TTOC boss defends Commonwealth champion

BRIAN LEWIS, president of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC), has praised the commitment and determination of 2018 Commonwealth Games 100-metre sprint queen Michelle-Lee Ahye, in the face of attacks on her locally.

There have been disparaging comments about Ahye since she became this country’s first female gold medallist at the Commonwealth Games, with discussion about her tattoos and even her personal life.

On the track, the 26-year-old Ahye was unbeatable, clocking 11.14 seconds in the final, at the Carrara Stadium, Gold Coast, Australia on April 9.

Lewis, in a telephone interview yesterday, said he adheres to the spirit of Olympism and does not agree with anyone who wishes to discriminate against Ahye.

“The Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee, in accord with the Olympic charter, under the values of Olympism, are exclusive. We welcome and encourage diversity and non-discrimination. Michelle-Lee Ahye is someone who I have tremendous respect for – her commitment, her dedication, her determination to be successful. She has come from very challenging circumstances and she is very open about her life, and she’s not a hypocrite.” Lewis praised the TT sprinter for having a wonderful relationship with her mother Raquel and being able to provide the best for her.

“She made it very clear that part of her motivation is her mother who she loves dearly and has given her unwavering love and support. (Also) her efforts to be the best that she can be is to ensure that her mother is well-taken care of,” Lewis continued.

Pointing out that Ahye’s participation at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland was blighted due to injury, Lewis noted, “She devoted four years to make amends for that, and she created history. We admire her authenticity and her sincerity, and her genuineness as a human being.”

At the 2018 Games, Ahye opted out of the women’s 4x100m relay team who finished fourth in Saturday’s final. Her decision allegedly stemmed from a difference of opinion between herself and TT sprint legend Ato Boldon, who is also the coach of another TT female sprinter Khalifa St Fort. Ahye later said her coach had told her to focus on the 100m alone.

According to Lewis, “I respect Ahye’s right to choose to accept her coach’s guidance. I’ve seen and read and heard about other speculation, but I’m not into speculation. We’ll continue to see and evolve as we go on, to see whatever lessons need to be leant, so we’ll continue to ensure that our chances of fulfilling our potential on the podium, and that the flag is raised.”

There was another contentious issue at the Games, with regards to table-tennis ace Dexter St Louis, his stepdaughter Rheann Chung and the Trinidad and Tobago Table Tennis Association (TTTTA).

About the mood in the TT table-tennis camp, Lewis admitted, “It was challenging. It’s not the ideal environment that you would want to have but I think they did their best under the circumstances.” Trinidad and Tobago returned home with three medals from the Commonwealth Games – Ahye, sprinter Jereem Richards (gold in the men’s 200m) and swimmer Dylan Carter (silver in the men’s 50m butterfly).

Lewis said, “I had set a target of moving from eight gold medals at Commonwealth level to 10 – the magic number for me. We achieved that.”

Concerning the importance of the Games, Lewis noted, “It provides a signpost for us as we point towards 2020 Tokyo (Olympics).

“We are very much focused on providing the support as best as we could,” he continued. “The target is the Olympics and we want to do everything that we can do possible to have an improved result on Rio 2016.”

However, Lewis pointed out, “We need to improve, and we need to focus on doing certain things better as an Olympic Committee, to ensure that the athlete is as best prepared as possible.”