Lewis, Santana buoyed by athlete ambition
For the first time since the 1992 Barcelona Games, Trinidad and Tobago does not feature on an Olympic Games medal table.
The best individual Tokyo 2020 performances for Team TTO came from cyclist Nicholas Paul, who finished sixth in the Men’s Sprint, and Jereem “The Dream” Richards, eighth in the Men’s 200m final.
T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis told the Express he is putting T&T’s medal-less showing here in Tokyo, Japan into context. “I believe we had realistic opportunities to have come away with at least two medals. As the saying goes, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.
“Once there is life there is hope,” the TTOC boss continued. “Sport is a great teacher. Once you have done your best, you learn and focus on improving and getting better. Failure and adversity are the seeds of victory and success.”
Team TTO chef de mission Lovie Santana was high in praise for the athletes that represented the “Red, White and Black” as well as the other members of the delegation, pointing to their determination in spite of the many challenges faced.
“The highpoints for me,” Santana told the Express, “were the encouragement and inspiration of our athletes. Speaking to them after their competitions was so touching. Deon Lendore, Dwight St Hillaire, Michelle-Lee Ahye, Dylan Carter, Nicholas Paul, Machel Cedenio, Jereem Richards. Their maturity and determination to use Tokyo 2020 to become the best they can be.
“Team TTO was faced with so many challenges and adversity and negativity that at times it was demoralising, but the importance of staying focused and disciplined… the importance of self-belief and self-confidence… I am really excited about the future. It was an honour and privilege to be chef de mission of this delegation. I thank the TTOC for entrusting me with the responsibility.”
Lewis said he is excited about T&T’s prospects at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, France. “My highpoint is the young Team TTO athletes who have openly said they will use Tokyo 2020 as their motivation to podium in Paris 2024. They aren’t afraid to go for Olympic gold. That’s a profound culture shift. It’s no longer for them enough to just qualify and participate, to simply be satisfied with the designation ‘OLY’. They want to medal and they want it bad enough. “The seed is planted,” Lewis declared. “Going for Gold.”
The TTOC president said that in planning for Paris 2024, it is important to explore the country’s options in non-traditional sports.
“I would like the TTOC to pay attention to skateboarding, surfing, BMX freestyle and break dancing--the new or newer sports on the Olympic programme.”
Lewis also spoke about #10golds24. “It’s an aspiration goal with specific objectives and a plan. That plan is relevant as we head to Paris 2024.
“There are aspects of #10golds24 that the TTOC must maintain especially given that Covid-19 has impacted Trinidad and Tobago’s economy: the long term development and high performance process that we have put in place as part of #10golds24 which includes #futureisfemale; establishment of the #10golds24 athlete welfare and preparation fund which includes the introduction of medal bonuses in 2015; our ongoing partnership with Michael Johnson Performance (MJP); and the establishment of a TTOC High Performance programme with Anthony Marcano as the coordinator.”
With Tokyo 2020 done and dusted, Lewis is in the final stages of his tenure as TTOC president. “I remain focused on finishing my leg of the race and doing my absolute best. Trinidad and Tobago has world class talent and potential. The TTOC must remain focused on doing its best to support as best as it can T&T athletes who carry in their heart and soul their dream of being an Olympic champion.”
Though he is eagerly anticipating Paris 2024 and excited about what it could represent for T&T, Lewis also acknowledged some of the country’s better Tokyo 2020 performances.
“Michelle-Lee Ahye, Portious Warren, Tyra Gittens, Deon Lendore, Jereem Richards, Nicholas Paul, Kwesi Browne, the 4x400 men, and the 4x100 teams. There were a number of season’s bests. The courage shown by Dwight St Hillaire. There is world class talent and potential in Team TTO. I am really excited about Paris 2024.”
Lewis also spoke about the pandemic’s impact on Team TTO. “I am disappointed,” said the TTOC president, “that Andwuelle Wright and Sparkle McKnight couldn’t participate due to Covid-19.”
Santana also feels for the two athletes, and granted Wright the privilege of being the Team TTO flag-bearer at Sunday’s Tokyo 2020 closing ceremony. The chef de mission was in a grateful mood as she prepared for the long trek back home.
“I thank God. I thank every member of the Team TTO Tokyo 2020 Olympic delegation. There were highs and lows,” Santana ended, “but we stuck it out.”