While shot putter Cleopatra Borel is grateful for being the recipient of the T&T Olympic Committee’s Sportswoman of the Year honour for the second consecutive year, she wants to use her star power to tackle obesity locally. Speaking to the T&T Guardian at the post awards ceremony held at Theatre 1 at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) on Frederick Street in Port-of-Spain on Monday, she said, “Your question actually speaks to one of my passions. I have a Masters (degree) in health promotions. Obesity is one of the leading causes of death across the globe. Going after kids… going after young people… getting people involved in sport–not just competitively–but to teach an active lifestyle…to teach healthy living…to teach a holistic way of living not just work and burning yourself out.”

Borel added, “I believe if we bring in the young people–the young kids–then the families will get involved, because kids don’t do anything without their parents involved and then we have a movement where we value our health in T&T. Sincerely that’s the most important thing that we have: being healthy and enjoying life. We live on a beautiful island. There is no excuse not to go outside.” She believed that the resurgence of community games especially in rural areas was vital to fighting the obesity scourge, while developing athletes. Borel said she was proof of a top athlete from the rural community of Mayaro. “Many times the opportunities that I had to compete against individuals—to see how good I was up against kids my age—came at community sports…employee sport programmes from my dad’s workplace from running the egg and spoon race to sack race. These are all really important to me. We have to go back to basics now, especially in this technological age.

I think it’s a really good idea to have community games. Build up to the games and have a community championship! Make it exciting!” she said. Borel added, “We have to bring people back outdoors. We are not outdoors as we used to be, which leads to a sedentary lifestyle. We live on an island. It’s sunny all year round. There is no reason why we cannot have a community beach volleyball tournament. Bring the people out to play.” Fielding questions on the role she believed sponsors could play in sustaining community sporting activities, she expressed optimism that companies were willing to give back to this country. “This is a great avenue where we can really see what the young people are made of and it’s a great place to establish your brand, establish your product and loyalty to your brand. I think at the community level, it’s really where things happen in T&T; in small villages across the island,” she said.

On the issue of women in sport and spiralling crime, Borel said, “I think that we have to empower women. Sport empowers women all the time. It’s a great way for us to teach our sisters how to stand up to the stresses of life here in T&T and just to do well, do better. Perhaps our crime solutions need to be led by women.” Commenting on the discipline needed to sustain success, she said, “The work that went in training was unbelievably punishing. It is unbelievable how much athletes have to go through and how much we do to perform well, while representing T&T. It’s nice to be recognised.”