry of Sport isn’t the only problem. Most schools (and parents) take their kids out of sport around SEA time (as far back as Std 4)- academic success ranks way higher than sporting achievement at that age.
    By the time kids get into secondary school- unless that have been in a club, will fall behind- unless that are exceptional.

    • Did Thompson give up? I’m not sure. I still think Thompson’s performance at the London 2012 Olympics in the relay was one of the best I’ve ever seen.
      He was sixth when he got the baton and the top three were nowhere to be seen. He ran his heart with little obvious chance of a medal and came in fourth… Now that fourth place has been upgraded all the way to silver.
      Now consider how wonderful T&T would be if our public servants and so on had that attitude…

    • .Yes. Yes. But I talking about Rio..

    • Yeah. I said I wasn’t sure about Rio. Will have to watch that one over. But oh gorm, I don’t miss a chance to talk about that London run. 🙂

    • ??? I only hear about Jamaican Runners… actuallly sprinters… and admitedly they are top in the world there… what else?

    • ..They’re diving; hurdling; road running, steeple chasing; bob sledding; what else? And what we doing?..Watching them..

    • ..Oh! And long jumping. High jumping. Sigh..

    • particularly the bob-sled… medals or was that just for cool runnings?

    • Keith sorry to disagree with you on this as i usually share your opppinion…. but this looks like double standarts based on the fact that Bolt and co on the 100 and 200 consistently bringing home gold…

    • ..Not even getting to the issue of medals. They are involved in events we don’t participate in. Their programme is so much broader than ours with it very narrow focus on a few events. Why is that? Trini lack of ambition and comfort with the familiar..

    • i agree with you on the lack of ambition in general, the program in Trinidad is not less than in Jamaica though, it is just not very easy to qualify an Athlete for the Olympics as a minimum standard is to be met, if you ever had taken part in the prep meetings for major games at TTOC you probably would be aware of that…. that standard shall ensure a reasonable quality of competition… (meaning every Athlete may have a Reasonable expectation on medaling). Btw i following the German TV commentary as i do not like the usual bias by American and British commentators and the Germans are usually quite objective and believe it or not but they also say that an athlete has fulfilled expectations by making it into the final etc if that was a reasonable expectation, they do not chastise the Athlete for not bringing home a medal.

    • and mind you we had Athletes in Judo, Rowing, sailing, swimming aside of Athletics….so the program is not as narrow as it seems… its just that people dont seem to look that way…

    • ..I hear that. But we trail the Jamaicans man. And that’s shit when you compare their resources to ours. But they have more of the most important resources than we do – Ambition. National pride. And Belly..

    • Agreed on the ambition and pride…. not so sure about the resources…. aside the alternative is to not send athletes at all if they cant make the final…. mind you that the Olympics is a final of a years long qualification process and therefore cannot be considered as mediocre as well as the fact that in a lot of sports the difference between first and last is sometimes seconds or centimeters…. i think that someone who manages to qualify for the Olympics has already manged to prove that he/she belongs to a small group of very talented Athletes in the world….. question into your field: using the criteria of not standing a chance to come first, why are we sending the soca warriors to Germany and celebrate their achievement? Lasana and Keith?

    • ..Yes. Qualifying for the Games is an achievement. Undoubtedly. But when you get to the Games you have to look the part. Our people, even the world level performers with Olympic medals, for the most part have not. Indeed, some of them looking real bad. Giving up . Coming in last or close to last. Nah man. We deserve better than that..

    • That may al well be true, but you did not answer my question about the Soca Warriors… lol

    • The Soca Warriors were not embarrassed in Germany eh. Lol. They drew their first match and were cheated in the second and only conceded in the last 10 minutes.
      But, yeah, we were never going to “medal” there.

    • I agree with Keith that when you get there, you have to try to look the part. That sure it ent easy though. You can’t park the bus in track and field! Hahaha

    • who says that the Athletes competed at the Olympics were embarassed? Several could have done better, maybe even a lot better… but ask the Brazilan Volleyball or Beach volleyball team about that…. the German women Hockeyteam…. and i’m sure there are many more that expected to come home with metall in the suitcase and noow will not…..

