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Trinidad and Tobago-born Clement golden in 400 hurdles

Kwame Laurence :: Trinidad Express :: 18.08.2016

Tonight's Olympic sprint relay finals at the Joao Havelange Olympic Stadium here in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, are an opportunity for redemption for Trinidad and Tobago.

Richard "Torpedo" Thompson anchored the men's team to third spot in heat two, in yesterday's men's qualifying round. The three-time Olympic silver medallist teamed up with Keston Bledman, Rondel Sorrillo and Emmanuel Callender for a 37.96 seconds clocking, behind Japan, winners in an Asian record time of 37.68, and Jamaica (37.94).

Bledman, Sorrillo and Thompson all exited the 100 metres event in the first round. Thompson is keen to make amends.

"There's the obvious disappointment in the individuals by myself and the others too. But this is not the first time this has happened, and it's a matter of picking yourself up. We give God thanks and praise for giving us another opportunity to sort of have redemption; and just as we did in the individual, give everything that we have.

"We're going on the line to leave it there," the T&T anchorman continued, "to give every single thing that we have. We're going to have fun. And hopefully, what God has in store for us coincides with what we want for ourselves."

Bledman, Marc Burns, Callender and Thompson, running in that order, earned silver for T&T at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games. Yesterday, Sorrillo replaced Burns on the back straight. But for the others, roles remained the same.

Mens 4x1 relay team. Video courtesy CCNTV6

"It felt really good," said Bledman. "First leg is my thing. I've been doing it for quite some time now. I went out there with a vengeance in my heart to make up for when I stumbled in the 100. I used all that negative energy to translate into positive. Sorrillo and I did no baton passing until today when we were warming up. We really didn't get it, but I'm a man I don't let go that stick until it's in hand."

Sorrillo, a semifinalist in the 200m event here in Rio, said some fine-tuning is necessary ahead of the 9.35pm (TT time) final.

"We have to make some minor adjustments in terms of the intensity getting out of the zones."

While the other three members of the T&T quartet had individual outings at Rio 2016, yesterday's qualifying race was Callender's first taste of action at Rio 2016.

"Got the cobwebs off. Now, it's just to go to the final and leave it up to God."

T&T will run blind out in lane eight in the championship race.

"It's all about having fun," said Thompson. "Going out there, believing in one another, representing one another, holding strong and firm together, and I think we could do well."

The T&T combination of Semoy Hackett, Michelle-Lee Ahye, Kelly-Ann Baptiste and 18-year-old Khalifa St Fort got the baton round the track in 42.62 seconds to secure third spot in the second women's 4x100m qualifying heat and automatic passage to the final.

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4x1 Women's relay team. Video courtesy CCNTV6

Germany won in 42.18, ahead of Nigeria (42.55) and T&T. United States dropped the baton on the second handover, but were granted a re-run on their own, last night, after it was determined that Allyson Felix was impeded. The Americans clocked 41.77 seconds in the re-run to advance to the final.

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USA 4x100 women re-run race. Video courtesy CCNTV6

T&T had competed in the 4x100m final at the 2012 London Olympics, but did not finish the race following a baton bungle on the first exchange. Had they completed the race, the result would not have mattered, since the team was subsequently disqualified because of Hackett's anti-doping violation.

Today's 9.15pm championship race is a shot at redemption for Hackett.

"We went out there to put our best foot forward and to make it to the final," said Hackett, following her leadoff leg effort in the qualifying heat. "In the final, we hope to improve on our time and position."

After three rounds in the 100m and another three in the 200m, double sprint finalist Ahye was back on the track yesterday, running her heart out for the Red, White and Black.

"Only because I love them," the red-haired sprinter quipped.

Baptiste, who ran the leadoff leg in T&T's bronze medal performance at the 2015 IAAF World Championships, in Beijing, China, explained her switch to third.

"You see how Semoy has been starting this entire meet, from the 100 to the 200, so we felt like it was best that she starts, and give it to Michelle, as the strongest of all of us, to run the longest leg. I opted to run third because it gives Khalifa less taking and giving to do. She just has one to do, take the stick and run, and the outcome we definitely hope is walking away with a medal around our necks."

Anchorwoman St Fort was thrilled to make her Olympic debut.

"It felt amazing to be on the track with this great group of athletes," said the smiling teenager. "That definitely gave me confidence, and put me in a great position to come out here and get to the final."

At 8.10 this evening, T&T will bid for a third relay final berth, here at Rio 2016. The men's 4x400m team will see action in the first of two qualifying heats, against a strong field, including United States, Jamaica and Botswana. The top three finishers will qualify automatically for tomorrow's medal race.

The T&T quartet will be chosen from Lalonde Gordon, Jarrin Solomon, Deon Lendore, 400m finalist Machel Cedenio, Renny Quow and Jereem Richards.

To date, there have been no medals for Team T&T at the 2016 Olympic Games. But there was a victory of sorts, yesterday, with Trinidadian-born Kerron Clement striking gold in the men's 400m hurdles in 47.73 seconds.

Tonight, the T&T sprint relay teams will bid to join their former compatriot on the Rio 2016 podium list.

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RELAY REDEMPTION - Trinidad and Tobago-born Clement golden in 400 hurdles
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GETTING IT RIGHT: Trinidad and Tobago's Kelly Ann Baptiste, left, prepares to hand over the baton to teammate Khalifa St Fort during their Women's 4 x 100m Relay qualifying heat at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, yesterday. —Photo: SEAN MORRISON

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