Ephraim Serrette, president of the National Association of Athletics Administrations (NAAA) says his Federation will accept no blame for the absence of athletes honoured at the December 29, 2014 T&T Olympic Committee Annual Awards ceremony.
Of the six awards presented on the night, track and field athletes took the lions’ share at the ceremony held at Theatre 1 at the National Academy for the Performing Arts, but only one winner–shot putter Cleopatra Borel–was in attendance to accept the Sportswoman of the Year Award.
Carifta gold medallist Machel Cedenio was the Junior Sportsman of the Year, while sprinter Aaliyah Telesford emerged as the Junior Sportswoman of the Year. Serrette took the spotlight to receive their awards.
London 2012 Olympic gold medal winner Keshorn Walcott was named Sportsman of the Year at the TTOC ceremony, but like Cedenio and Telesford, he (Walcott) was absent.
His manager Sean Roach accepted the award and apologised for Walcott’s absence.
He said, “He’s actually in the stadium training and getting ready for the 2015 season. But I’m pretty sure if he was here today, he would be very happy and honoured with this award. I know he would have liked to thank his teammate Cleo (Cleopatra Borel) who is always there giving him the inspiration he needs to move forward, his coach and his team that supports him, as well as you guys for cheering him on every time that he goes out there.”
Serrette refused to comment on Roach’s statement that Walcott was on local shores, but chose to attend a training session, instead.
The T&T Guardian learnt that on the day of the awards ceremony Borel also trained–twice, around 7 am and close to 3 pm.
Serrette, “It was not an awards of the Federation and it was up to the Olympic Committee to contact the Federation to find out if individuals are present in the country and that they could get invited or not. It is not a fault of the Federation. In the Federation’s awards function, all the athletes who have been nominated for awards are written to. They are informed. They are also asked to indicate whether they will be present or not. It is not a fault of the Federation. It is a flaw of the Olympic Committee,” he said.
The NAAA official added, “I attended (the awards) and I had no idea who the recipients were. When they indicated Aaliyah Telesford was Junior Sportswoman of the Year that was news to me. I would have had some idea that Machel Cedenio would have been a contender for the Junior Male. Cleopatra was a foregone conclusion. I wasn’t sure if she wasn’t the feature speaker, if she would have been present either.”
TTOC president Brian Lewis said he did not considered Walcott’s decision to attend a training session timed simultaneously with the hosting of the awards ceremony as a slap in the face of the Olympic Committee.
“Of course not! I can say that Keshorn always appears at our functions. The TTOC relationship with Keshorn is a close one. I am going to ensure that our communication processes would be significantly reviewed. The TTOC let down a lot of our stakeholders in the issuing of invitations. As president I take full responsibility. The invitation and communication processes would be improved in 2015,” he said.
Commenting on track and field’s dominance at the TTOC awards, Serrette said, “It’s not the first time that track and field has been rewarded in a particular year for performances. It’s not the first time that track and field has dominated the awards. It augurs well for our sport.”
He said: “As a federation, we recognise what is required. We cannot have track and field events without athletes. We cannot have track and field events without technical officials. We cannot have track and field events without a Federation. The key is to have that synergy among all these parts. We all have to be there to assist athletes; athletes working with the Federation to understand what are our challenges and what we are trying to do and vice versa. I would even go are far as the parents. In Cleo’s (Cleopatra Borel) speech, she mentioned the need for support. It’s a challenge. It’s a non-paying job, but you do it for your country and we just have to continue doing what we need to do.”