From this weekend, another slew of medals will be on offer for athletes and teams from the Pan American region. The question that comes to my mind is how large a share can the Trinidad and Tobago contingent reasonably be expected to win?
Some 115 competitors in 14 disciplines, inclusive of men’s and women’s football and hockey teams will, in principle at least, be aiming to mount the medal rostrum in Toronto, Canada. I have to stress “in principle” because the majority of that group will not get near the podium. Check the history.
Since these regional games began in 1951 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, T&T have come away with no more than seven medals at a time—in Winnipeg, Canada in 1967, Cali, Colombia 1971 and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic in 2003. And only eight times in the 16 editions of Pan Am have T&T won gold, and five of those golds have come from cyclists alone.
Bare figures do not tell the whole story of course. For instance, while competition might not be open to the whole world, in some disciplines like track and field, the quality will truly be world class given that the Caribbean and North America currently dominate the globe in a number of events, especially the sprints.
And with a population just past one million, it would be like waiting for donkeys to fly to expect that TRI could ever be above USA on a Pan Am medals table.
So what is reasonable to expect? Not 10 gold medals. That ambitious target of Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee president Brian Lewis is not supposed to bear fruit until 2024.
Ten medals then?
Well let’s see where those ten might possibly come from.
From track and field I can see four, possibly five.
Right now the 400 metres pool is deep. Machel Cedenio and Deon Lendore have been among the best quarter-milers in the world this year; and T&T can also call on people with big games medals like Berlin World Championships 2009 bronze medallist Renny Quow and London Olympics 2012 bronze man Lalonde Gordon, in addition to Jarrin Solomon who is also an Olympic bronze medallist in the 4x400 relay and World hurdles champ Jehue Gordon is a relay option.
T&T got 4x400 bronze at both last year’s Commonwealth and World Relay Games, so a top three placing in Toronto should be expected; and should things go smoothly, gold could be the colour.
On form, Cedenio, the teen sensation is a candidate for a top three 400 finish also, should he pace himself well through the rounds.
So that takes care of two medals.
I can also see the evergreen Cleopatra Borel collecting another top three placing in the shot put. The older she gets the steadier her arm seems to grow. The current Sportswoman of the Year collected gold at the CAC Games and silver at Commonwealth in 2014 and was also a silver medallist in the last Pan Am event in Guadalajara, Mexico in 2011. Borel’s 2015 best so far of 19.26 metres is markedly better than the 18.46m that got her silver four years ago; so another medal of high shade is a definite possibility.
Three down, seven to go.
Here’s a fourth: I expect something solid from Keshorn Walcott also. His progress since his London 2012 gold strike has not been smooth. But his form this year seems to be on the improve. His re-setting of the national record in Birmingham last month was proof positive. The Pan Am competition, devoid of the high quality Europeans should be the ideal stage for the Olympic champ to gain needed confidence ahead of the World Championships by winning another significant title.
Jehue Gordon could also get a Worlds boost with a podium finish in the hurdles which should not be beyond him at this stage.
I’m less certain about a medal for Kelly Ann Baptiste in the women’s 100m given the strength in depth of the Jamaican and American camps. But her form since her return to competition this year certainly does not rule out a top three finish. A lot could depend on which athletes show up for these games.
In the swimming pool, it would be a surprise if George Bovell leaves Toronto empty-handed. We are talking about an elite level, world class performer who regularly holds his own with the world’s best in the 50 free. In 2003 he left Santo Domingo laden down with gold and silver. It was the year before his historic Athens 200 individual medley bronze. His history often does not neatly repeat itself so neatly. But even if the effort in Toronto is not followed up by Rio precious metal, big George will do his part at Pan Am.
I’ll be conservative and put him down for just one medal; that would make seven.
Roger Daniel took good aim in 2011 and got silver in the 10m air pistol competition. Possibly he could get another, or maybe bronze on the range.
That would be eight, but I’m stretching now. Don’t see hockey for football bagging anything but goals. With few exceptions, T&T’s record in team competition at this level is not good.
Cycling is another story. Sprinter Nijsane Phillip got bronze four years ago to keep up the sports rich Pan Am tradition. But the years since his promising fourth place finish at the 2012 Olympiad have not been as productive as he might have hoped. An individual medal is not a certainty this time, in either the sprint or the keirin. A medal in the team sprint looks even more remote for Quincy Alexander, Justin Roberts and Jude Codrington.
So I’m stuck at a shaky eight. But even that would be breaking new ground for T&T.
At least the next couple weeks will help president Lewis and his committee members to gauge how much more work needs to be put into their 10-gold plan.