    • ..Sorry Andreas. Olympics or World Cup we have to look the part. We must be seen to be performing at max. The Soca Warriors did in Germany. Couldn’t ask them for more..

    • Track and Field is a hot piece of Asphalt and the difference between in and out are often less than a second… not making excused, but i dont think that any athlete from anywhere ever goes to the start with a i doh give a crap attitude…. not at the olympics anyways…

    • Keith im not following you here? and how have you determined that the Track and field Athletes in rio did not?

    • ..You saw Njisane give up? You saw Thompson and them others trailing the field? Men who won medals previously? If that is their best both of us should go next time..

    • Historically Wasn’t Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica neck and neck in Track and Field, but only through Ja’s passion for the sport, that they have taken it further Than Trinidad and Tobago could ever Go, just through National Pride and Love for Country alone??!!! TnT was never dis backward when it comes to track..seriously!!

    • Diving? Really?
      Yona Knight-Wisdom is UK born and bred. He chose to compete for Jamaica probably because he couldn’t make the British team.
      Jamaica as a country really gets credit for his success? Jamaica really gets to boast that it has a diving program now?

    • ..Yeh. Trini Keron Clement is part of the US programme. Jamaica went to the WC with a bunch of English – before we went with one. A Cuban won a medal for Spain last night. Need I continue? They doing what they have to. Meantime we ole talking. Gold medal..

    • Well if searching out foreign born and foreign based athletes who can’t make their home country’s national team is the route to national development and pride, government really shouldn’t invest any money in facilities, coaches, programs etc here.
      Better take than money and send scouts around the world…

    • ..That’s clearly not what I am saying. Indeed, quite the opposite. We need a strong domestic programme that doesn’t wholly rely on the US collegiate system. And we need to judiciously recruit talent from the Trini diaspora…

  62. I think the problem is people only looking at one sport and saying we as a country are mediocre compared to others in the region.
    If you want to single out one sport and say others in the region are better than us, then fine. There will be evidence to support or dispute that.
    But where are we and the rest of the region in every other sport?

    • Yeah, I missed all of these regional athletes who placed higher than Cleo or Felice or Dylan.
      Guess I’m not paying attention.
      My bad.

    • Wow!! i Thought the Olympics was to compete with the World and to win..Not with Regional Athletes, they have Carifta for that………no matter how anyone tries to cover it or put plasters on anything , we have been failing consistently for yrs ..with all these stadias and centers and etc……we consistently lack the required resources to churn out what is required to compete internationally… only egos and pre historic developments!! is nurtured in Trinidad and Bago

    • This is how the discussion went:
      1. One of the article’s thesis statements was about the mediocrity of our athletes.
      2. I said I don’t think sixth at the Olympics counts as mediocre.
      3. Others said that mediocrity is relative and that compared to other countries in the region, we are mediocre.
      4. I said I think ppl are only looking at one sport to characterise us as mediocre and I don’t think it’s fair to label the entire country’s athletes as mediocre based on one sport. And then I asked where we are compared to other countries in the region in other sports.
      5. You responded and said “still behind!!!”
      6. I replied and said I missed the regional athletes who beat some of ours.
      7. Now you’re telling me about competing with the world.


    • Well we are talking about Olympics, even doh some may wanna say or use Ja as a bench mark.i don’t really.lol i see we are still behind totally…. but i understand how the discussion was going, but i was more speaking more on World context rather than Regional!! cause is not carifta we participating at!! Lol

    • So you saying we mediocre compared to the world? Lol.
      Well after the Olympics, let’s take a look at the medal table and we’ll see how many countries aren’t mediocre compared to the “world”

  63. Time for Trinidad and Tobago to take sports seriously. Time for the proper facilities and BETTER funding from PRIVATE SECTOR and government.

  64. The Ministry of Sport is one of many that get called out annually by the Auditor General. And they carry on as normal.
    So I better not see Darryl Smith trying to get on his high horse until he sees about that.

