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Dear Editor: “You MIGHT actually win something in this lifetime!” The Commonwealth games powerful people played

“The Express of Friday 23 March carried the following excerpt from Ato Boldon’s FB page: ‘If you worried as much about podiums as much as you do about unprovoked shots at younger teammates you MIGHT actually win something in this lifetime’. […]

“For decades, Boldon has been a facilitator and a door opener for the local federation; he is now demanding his pound of flesh. Do not believe for a moment that the communication sent to the young lady was a personal decision of the sender. If that is so, he must be removed. That official, mind you, is one of track and field’s longest-serving administrators.”

The following Letter to the Editor on the war of words over the selection of the track and field team for the Commonwealth Games, was submitted to Wired868 by sports administrator and track coach Rae Samuel:

Photo: Four-time Olympic medallist, track coach and NBC analyst Ato Boldon.

“After four decades of studying sports in society,” Professor Jay Coakley of the University of Colorado wrote in The Great Sporting Myth, “I remained awed by the pervasive and nearly unshakeable belief in the inherent purity and goodness of sport despite the evidence to the contrary.”

So close on the heels of our Minister of National Security facing the courts of the USA. over a seven-month period re charges of fraud, another bacchanal erupts. This time it is in the field of sport, track and field to be exact. The genesis of bacchanal number two was that a young female sprinter had not originally been selected and her coach, a high-profile broadcaster with a major network in the USA, erupted.

“The way to ensure the future of sport in T&T,” he sneered, “is to NOT select Khalifa St Fort.”

By the way, folks, sports media up the islands have taken this lead. A guest on sports commentator Lance Whittaker’s television programme drew a comparison with 2008 when Government bailed out a financial institution that was deemed too big to fail and suggested the same was true here. It’s good to know that our entire track and field future depends on one junior female athlete.

This has been followed by one athlete opting out of the relay since it seems to her arrangements are/were being made to accommodate St Fort who, according to her coach, was not at her best in the Games trials “because her legs were tired after Carnival.” But since she was the fastest junior in 2017, she should have been selected. One assumes her legs have got enough rest for the Games.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago’s Khalifa St Fort (right) gets the baton from teammate Kelly-Ann Baptiste in the Women’s 4 x 100m Relay Round 1 at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on 18 August, 2016.
(Copyright Jewel Samad/AFP 2016)

Just try to imagine a Jamaican or American coach using that approach with his/her federation. And it has been followed by thinly disguised venom hurled at one of our female sprinters “who never won anything.”

The Express of Friday 23 March carried the following from Ato Boldon’s FB page: “If you worried as much about podiums as much as you do about unprovoked shots at younger teammates you MIGHT actually win something in this lifetime.”

I would not spend much time on the responses per se of the leadership of the governing body which once again is showing all the resilience and ‘backraise’ of a gummy bear. I have personally witnessed the young Central athletes locked out of the Ato Boldon Stadium to accommodate football. They have found themselves forced to use the asphalt strip leading to the National Cricket Centre, rubbing shoulders with fun walkers and inhaling all the traffic fumes.

For decades, Boldon has been a facilitator and a door opener for the local federation; he is now demanding his pound of flesh. Do not believe for a moment that the communication sent to the young lady was a personal decision of the sender. If that is so, he must be removed. That official, mind you, is one of track and field’s longest-serving administrators.

As I prepared to write this piece, I spoke with several coaches who have toured with Commonwealth, Pan American and Olympic teams. This kind of interference has been all too common and has been facilitated by the administration.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago sprinter Michelle Lee-Ahye (right) proudly represents her country at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Ask ourselves how many managers’ reports are made available to the track and field body. And we should know that a manager who writes a candid report may never accompany another team.

So what will all of this mean for the athletes? How will it affect their performance? We only have to go back to reports coming out of Rio 2016 where athletes expressed dissatisfaction with management and the impact that had on the morale of the team.

I have often asked how it works when, for example, the relay team is working out and the big name coach leaves his post to talk to his athlete. Which voice sounds sweetest in the believer’s ear? As some local coaches and a top Caribbean IAAF administrator—with a laugh—pointed out to me, St Fort’s performances in the 2016 Olympics merits a close look.

The head of the TTOC is a sincere person who has a clear vision for sport in Trinidad and Tobago, something which distinguishes him from most. But the words of incoming President Paula-Mae Weekes cannot heal the deep fissures.

