The Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Team is based in the Vale of Glamorgan as they prepare for the London 2012 Games.
The team flew into Wales this weekend and were given a warm welcome by local school children as they arrived at the Vale Resort in Hensol. A group of excited year six pupils from St Helen’s Primary School in Barry had made flags and banners and treated the team to a special performance of an Olympic song and dance that they had prepared.
Some of the team’s athletes, boxers, cyclists, sailors and swimmers were also given good luck cards by the children, and teacher Rebecca Benson said: “The children were really looking forward to this chance to meet the team and wish them all well for London 2012. During the last year we have worked on a wide range of Olympic and Paralympic themed activities in school, and we chose to focus on the Trinidad and Tobago team for a project so this is a fantastic way to round off our year.”
The 50-strong Trinidad and Tobago team are one of 21 countries that the Welsh Government has attracted to Wales for their pre-Games training camps. With the 2014 Commonwealth Games taking place in Glasgow, a conscious effort was made to target Commonwealth countries, such as Trinidad and Tobago, with the intention of developing long-term relationships.
The work to attract countries to Wales began several years ago, as Annette Knott, the Trinidad and Tobago team’s Chef De Mission, said: “When this journey started three years ago, we always felt that it would have a wonderful ending. While we haven’t finished our journey yet, this has been an excellent experience so far. From day one, everyone has gone out of their way to help us with lovely Welsh hospitality, and we were delighted to be given such a wonderful welcome from the young children of St Helen’s Primary School.”
Mrs Knott, a T&T Olympic Committee vice president added: “I can’t say enough how happy we are to be here and we definitely made the right choice in coming to Wales. Some people wondered why we were coming so far from London, but we wanted to be away from the heat and intensity of London so we would be able to have a quiet place to focus ahead of the Games.”
During their stay in the Vale, the Trinidad and Tobago athletics team is training at Cardiff’s International Sports Stadium, and their track and field stars will also be on show at the stadium’s ‘Road to London’ international athletics meeting which is taking place this Wednesday evening.
The Trinidad and Tobago team includes a number of top Olympic medal prospects, such as 100m sprinters Keston Bledman and Richard Thompson and Kelly Ann Baptiste to name a few. Bledman is one of the fastest men in the world this year, having scorched to a career-best 9.86 seconds in Trinidad’s Olympic trials, while Thompson won the 100m silver medal four years ago in Beijing, finishing behind a certain Mr Usain Bolt.
In addition to their sprint kings, Trinidad and Tobago’s other track and field stars include 400m runners Lalonde Gordon and Sparkle McKnight, as well as 400m hurdler Jehue Gordon, who could all be set for international stardom.
Welcoming their presence in Wales, Sports Minister Huw Lewis said: “Camps such as these provide an excellent opportunity to develop our sporting, educational and cultural exchanges with these countries, and I would like to extend a warm Welsh welcome to the Trinidad and Tobago team team. For children and local communities they give us the opportunity to learn more about other nations and provide us with a positive Games legacy for Wales.”
Mr Lewis added: “It is well known that sport is a major influence on young people and having athletes of global stature training on their doorstep and living in their communities will be hugely inspirational.”
Vale Resort Sales and Marketing Director Paul Beddoe said: “We are delighted to be able to host the Trinidad and Tobago pre-Olympic training camp which is testament to both our and Wales’ fantastic sporting facilities. We wish the team every success in the London 2012 Olympics.”
You can find out more about the benefits the London 2012 Games are bringing to Wales at www.walesin2012.com. You can keep up to date with the latest community sports and play news from the Vale of Glamorgan by going online at www.valeofglamorgan.gov.uk/sportsnews or by following @valesportsnews on Twitter.