  65. Lasana we need to really onvest in sport and tha investment needs to begin early. That commitment to investment must continue uninterrupted particularly after regime change. Another obsticle to progress is our inability to show much interest in any one area of development for more than 9 days, that’s why we’re always starting over.
    And then we must never forget that government investment in sport has always been one of our crooked politicians most lucrative rackets.

  66. ..”Mediocrity” is not absolute. It is measured in relation to something. A standard. When we look at the RELATIVE performance and results of Jamaica, Bahamas, Grenada, ours is decidely MEDIOCRE. And that is being CHARITABLE. But you can’t say that in Trini because we have an infinite national capacity for self-delusion. It is a small minority of our athletes (in the broad sense of the term) that is even close to world level. And many of those who we thought were at that level have been exposed to no longer be so. Them’s the facts..

    • So we are talking about mediocrity in relation to the world’s absolute best athletes then? That should be clear. But fair enough.
      I think sometimes it isn’t self-delusion but just ignorance. People may not be aware of the different factors that make the difference between first and last.

    • ..Self-delusion Lasana. God is a Trini..

    • For instance, Keith. We speak of self-delusional. But then Cleopatra is criticised for perfectly assessing her capabilities and grasping the limits of her potential.
      How can we criticise unrealistic expectations and realistic ones at the same time?

    • ..I do not refer to the athletes. I refer to the people. Including the TTOC and their delusional goal of ten gold medals by 2024. Good Lord man, after all their heroics Jamaica still only have four! Ok. So they will add to it in the next days. But without a serious development and international programme, where them ten medals coming from?

    • Brian Lewis has a tough job ahead of him for sure. This Games was bruising for him too as TTOC president.

    • Keith Look Loy i actually agree with you.we have been mediocre for many years!! now imagine if Ato didn’t decide to bring Khalifa on board for Trinidad etc..we would be bare as we are bare in the male department of Development…..but all of this is at the head.!! i won’t actually blame the athletes but the head of the Organisations that run the sport..cause if they are mediocre, you cant expect the athletes to be excellent??can you.?? eg: carifta during the years where we have regress so drastically that even the President is under the illusion that we are ah head of the track when it comes to development…..!!! Sports in this country is Vikey Vikay, No Professional Structure. beside half assing it on Development!!

  67. I think a big part of the problem is we need clear perimeters for what sporting excellence is. And then rewards consistent with that.
    Too much emotional, spur of the moment action when it comes to rewarding real sporting heroes.
    For instance, we know what Brian Lara got for cricket world record. Suppose Machel Cedenio broke the 400 metre world record? What then? We should probably know some of this before.

  68. The first thing we need is a sense of self worth and stop living vicariously through foreign lives, then we need genuine national pride because Trinidadians don’t necessarily think of themselves as one unified people therefore we can’t be truly proud of ourselves. Then we need to adopt a healthy work ethic in order to aspire to success instead of seeing underhandedness as a means of achieving it and we also need to accept that the only thing separating Jamaica’s consistent athletic triumphs from our regular athletic failures is the belief that we can be just as great as any other nationality.

  69. It’s no different to someone winning the lotto, then spending all of the winnings on the celebration. Apart from the fact the athletes take years to receive any of these things, the money would be much better spent on development at the grassroots level.
    I still toting, because I was one hell of a sprinter in primary school, lol.

  70. The mantra of those who perform consistent and win consistently is… “Winning is an attitude; Champions repeat!” We have to step up our game… we really have to do so in order to achieve our goal of 10 GOLDs in 2024.

  71. And I don’t see anything wrong with the way our Olympians are rewarded.
    Gold medalists get house and land (and maybe a national award)
    Silver and bronze medalists get a poorly maintained facility named in their honour (and maybe a national award)
    Others get applause… Halfhearted it seems.

  72. Perhaps….but do we aspire to reward personal limits or encourage athletes to do the best they can? Or do we reward athletes who achieve on a global platform…’achieving’ 70 percent maybe worthy of personal applauding if that’s the limit of the student’s potential…but if it doesn’t quite measure up to global success, what exactly is encouraged/rewarded?

