Pan American Games shot putt gold medallist Cleopatra Borel and current national female boxing coach Ria Ramnarine are throwing their support behind Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis’ proposal for elite athlete housing assistance policy and programme.
Borel, who took home Pan Am gold and a medal bonus of US$3,000 from the meet in Toronto, Canada says she agrees with the proposal, “because as an elite level athlete, we make a lot of sacrifices in our personal lives and also financially because for some of us we would be in a better position financially if we were in another occupation and I believe that after you have done a number of years of service for your country, well it is nice to know that you have a small place in that country to call home just like other services people like firemen, police officers and such. “
Borel said elite athletes were not asking for free housing but to be afforded the opportunity to purchase a home.
“Elite athletes want the same thing like everyone else, we want a place, you know, that sort of security that we can afford a place where I can live and have a happy family life after my career is ended” the Pan Am champ says.
Borel said T&T athletes love representing the country but that to compete at the level they compete at requires “a 100 per cent commitment” and having to worry about a roof over their heads while preparing for world and international competition is an unnecessary distraction that could detract from performance.
“To be placed in a nice surrounding and to have that sort of security is important to us,” she said.
Borel added the T&T public would be surprised to know the circumstances some elite athletes exist under.
Ramnarine, a four-time world champion, also believes the athlete housing proposal is a great one.
For more reasons than one.
“First we have to make the athletes as comfortable as possible with regards to their training. It helps them to train better, be in a better frame of mind, the mental focus is there .
Speaking of her experience of applying for HDC housing since 1999, Ramnarine adds:
“The reason why I am saying that is coming from my athletic background itself and struggling to locating housing, I went through the process and it was incredibly difficult.“
Ramnarine said she is currently coaching a female athlete who qualified for the Pan Am Games but who is struggling to keep the roof over her head.
“Because of her training regime, three times a day, she is not working and what little savings she has is quickly dwindling because rent is very high, a high cost everywhere.... I am surprised that the relevant authorities have not taken it and ran with it, “she states.
Ramnarine said she felt really helpless and got flashbacks to her own situation when she was seeking housing as a world class athlete.
“It really touches my heart and I would take her into my home if I had the space for her. And as I said, it would not be for everyone but for athletes who have proven themselves and who have met certain objectives and athletes who are deserving based on that criteria.