Lauryn Williams breathed a new life into the conference room at the T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC) House on Abercromby Street in Port-of-Spain yesterday as she did on the track in winning a number of Olympic medals.
The American sprinter and bobsledder held the attention of a varied group of individuals, having an open conversation with athletes, coaches, parents, TTOC officials and the media, delving into every aspect of her professional life on and off the track and what brought her to the country of her father's birth, T&T. David Williams was born in Charlotteville, Tobago.
William brought powerful messages on a number of topics including the importance of education, the proper use of technology and social media, relationships, avoiding distractions, having proper nutrition, balancing one's career, enjoying the highs and overcoming the lows and of course life after track and in her case specifically, bobsledding.
"My motto is hard work knows no limits," said Williams. "The idea is work hard towards a goal and doors will open for you. Be your best self."
Simple words were spoken by one of the world's most talented athlete whose career spanned 10 years. Within that time Williams won the gold medal in the 100-metre dash at the 2005 World Championships in Athletics and won silver medals at the 2004 Summer Olympics, 2007 World Championships, and 2006 IAAF World Indoor Championships. She won a silver medal in the two-woman bobsleigh at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Williams is one of five athletes to have won a medal in both the Summer and Winter Olympic games, as well as the first American woman to do so.
Williams was a World junior champion in 2002, she went on to win the 100m at the 2003 Pan American Games and claimed the NCAA title over the distance for the University of Miami the following year. She has also featured as part of the American 4×100m relay team, winning gold medals at the 2005 and 2007 World Championships and at the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Great success for an athlete coming from modest beginnings as Williams shared that she can relate to some of the issues faced by local athletes.
"You start to build on a set of values. Stop focusing on the obstacles, go to opportunities.
"In America, I didn't have more resources than you guys have here in Trinidad," said Williams, speaking directly to some athletes of the Cougars Track and Field Club present including Carifta Games-bound Shaniqua Bascombe. "I started initially running club track, age-group track. People would donate their old shoes for me to have a pair of shoes to run in. You get to the track and run in whatever you have, sometimes it was a basketball shoe on the track. I didn't have. You start from nothing but you have to use what you have inside of you and that what drives you initially, to get going."
TTOC president Brian Lewis opened the discussion and shared that his organisation encouraged Williams to come T&T to help boost this country's athletes.
"The programme is called Thrive Team TTO or Team TTO Thrive and what this programme will do is offer to young athletes, who want to do it, the opportunity to develop the business of themselves and to be entrepreneurial," said Lewis, who informed all that more information will be available soon.
He said she had a chance to speak to some of the young athletes who will be competing at the Carifta Games on the weekend in the Cayman Islands. Hopefully, her advice will inspire them as they will take on some of the best track and field athletes in the region.
"Instead of focusing on the obstacles and what is not available, you need to focus on what you do have and what you do have is already inside of us so even if you go on the track barefoot does not mean that you can't succeed," said Williams, who studied at the University of Miami earning a bachelors degree in Finance and later on got her MBA in Business which she used to start her financial business.
"You have the ability to educate yourself. That was something my parents drilled into me from day one. Anything you want to achieve you can find with the right information. Libraries give the books to you for free so you don't have any excuses. The internet is a world of information and it's all that you choose to use it for.
"Use the technology that is available to teach yourself," said Williams, who has made it her mission to give back to her peers in a positive way and have a meaningful impact on people's lives.