    • I think we can have different tiers of reward for if someone sets a national record and if they get an Olympic medal.
      A personal best should be something the athlete always aspires to. We applaud that but you won’t get a house. 🙂

    • It must be noted that Cleopatra is at her best under Walcott’s coach so that must say something to Trinidad and Tobago. She was not on the finals in the last two Oympics but was able to make the finals this time.

  73. I don’t think sixth at the Olympics qualifies as mediocrity.

    • Where there any bits you agreed with in the column?

    • I understand your comment/point but it is mediocrity in other countries and to other athletes! Therein lies the difference between World champion or Olympic champion and simply just competing.

    • How can coming sixth at the Olympics be mediocrity in other countries and to other athletes when the majority of Olympians don’t even make a final?

    • Chabeth Haynes You won’t understand. You have to have been competing at an advanced level in track and field or any other sport in order to understand. When you get a chance, have a chat with athletes. Then and only then you will understand.

    • Chabeth actually is involved in sport herself Kenneth.

    • Producing national athletes, national record holders, and regional medalists of all colours but I wouldn’t understand.
      Still can’t say how sixth at the Olympics is mediocre when the majority of athletes don’t make a final but carry on with your brand of condescension and sexism.

    • Lasana Liburd I did not get the same feeling from her I have gotten from others. Sorry if she feels anyway, but I am tired of us glorifying sub-par performance, wasting millions on farce sports programs that fool the people of T&T into complacency. We need to step it up. Hold people accountable and demand improved results. Our leaders in sporting organizations are too thin-skinned and defensive when constructive feedback are offered. They are poor examples for our athletes. They need to be replaced, now.

    • I think we all agree on that. About having accountability and a thirst for excellence.
      Keith said “mediocrity” in this piece means in relation to the other top athletes in Rio. I can understand that.
      But we still have to be respectful to the athletes. Most athletes do not have gold medal potential.

    • I think it’s very unfair actually to say that we praise mediocrity and to refer to the athletes as such. The thing is in this country the governments are not supporting their athletes. Many who even make it outside to participate in the Olympics get there from the money they have in their own pockets or the people who give them financial support. There are 4 years of potential training time and you might hear of funds going their way in the year of the Olympics…daz madness!

      We might condemn the fact that Russia had national use of banned substances in their athletes, but then at the same time one could respect it. Why? Because on a national level it means that much to them. From babies to competing ages these kinds of countries put out what they need to do…it’s serious business!

      So people praise the efforts of our athletes because coming 6th with no real support is truly an amazing feat! and it must be respected. These individuals and their families sacrifice big time. And that’s the only way they get there.

      Our whole budget needs to be re-thought. We close our stadiums from as early as November to March just to accommodate Carnival fetes…really?? And where are our athletes supposed to train?

      I’ve been back in Trini or almost 11 years and when I arrived there was supposed to be an Olympic pool built in cocorite….still doesn’t exist.

      The governments spend a fortune on Carnival when really all of 10 people (according to Forbes) are profiting off of the events. When really if we want medals we should invest in our athletes. Jamaica has done it…what’s wrong with us? And now you have athletes like Usain who can demand that advertising is done in Jamaica, thus creating opportunities for his people there outside of sports.

      I mean how many years done have to hear how much is being spent on the rental of empty buildings? And not small money ya know…millions!

      We have coaches that are so out of date it’s ridiculous! So many athletes are including yoga for example into their training programs and recognizing the power of a strong mind…strong lungs to compete at world levels…not here…yoga is for gays! That’s the BS you hear. I watched a gymnastics school train the other day and watched a coach ask a 7yr old which is your bad knee…at 7??? If they are injured at 7, where the heck are they going? And when i looked around almost every kid had a knee brace on..wha?!!! I swear Thema was an anomalie which is why is sucks even more that she didn’t get to go.

