Deon Lendore inspired.
Such was the sentiment expressed by numerous national athletes who shared the track and training pitch with the former Trinidad and Tobago 400 metre specialist.
Lendore, a three-time TT Olympian, died on Monday night after he was involved in a vehicular accident in Texas, just outside Bryan-College Station on Highway 6, in the Brazos Valley region.
Details of the crash are still sketchy but Texas A&M University head coach Pat Henry confirmed the news. In online reports, Henry said Lendore was on his way home from practice at the time.
The national quarter-miler, a 12-time All-American as an athlete at Texas A&M, was serving at the university as a volunteer assistant coach with 400m and 800m running athletes. He was expected to return home next week.
His passing resulted in a firestorm of tributes on social media reflecting on Lendore’s life and athletic achievements.
The quarter-miler was part of the national 4x400m relay men who captured bronze at the 2012 London Olympic Games. Lendore, 29, was also a three-time World Indoor Championships medallist.
Abilene Wildcats club-mate Jereem “The Dream” Richards, who was part of the TT men’s 4x400m team (alongside Lendore, Machel Cedenio and Asa Guevara) which won gold at the 2019 World Athletics Relays in Japan, posted an emotional tribute to Instagram.
The pair was also part of Team TTO’s 4x400m eighth place finish, with Cedenio and Dwight St Hillaire, at the Tokyo Games last year. Richards, 27, like many other track athletes, looked to Lendore for added motivation, 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. You taught us to be strong and fearless in the midst of competition but to always have fun.
“I can always rely on you on and off the track. Whether it was giving me the baton in a good position, giving me advice in a time of need or getting us a clutch win in Fortnite, I could’ve always counted on you,” he posted.
Richards continued, “Making a national team would never be the same without you. You brought us so much life and energy each time we represented TT, 4x400s will never be the same.
“I truly appreciate everything you have done for me and every experience we had. I just wish I could have told you this in person.”
Another Abilene Wildcats member Guevara, 26, learnt of Lendore’s passing soon after the accident happened. He called Lendore on Monday night but his phone was answered by someone else, who relayed the tragic news.
“I have so much to say but I just can’t bring myself to believe what I heard when I called your phone tonight bro. I’d just like to say you made a huge impact on my life, on the track and field community in TT and internationally.
“You were a role model to all of us and we appreciate you. We’ve had our good times and bad time but despite it all, I’m proud to call you a brother. I love you man and will miss you a lot,” said Guevara via Facebook.
TT sprinter Jonathan Farinha, 26, who also represents the Arima-based track and field club, was an unused men’s 4x100m relay substitute on debut at the Tokyo Games. Farinha trained alongside Lendore during his junior years and also sought guidance from him, particularly leading up to and at the 2021 Summer Games.
“Deon has played an instrumental role in all our lives from school days at Queen’s Royal College (QRC), straight up until Abilene and into our pro careers. He’s always guided everyone, myself, my brother (Nathan), Asa and the entire Abilene family.
“We will always love him. Deon is not the type of athlete to go out on a Monday night or do anything out of his ordinary schedule. So this is a big surprise as it is a big blow,” he said.
World Athletics Relays gold medal-winning teammate Cedenio, 26, also hailed Lendore as a “great friend, mentor and inspiration” and said that it was painful to know the “Tokyo Games would have been our last dance as a (TT) team”.
Former 400m hurdler Jehue Gordon, who attended QRC with Lendore, said they were recently having a conversation on how the National Association of Athletics Administrations (NAAA) could help support athletes and how important his (Lendore’s) involvement was as a member.
Lendore was recently appointed to serve on the NAAAs athlete sub-committee.
“I just don’t know where to start. Started off as rivals, then schoolmates to eventually friends. I was hoping that it was a dream knowing that you clown the place so much. Only to realise it’s true. This is not the mood we were talking about for the year…I’m just lost for words,” he wrote on Instagram.
Additionally, the globe’s top female sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce also sent condolences via Twitter. She tweeted, “Our sport has lost a talented and great athlete. My sincere condolences to his family and friends”.
TT Olympic Committee sportswoman of the year Michelle-Lee Ahye had multiple tweets expressing sadness on Lendore’s passing.
“No no no my boi (boy) Deon. Sick to my stomach. Tell me it aint true (nah) please. He just posted a pic (picture) 12 hours ago. Yea I’m disappearing for a while,” she tweeted.
Former Texas A&M basketballer turned pro with Chicago Bulls Alex Caruso also tweeted that Lendore’s death was “truly tragic.”