Asking the athletes to turn the other cheek may very well result in loss of both sides of the head. Love is a two-way street.

If our ambassadors in the field of sport, the world’s highest-profile and most dynamic diplomatic arena, are given the tools and respect they get, then let us all be honest and not try to piggyback on their achievements.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago former Olympic star Ato Boldon (right) hugs an unidentified Nigerian sprinter in his heyday on the track.
(Copyright AFP 2014/Jeff Haynes)

Leave that to the Minister of Sport.

And the Minister of Tourism.

About Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor
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35 comments

  1. This article was poorly written. A bunch of words all summing up to naught

  2. Nothing said in this article! SMH

  3. “Me, personally, (I don’t) see no rift. I have seen one athlete who has had to withdraw for whatever reason and another one replacing that person. That’s it,” ….Chile Stevie Wonder could see the rift. Stop being naive.

  4. The author of the “letter to the editor” has indeed an axe to grind and sadly his biases are clearly showing.

  5. To say Khalifa wasn’t at her best at the trials is joke. She ran slower then our 15 year old Carifta athlete. So this whole bacchanal is because Kalifa was given a bligh? Personally I don’t see anything wrong with sending an athlete who is capable of much higher speeds if they think she would be an asset. Maybe she had a bad day and was able to demonstrate really fast times subsequently. I don’t think there was need for all this acrimony. At the end of the day I just want them to send the best to represent. Once she didn’t bump off anyone from their spot. As far as I could see only one person made the qualifying time for the 200M

    • It is hard for me to find a reasonable explanation as to why Khalifa wasn’t in the squad in the first place.
      That said, some of the social media comments on the issue were, at best, unwise and unhelpful.

    • Yeah I cringed when I saw what was attributed to Boldon. Michele has won medals. She s has yet to make an Olympic podium but I’m hoping Tokyo will be her time. She should be given encouragement not disparaging words. I find that unforgivable for a former world class athlete who knows the struggles. As for Khalifa being left out of the team, I agree. Unless she was injured there was no reason not to send her. Even for the relay alone.

    • I did not agree with Ato making a statement like that but it is well known about the rift with him and the NAAA.
      Kalifa attended the trials and did not do well. It’s that’s simple. To say that she was tired from Carnival was a lame excuse. If you know you have the Games coming up why not monitor the Carnival activities.
      Should she be included in the team…. I don’t know… what her physical fitness is at this time.
      The rift with Ato and Michelle and Kelly Ann is very public.
      Bad timing for all of this.

    • Tony that’s the thing. It wasn’t really a trials. Athletes only had to prove their fitness once they already had the qualifying times. That’s what made her omission difficult to understand.

    • Ok…. I see…. then I think there is more to this… I could see the point Ato is making but I am not sure how she has been doing…i did see Michelle and Kelly Ann running indoors..
      I also saw that no athlete .. male or female made the standards for middle or distance running for the CARIFTA games …but two were selected based on potential which I agree with so the NAAA has to be consistent with their selection process….

    • Now this will open a can if worms of inconsistently with CARIFTA selection …..it’s either you make the standard or not… who really determines ‘potential ‘… another fiasco brewing

    • Tony Maxwell Hatt There were no trials! I have just learned that athletes had to show physical fitness. How they accessed that or what were the guidelines, I have no idea. I wonder how they selected athletes?

    • I think it’s safe to say that the lack of funds and the early carnival had an effect on commonwealth games selection as well just like with Carifta. They put on a meet on the weekend after carnival and called it a “Pre-Commonwealth Meet” but there were few big names present. AND they put “qualifying times” needed but hardly anybody made the times. So actual selection ended up being based on who was fit and who would give us a best chance to win based on their past performances. In that case it’s really hard to understand why they would leave out Khalifa as she’s one of the best we have.

  6. Steups! Plenty words that say nothing. As for his opinion on Brian Lewis…..let’s leave that right there.

  7. “. Do not believe for a moment that the communication sent to the young lady was a personal decision of the sender”. I’m a little confused at the statement above. Which communication sent to which young lady and which sender? Was the writer referring to the shade passed by Ato Bolden to Michelle? Or the communication sent to St. Fort inviting her to participate? Making an assumption here because communication to St. Fort wasn’t mentioned.