      So yeah we praise our peeps and yeah they not winnin’ any medals, but doh insult the athletes…we need to blame the powers that be for spending/pocketing money on shite! And ignoring the needs of our athletic community. #jussayin

  74. Another school of thought is once you achieve an Olympic A qualifying standard, you cannot be considered mediocre again.
    I appreciate the general tone of Raffique’s piece of course. And he made some excellent points including the way we reward our stars sometimes.
    But I do feel the term mediocrity for an Olympic finalist is a tad harsh.

  75. That’s all we do… glorify mediocrity! Someone finishes last… everybody comments “well done” “you made us proud”. When someone offers ‘constructive feedback’, he/she is labeled non-patriotic, a hater, a troll… When an athlete complains about the less than adequate support he/she is receiving, he/she is chastised and in some cases blacklisted and exiled… Give me a break

  76. As far as Cleopatra Borel goes, not every athlete has the same potential. I see nothing wrong in applauding a student who has the potential to score 65 percent and makes 65 percent or even 70.
    I do agree with a lot of what Raffique says. But I’d disagree on that point.

  77. I won’t quibble over the name of the funding, although I would say we should be doing more to help athletes who have the potential to be elite…

  78. The US is looking to tax its Olympic winners. We want to reward our losers.

  79. Beautiful article….could never wrap my head around the ‘elite athlete’ title when very few if any have done anything ‘elite’

  80. When yuh not accustomed to coming first, coming fifth starts to look like an achievement.

  81. http://www.all-athletics.com/current-rankings?evtg=4 how could we say that our athletes who are ranked among the top in the world are mediocre??? Some Trinis are really ungrateful dogs

  82. ..And based on these Games we just running in most events – not competing..

  83. On the athletic track we can compete internationally up to 400M after that we can’t even compete regionally in any middle or distance event. Other Caribbean countries have athletes competing at international standards in these events.

  84. ..DAT is man! LOL. This “everybody is a winner” BS doh work for me..

  85. The other day here in the US, one the major NFL quarterbacks (don’t ask me who they all look like large hulking bears to me), wrote a blog piece about how his 12 year old son’s football team participated in a regional tournament, and each player got a small trophy, the father was adamant that this was inappropriate, and gave back the trophy to the officials, telling them that you don’t praise people for participating, their purpose as a team is to win …. and I get that

  86. Change will be hard Mrs Adams. You’d have to negotiate with a longstanding system and assure it it won’t suffer, just won’t profit as much. That’s the only way you can take the steps necessary to nurture a people who have a reasonable sense of right and wrong and who will accept a shared vision doesn’t mean anyone will have less.

  87. 4 years and hundreds of stolen millions from now we will have this discussion again. Trinidads problem is it has no identity, and will not look for one. Do we even like sports? Are we a sporting nation? We are hustlers, looking for an angle, vain and greedy. We want to be Los Angeles but okay with a few people strealing Hollywood. So we’re bound to end up frustrated. The people in this country who MAKE things are invisible- writers, calypsonians, masmen. When last did one of our “business” people INVENT something? Where’s the panmen? My point is we have to start from scratch again I think. We celebrate people who do nothing more than recycle our oil and gas money amongst themselves- and denigrate everybody else. If I was writing about this, I’d have to begin with where these athletes came from-the infrastructure available to them, before I could assess where they reach. Same with our “dependency syndrome” rubbish. The media the professions the public service the health and education systems and the conventional mentality is corrupt. And sport isn’t alone in feeling the effects of that I don’t think. Just my view.

  88. The story was written before her qualification actually. But fair point. I will actually make an edit on his behalf.

  89. Tell Raffique that Michelle is in the 200M finals.

  90. The Ministry of Sport can start by satisfying the Auditor General and the Gov’t can start by going after that LifeSport money. Hard to take them seriously otherwise.

    • Lasana we in 2016 nearly a year and no mention of any action to he taken. Look nah. We serious in this place, if the ones in charge then walking around normel normel, partying in d open. It says a lot

  91. Rafique shah, only now wondering that! Horse bolt long time. We’ve been doing so for a long time. We gave the soca warriors land and money just for reaching the World Cup, not for winning a game or scoring a goal or meeting any performance targets, and we just give away stuff just so. We do it purely because our politicians try to gain points by those actions and for no other reason.