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Unfinished business - Baptiste eyes Tokyo 2020 sprint relay

Kwame Laurence :: Trinidad Express :: 20.08.2016

Botched baton passing floored Trinidad and Tobago's 4x100 metres women at three successive Olympic Games.

At Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008, bungles eliminated the country in qualifying races. There was improvement, however, at London 2012, T&T successfully negotiating the opening round and progressing to the final, before an incomplete first exchange between Michelle-Lee Ahye and Kelly-Ann Baptiste halted the country's medal bid.

Baptiste holds the dubious distinction of being part of all three aborted Olympic sprint relay challenges. As a result, Friday's fifth-place finish in the 2016 final, here in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was something of a triumph for the 29-year-old sprinter.

"I remember coming to two Games," Baptiste told the Sunday Express, "and not even getting the stick around the track. So while I'm not elated that we got fifth, I see a lot of things we could change moving forward.

"For me personally," she continued, "I know I didn't have the greatest season, so to come out here with the season that I've had and to be able to run as I did and help the team run our second fastest time, I'm proud of that."

On Friday, Semoy Hackett, Ahye, Baptiste and Khalifa St Fort combined for a 42.12 seconds run in the championship race. The only occasion on which a T&T women's 4x1 team went faster was in the 2015 IAAF World Championship final, Baptiste, Ahye, Reyare Thomas and Hackett teaming up for bronze in a national record time of 42.03. Baptiste will be 33 when the 2020 Olympic Games are staged in Tokyo. She said she plans to make the trip to Japan, to help T&T take another shot at a first-ever medal in women's Olympic competition.

"I feel like age is just a number, and I'm not just saying that. Once I take care of my body, I'm going to allow myself to be a contributor, if I can, to give us the best possible chance of getting that Olympic medal that we so know we deserve and are capable of achieving.

"I feel as though women's sprinting is taking off, and I hope that as Khalifa and others come on through, it strengthens our team, and that we can move forward to 2020 and put ourselves in a better position to medal."

Baptiste is a four-time Olympian, having first graced the world's biggest sporting stage 12 years ago, in Athens, Greece. St Fort also made her debut as a teenager, the 18-year-old sprinter anchoring Team T&T in Thursday's qualifying round and again in Friday's medal race.

"I feel amazing," St Fort told the Sunday Express. "Just to be able to be here today was a blessing for me. Eighteen, and making my first Olympics and us making the final; that's big. Of course everyone wants a medal, but we did the country proud. I know I did my family proud. I know each of the athletes out there ran to the best of their ability. That's all you can ask for."

For St Fort, the 2016 IAAF World U20 Championship 100m bronze medallist, Tokyo 2020 beckons. "Of course," the smiling sprinter declared. "Always going for the gold."

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Unfinished business - Baptiste eyes Tokyo 2020 sprint relay
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BIG EFFORT: T&T's anchor, Khalifa St Fort, 3rd from left, watches as Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, 2nd from left, wins silver for Jamaica in the Olympic Women's 4x100m final on Friday in Rio. T&T finished 5th. —Photo: SEAN MORRISON

Kwame Laurence Rio Olympics 2016

Trinidad Express

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