DAYS BEFORE Trinidad and Tobago won its first medal at the World Athletics Championships in China, TT Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis was repeating his appeal for a unified and coordinated approach to supporting the country’s sportsmen and sportswomen in the quest for excellence at the global level.

Lewis was speaking to hours after Machel Cedenio had finished second-to-last in the 400m final and Mikel Thomas was disqualified in his 110m hurdles first round heat at the IAAF World Championships in China.

“Most of our athletes have coaches and are in coaching programmes,” he said.

“What is important is the integration between their programmes, the NAAA (National Association of Athletics Administrations), the TTOC, Ministry of Sport, in terms of providing our athletes with the services they need.” Among those services he listed were funding for training and sports psychology.

“It’s no secret that we haven’t gotten the system right as yet,” Lewis continued.

“I would like to see us improve the delivery of services, disbursement of funds and so on. We need ongoing dialogue and what we have to do when we come out of events is have appropriate evaluation and analysis.

Our people don’t want to look bad but we have to work together; we can’t operate in silos, can’t be concerned about who gets the credit; we must be concerned with service to country,” he went on.

One of the glaring issues emerging from TT’s participation at the 15th World Championships has been the unusual number of athletes who were affected by injury in the months leading up to the games.

The men’s sprint relay team practically disintegrated by the time games had begun.

Richard Thompson pulled out weeks in advance, citing a leg injury, and Marc Burns had also declared himself unavailable due to injury.

However, Rondell Sorillo and Dan-Neil Telesford, having been passed as fit, were pronounced injured and unable to compete after their arrival in Beijing.

And Keston Bledman blamed his demise in the opening round of the 100 metres on an injury that he said had affected his preparation.

It was much the same for Jehue Gordon; the defending 400m hurdles champ crashed out in the first round as well, and then revealed he had been training with a “sports hernia.” Shot putter Cleopatra Borel said she hurt a finger while warming up for the qualifying round; she also was eliminated.

“I think people are really recognising how difficult it is on the world stage,” Lewis responded.

“Injuries are a part and parcel of sport; it’s very rare for athletes at this level to not be hurting. Notably, Usain Bolt had problems (this season).

We need to commend our athletes for not only qualifying for the World Championships, but for competing and showing dedication, determination and courage. It is laudable in my view.” The situation was different, at least for Keshorn Walcott, as it was widely known that the Olympic Javelin champion had been struggling with a foot injury for most of the season; even so, he failed to manage 77m on the day- this from an athlete who twice raised the national mark this season, and who, weeks before, had achieved 90m for the first time in his career.

“Walcott didn’t perform as he would have liked,” Lewis responded.

“That’s elite and Olympic sport. I remain tremendously optmistic about his future.” Meanwhile, the TTOC president took the opportunity to endorse the decision to have four-time Olympic medallist Ato Boldon train Thompson, as the latter prepares for what would most likely be his final Olympics as a competitor. “I think the news that Richard Thompson is now in Ato’s camp is a huge positive. It’s great that Ato is now being allowed to become more involved; he has trained with some of the best, and I think he has a tremendous contribution to make,” Lewis said.

Boldon also trains teenaged TT sprinter Khalifa St Fort.

Newsday was unable to contact Lewis yesterday for comment after the TT Women’s team won the bronze medals in the 4x100m relay final in Beijing.