Decorated shot-putter Cleopatra Borel has emphasised the need for the nurturing of young girls in local athletics in order to maintain the upward curve of the Trinidad and Tobago women’s athletics team.

The veteran won her record fifth Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee Sportwoman of the Year title, while completing a hat-trick of titles since 2013. This year, her performances in the throwing circle at the 2015 Pan American Games shot her into the run-in once again for the TTOC Sportswoman of the Year award.

Borel hurled the iron ball 18.67 metres to gold at the Games in Toronto last July, finally seizing first prize after finishing third at the Games in Rio in 2007 and second four years later in Guadalajara, Mexico.

The athlete, now an elder stateswoman in the women’s athletics team, told the Express how important it is that the team’s steady improvement over the past few years continues. “I think that our women’s team has been doing better of the years,” she said.

“To be a leader amongst the women is something that is really special for me, and encouraging women in sport and women in athletics is very important to me and I just love representing the women of Trinidad and Tobago in the sporting arena.”

The athlete who proudly hails from Mayaro also holds a great deal of pride of her senior role in the team. She also expressed her confidence that the T&T women could be on to big things next year in Rio. “I think that once our women continue to work, and once we nurture young girls, and we give athletes the support they need, the medals will come. But Olympic medals don’t just happen; it takes work and years of dedication and that’s what we’re going to have to do if we want to compete with the rest of the world.”

Borel alluded to the reality that T&T will have to understand their resources at hand and use them to its advantage. “We like to say ‘go back to the grassroots’ but we have to, in my opinion, take advantage of all opportunities,” she said. “In Trinidad and Tobago, we have a limited population so we have to go the grassroots; find the girl in Mayaro, find the girl in Guyana, find the girl in Rio, the girl in Toco, the girl in Tobago, find all of our potential athletes and support them from the beginning of their career to the end.”

The five time Sportswoman of the Year winner emphasised that there has to be plan and lauded TTOC president Brian Lewis’ plan as now athletes have a something to aim for. “The plan set forth by Mr Lewis in incredible; now athletes know what they’re reaching for, and the same has to be done for our female athletes and our women in Trinidad and Tobago... we have to sell them on it.”

Looking forward to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, next year, Borel already has a structure as to how her preparation will come together in the months leading up to the Games. “I like to compete, I like to push myself, but for Rio I’m going to do only the meets that my coach wants me to do,” she said. “Sometimes my coach doesn’t want me to do a particular meet and I go ahead and do it because it’s my job, but this year everything is geared toward preparing for the Olympics, so if a meet is not a preparatory meet for the Games, I’m not going to do it—it’s all in for Rio.”