Deon Lendore was described yesterday as “lion-hearted”, “a tremendous athlete,” a “legendary person” and someone who inspired an entire generation of athletes, as a stunned athletics community reacted to his death in a car accident In Texas, USA, close to midnight on Monday.
Lendore, who was an Olympic bronze medallist in the 4x400 metres relay at the London Games in 2012, and a three-time Olympian. His T&T teammate and long-time friend, former 400m hurdles world champion Jehue Gordon was in shock yesterday, but mustered the strength to say: “The news was very tragic. Nobody wants to wake up to a phone call to hear that you have lost one of your closest friends. For us, we go all the way back to QRC days as schoolmates, as rivals but first and foremost, we were friends.” He said the 29-year-old was “really easygoing” and “funny” and also had “his own swagger”.
“He had his own special slangs...he would always say ‘mood set’ or ‘time to set the mood’. He is somebody who always gave his all once the opportunity was presented to him. It is really unfortunate that we had to lose him in this way,” Gordon added.
Lendore’s other 4x400 teammates Machel Cedenio and Jereem Richards also took the news hard. Cedenio posted a message on twitter saying: “If I don’t reply to your messages today, please forgive me! I really can’t I’m sorry.” He also posted a tribute to his teammate on Instagram.
He said: “It’s so surreal, unimaginable and painful that I have to acknowledge the passing of my brother Deon. Deon was my mentor. He was a leader. He was our team captain. Deon was such a great athlete and hard worker. He never gave up. He was always there for his fellow athletes; from giving the best advice to always calling to check in. This is a tragedy that I am yet to come to terms with and I don’t think I may ever accept it.”
He added: “We lost a great athlete and an even greater man. What hurts most is that it was so sudden and unexpected. My heart grieves with his family, friends and my fellow athletes and team members.”
Meanwhile, Richards told the Express it was a “tough” time. He also posted a tribute to Lendore, calling him an inspiration and someone he could always count on both on and off the track. “You inspired an entire generation of athletes from your collegiate career, teaching us to be confident, that anything is possible once you work hard enough,” said Richards.
“You taught us to be strong and fearless in the midst of competition but also to always have fun. You are the one person that can make anybody smile and make anyone feel happy and comfortable around you. I can always rely on you on and off the track...I could’ve always counted on you,” he added.
“Making a national team would never be the same without you. You brought so much life and energy each time we represented Trinidad and Tobago, 4x4s will never be the same. I truly appreciate everything that you have done for me and every experience we had I just wish I could’ve told you this in person. Deon was a one-of-a-kind legendary person that I’ll never forget. Rest in peace Deon we love and appreciate you,” Richards concluded.
Another of Lendore’s Team TTO teammates Michelle-Lee Ahye tweeted: “The hurt that I’m feeling right now...fly high babe. You will be missed”. “Love you forever Deon...”she said in another post.
Current National Association of Athletics Administrations of Trinidad and Tobago (NAAATT) president George Comissiong said the news of Lendore’s death sent shockwaves across the fraternity. “We have lost a tremendous athlete and our country one of its better sons,” he added.
He also reflected on the memory of seeing Lendore, Cedenio and Richards pushing a wheelchair with Dwight St. Hillaire following the final of the 4X400m at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics when he acted as team manager.
“Despite the team not winning a medal, members had rallied behind the injured St Hillaire. Whereas one may have expected blame and acrimony, Lendore and the other members of the team were celebrating St Hillaire’s commitment to finishing his leg. In terms of team spirit, one cannot ask for more,” he added.