Captain of the T&T Red Steel Dwayne Bravo has lauded the initiative by the T&T Olympic Committee to establish an Elite Athlete Welfare Fund with the aim of inspiring the nation’s athletes to win 10 or more Olympic Gold medals by 2024.

The Fund which was launched back in January was designed to complement the Elite Athlete Fund already in effect by the Government and people of T&T and managed by the Ministry of Sport.

 Bravo said, “I think it’s good. I am an athlete and I believe athletes could only do so much. They need support. If the aim is for this medal count by the 2024 Olympics, then that means they have a target in mind, they have a goal set and I think it’s important that whatever assistance they can get from government, from companies, then we are working for 2024. I think they can be successful and achieve the ten gold medals.”

With the one-year mark to Rio 2016 now in effect and prospective athletes count down the days, he said, “I just want them to give it their best shot. The Olympics is something that comes once every four years. It’s like the (ICC) Cricket World Cup for us and it’s a dream come through for any athlete to be part of the Olympics and to represent the country. 

My advice is for them to work hard…give it their best shot. Some of them go as individuals, some go as a team, but eventually the T&T Olympic team leaves as a team. It’s important that they give themselves the best chance to be in the best shape, so that they can perform to the best of their ability and also put T&T on the map, again. There is nothing better than representing your country. I love representing T&T. Whenever you’re on that big stage hearing your national anthem playing, seeing your national flag: those colours alone make your feel special.” 

Issues related to the insufficient funding of athletes and lack of access and or lack of facilities for the nation’s budding stars were among Bravo’s pet peeves.

In spite of these challenges, he called on elite athletes to get in the right frame of mind and prepare themselves well.

Bravo held the view that once local medal hopefuls prepared well, more often than not, they were going to execute and eventually reap rewards.

 “I am reading the papers and watching television and seeing these challenges athletes have for funding, for facilities. They don’t have proper training grounds, proper gyms and I think in this day and age now where sports unifies the country, we can do a lot more where facilities are concerned…where funding is concerned, because most of those athletes go about their business with basically nothing. They don’t get a big salary. In terms of facilities to prepare, to train, we don’t have it here and we expect those athletes to go out there and compete with the best in the world,” he said.

Bravo added, “Obviously, it’s going to be tough. We have the talent, but we need to have the resources to enrich those talents. We just can’t rely on natural ability and natural talent and expect to make it world-wide. I honestly believe we could do a lot more and should do a lot more.”   

He’s no big fan of netball, but the mere fact that this country’s athletes were competing in the just concluded Netball World Cup in Sydney, Australia, caused him to pay great attention to the nightly television newscast and the daily newspapers for progress reports on the team.

Commenting on the outstanding performances recorded by this country’s athletes at the Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada, the Pan American Junior Championships in Edmonton, Canada; the North American, Central American and Caribbean (NACAC) Senior Championships in Costa Rica; Parapan Am Games also held in, Canada, Bravo had nothing but praise for them, including those who this time around weren’t successful at securing medals. 

“It’s not easy to take part in event that is so big and perform at the highest level, carrying the ambitions of an entire nation on your shoulders. It’s not easy! It’s good that it’s going down as one of our best Pan Am Games and with the Olympics right around the corner that in itself would give them confidence. 

“Success always gives you that comfort that you can do well at the highest level and do better. Doing what they did at the Games gives those athletes self-confidence and the self-belief that they can actually go to the Olympic and win medals, as well,” declared Bravo.