    • The whole stiry before a few moments ago baffled me to no end. Now that names were included and more specifics were expressed, I understand what took place. The statements aired should have been handled off media and directly with the NAAA TT selection committee. Furthermore, Ahye (my fellow Alma Mater and one of my favored woman athlete) if healthy should be ‘ordered’ to be on the 4x100W relay team. If she refuses then she must be dismissed from team TTO entirely.

    • I agree. Only when Lasana posted the Newsday article some of the letter made sense. First of all no athlete should be pulling themselves out of a relay team because one member got replaced. That looks very petty and unprofessional. And Ato should not have joined the fray on social media…again unprofessional. Pettiness on all sides. Is not like Jamaica where they have 13 and 14 year olds who running faster than our under 20’s. We have a dearth of quality sprinters right now.

    • Kenneth H. Ransome Jr. THERE WERE NO TRIALS. Athletes who had made the world championship team in 2017 were told to show fitness. Period.

    • Ato Boldon Thanks so much for the update. I could understand your frustration. Thanks again.

    • Kenneth H. Ransome Jr. Rose Marie makes a great point. Since we do NOT have many who even make finals, how do you leave at home (not even the relay?) someone who’s broken every national youth junior 100m record and improved every year – a now-20 year old who’s won international medals every year for the last 3 seasons in the junior (and senior in 2015) ranks, and has been on EVERY senior relay team, since 2015 – (when she was 17).
      The reason given was the bad 200m race she ran in Port of Spain. In February! Well guess what? She ran a worse race in TX Relays early last year. And recovered to win Carifta in two events, Pan Am Jrs again and break the national junior record, again.
      An early season ‘bad race’ doesn’t negate this: ST FORT is the 4th fastest senior TNT 100m woman of all time (while still a junior) running that 11.06 NJR less than 12 months ago, the last time the country lined up for an actual TRIALS. When it’s a big race, she shows up. Suddenly, this March, she was garbage – and to be left home? While those who’ve never been CLOSE to her at 100m get to go, including ahead of her in the relay? How come when it’s a head to head trials she’s IN, but when it’s “selectors” she’s out? Please. Sift thru all the “Ato want he athlete on d team no matter what” nonsense, and JUST look at RESULTS and FACTS from 2015-2017. It gets really simple then. Facts vs BS

    • Ato Boldon Now that the information is out, I am better informed and able to understand what transpired. Facts vs BS, quite right.

    • Kenneth H. Ransome Jr. because they don’t want it out. Better to say Khalifa ran shit at TRIALS and we leaving her home. It’s politics.

    • Ato Boldon Yep… I have grown tired of the BS politics, too. I have challenged folk in the NAAA, the TTOC, and the Ministry of Sport. Over the years, I have tried to help to no avail. They simply choose to be willfully ignorant and arrogant.

    • Kenneth H. Ransome Jr. if I or anyone else have to explain to you why you should groom the next generation of sprinters, you don’t need to be in charge of the sport in TNT.

    • So Ato what the NAAA referred to as ” Pre- Commonwealth Meet wasn’t an authentic trials then. I was a little confused as the field seemed scant. But then they posted the “qualifying times” required which precious few athletes were able to make anyway. There is really no justification for leaving out Khalifa. I could understand the frustration

    • Rose-Marie Ingrid Lemessy-Forde no it wasn’t a trials. I’m fact we were emailed saying it was a meet to show fitness if you weren’t running indoors. Much has been made of the carnival thing, as if somehow Khalifa is some slacker partier who wasn’t taking “trials” seriously. You realize Khalifa has only been lower than third (fourth) once at senior champs? None of my athletes are going to run fast in February. They are loaded up in the weight room and running long runs. That’s why they run fast in the summer. They should know that, as ex athletes. And what about this blatant LIE about Khalifa withdrawing from the 200 rounds when it was a straight final?? Easily provable

  8. Managers and Coaches don’t rock the boat with constructive comments for fear of losing their trips to future Games.

  9. Performance reports comprising comprehensive constructive feedback are essential to track & field performance improvement! Without those candid reports, we are spinning ‘top in mud’. It’s waste of T&T taxpayers funding!

  10. Nice article…. I concur with the Rae Samuel especially the lack of reports after a major games for fear of retribution …

  11. Buh A A Rae Samuel big in the dance lol