IF EVENTS in international track and field competition this year are anything to go by, Trinidad and Tobago can justifiably expect to pick up a few medals at the 15th IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) World Championships, opening in Beijing, China on Saturday. The nation’s athletes have made their mark this year in various disciplines and on diverse occasions- notably at the Pan Am Games, the Junior World Championships and even in the IAAF Diamond League.
The National Association of Athletics Administrations (NAAA) came up with a national team of 21 athletes for the nine-day fiesta in the Chinese capital; 21 men and eight women will represent the red, white and black, in sprinting, hurdling, the shot put and the javelin.
The last multiple medal return for TT at the World Championships came in Berlin, 2009 when TT earned silver in the Men’s 4 x 100 metre Relay and picked up bronze medals in the Men’s 400m and the Women’s 400m Hurdles.
Significantly, most of the personnel at the heart of those successes are out of the reckoning, at least for now. Of the men’s sprint relay squad that clocked 37.62 seconds to finish behind winners Jamaica in Berlin, only Emmanuel Callendar and Keston Bledman are now in Beijing. Richard Thompson is injured, while elder statesmen Marc Burns and Darryl Brown have both been affected by time and lack of form.
Josanne Lucas, who claimed women’s 400m hurdles bronze in 53.20 seconds, later suffered a serious injury, and some would argue that she has never been the same.
Renny Quow won bronze in the men’s 400 in 45.02; six years on, he remains an important and experienced member of the TT men’s mile relay squad.
For most local track and field enthusiasts, that group represents TT ’s best podium chance in China.
Headed by the outstanding Deon Lendore and World Youth champion Machel Cedenio, the squad is further strengthened by the return to form of Lalonde Gordon, who won two Olympic bronze medals in London 2012- in the 400 and as a member of the mile relay quartet.
Add to that his fellow-Tobagonian Quow and the consistent Jarrin Solomon, and something would have to go very wrong for TT not to finish among the medals in the relay.
There are also high expectations for Olympic Javelin champion Keshorn Walcott, who keeps improving on his national record and has now joined the ranks of the 90 metre- plus throwers. Troubled by an ankle injury, the Toco-born athlete has not let that deter his performances.
No one would count out Cleopatra Borel in the Women’s Shot Put, and her confidence would have been given a great boost by her gold medal performance at the Pan Am Games. Borel’s chances are boosted by the absence of two-time Olympic gold medallist and fourtime World and reigning champ Valerie Adams of New Zealand who recently had surgery.
Of TT ’s other female athletes, it is the wealth of sprinters on hand that suggests a medal can be in the offing- the return of Kelly-Ann Baptiste and Semoy Hackett, coinciding with the rise of teenager Khalifa St Fort and the return of Michelle- Lee Ahye gives rise to hope for the 4 x 100m relay. It remains to be seen, however, how well Ahye has recovered from the injuries that have setback her promising career; her speed when fully fit can make the difference between a podium position and an “also ran” tagline to the relay effort.
There have been other performers- Bledman, Mikel Thomas and Sparkle Mc Knight come to mind, and there is the matter of an out-ofform Jehue Gordon looking to defend his 400m title; but fans need to remember they will be competing against the world’s best.
Many a dream has been broken by the reality of world athletics.
TT came away from Osaka 2007 without a medal; two years later, they had three in Berlin, then came a solitary bronze in Daegu 2011 before Gordon’s gold in Moscow 2013.
There have been no large hauls, suggesting it would be wise to wait, watch, listen and hope. Newsday wishes our athletes good hunting!