TTOC president launches Olympic Preparation programme

Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee president Brian Lewis yesterday announced the launch of the Ten Olympic Medals by 2024 Olympic Athlete Preparation Foundation at Olympic House on Abercromby Street yesterday.

As a start, Lewis will participate in the Trinidad and Tobago International Marathon on January 25 and hopes to raise $500,000 from the venture.

Lewis, who suffers with some ailments, plans to walk the 26.2 mile race in seven hours.

“I am an avid walker... but at about three hours, certain things start to happen to me physically that indicate I am sort of at the end of my limit. I know for sure seven hours will require some real effort,” Lewis said.

The former TTOC general secretary said the goal of ten medals by the 2024 Olympics has been criticised in some quarters.

“Many people have had issues with that, have said it is unrealistic or unattainable, and while I respect other people’s view, I share a different opinion. I think we have the potential to do more than we have done in terms of qualifying athletes to the Olympics and winning medals at the Olympic Games,” Lewis said.

Lewis added the launch of this foundation is more than just an elusive objective or big target, but about creating a culture and a system that supports the athletes.

Lewis said the integration and alignment of the sport policies through the national sporting organisations, the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee, the Ministry of Sport and the Sports Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SPORTT) will lead to more streamlined and more consistent results at regional, international and global games.

“We have seen too much based on good ideas in the absence of a structure. We have seen within recent times what happens when good ideas are not supported by good governance and structure,” he said.

Lewis revealed that a TTOC commissioned survey revealed that over 70 per cent of citizens love hearing the national anthem and seeing the red, white and black flag raised.

It is part of the expectations being put on T&T’s high performance, elite athletes. But Lewis said the expectation of medal-winning athletes must not exceed the athletes’ financial funding and preparation.

“To be competitive and to win medals, high performance athletes in elite sports need to dedicate more time and money into their athletic endeavours,” Lewis said, “How do we give our elite high performance athletes peace of mind, enable or empower career athletes from falling below the poverty and middle wage line (while) training to be an Olympic champion is a full-time commitment,”

Lewis said the pursuit of excellence and qualifying for the Olympic Games demands years of dedication, sacrifice and single-minded focus. He added that financial support or the lack of it across the stages of an athlete’s career development “ have ended or compromised the dreams of many of our talented men and women in sport”.

He said the Foundation is expected to evolve into an entity where sums of money are raised and is endowed so that there is an end for athletes that meet a defined criteria based on their needs.

Lewis said the Foundation is expected lend direct support, offer athletes stipends and out-of-pocket expenses, a medal bonus and health and accident insurance. Lewis said the TTOC is discussing with corporate T&T the possibility of internships to prepare athletes for life after sport and life skills training. The Foundation will also host an anti-doping workshop to educate athletes about the new law coming into place from January 1 ,2015.

Lewis said the Rio 2016 Olympic solidarity scholarship will afford eight athletes the opportunity to get assistance for training and the TTOC is targeting 75 athletes for the Brazil-based quadrennial games, including two team sports qualifiers.

The Olympic Committee president added that the Foundation will be complementary to the Ministry of Sport Elite Athletes Assistance Programme (EAAP)

“In terms of what is required to be able to properly prepare, with the proper competition technology, sports psychologists....having a fund that is dedicated to the high performance effort, other countries have identified the need to deepen the support they provide to elite athletes. If we are serious about winning medals at the Olympics and other international and global events, we cannot expect our athletes to do it in current circumstances,” Lewis said.