National Association of Athletics Administrations of Trinidad and Tobago

media_artricles :: 2017


Contented and proud

Callender strides into Olympic gold debate

Kwame Laurence :: Trinidad Express :: 31.01.2017

Members of the Trinidad and Tobago Beijing 2008 sprint relay squad, Keston Bledman, Marc Burns, Emmanuel Callender, Richard "Torpedo" Thompson and alternate Aaron Armstrong, are set to receive Olympic gold, following the disqualification of Jamaican Nesta Carter, who tested positive for the prohibited substance metheylhexaneamine in a retrospective drug test.

Last week, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) stripped Carter and his Jamaica teammates of their 4x100 metres title, clearing the way for a golden upgrade for Team T&T. In the Beijing final, Bledman, Burns, Callender and Thompson, running in that order, had claimed silver for the Red, White and Black.

The expectation of Olympic gold has led to discussion in the public domain about rewards for international sporting success and respect for athletes.

In an open letter to the people of T&T, Callender gives his take:

This is the first time I feel the need to speak on this recent issue.

I cannot speak for or on behalf of the other team members primarily because we each have matured with varying degrees of perception. We enjoy different degrees of economic and social status. But we are at the end of the day one team, one family and we truly believe in our national words (together we aspire, together we achieve).

I will however use this opportunity to speak on behalf of the voiceless. The development coaches, parents and young athletes all sacrifice their time for track and field and get nothing in return. They should be adequately compensated at some point.

At least water or nutritious juices could once again be provided to the kids after training. Transportation from school to practice and from practice to home is a major issue. Athletes who get to National Champs semis and finals should at least get passage to go back home if anything for supporting the meets.

One cannot place first in a final if there is no one to run against.

However, we have a reliable justice on time prisoner service that passes in front of my home daily in Arouca. Parents, coaches and kids who are in traffic that head to training have to move aside for the "Black Maria" to pass. When is there going to be a sport on time service?

Needless to say, I will like to thank the public servants who look after my documents and provide service in training facilities each year.

I cannot expect anything more in return if taxpayers continue to believe that I am not giving them value for their money. Apart from seeking personal excellence, I must emphasise that I run for my beautiful country Trinidad & Tobago.

It was a privilege to run against the likes of (Usain) Bolt and (Nesta) Carter and now there is a chance of receiving Olympic gold from the same race. This however is no comparison to receiving an accolade in a year that I am achieving personal bests.

Achieving top 10 ranking in seven billion people in the world gives you access to 250k TT. Outside of medalling allows only access to 60k TT annually from the Ministry alone. This is 5k per month that I must provide bills for. My chances of accessing 250k in one year is slim but 240k accumulatively in four years is a bit more realistic.

The Ministry has been the most realistic source of funding over the years. I don't think the goal post has shifted much for the high ranking required for individual elite funding.

Elite funding does not exist for teams that perform in the Olympics such as the teams I was fortunate to be a part of over the years. T&T senior relays are usually ranked top 10 in the world.

I am nonetheless grateful for the funding.

The best engineers and engineers of sport in T&T may not even have to ask the government or associations to help fund their career training yet they still have casual, sick leave and gratuities to look forward to.

I cannot buy certain brands of cough syrup if I get sick because it may contain a banned substance. Each day is a work day until I retire whether I am sick or not. After my stint, I have to find work to survive.

I don't get food cards or provided with housing even to pay a mortgage. I can't pay NIS toward my future. This is mainly because it is difficult to work part time in CEPEP in the morning to train in the evening. I won't stand a chance to chase down Bolt, (Yohan) Blake, Asafa (Powell), (Justin) Gatlin, (Tyson) Gay and yes, Carter, much less (Richard) Thompson.

More so athletes cannot threaten to shut down the country's elite participation before major games for a 5% increase but we have got to take 0-0-0 for country and minus 0-0-0 if we come back empty handed as we have bills to pay.

At this time if anything is offered by the people of Trinidad and Tobago I will accept it with grace. If nothing is offered by the persons in authority, I will accept it with the same grace. Notably, the precedent of reward has already been set, though not by me.

I do not know why persons who do wrong especially with false credentials nowadays get promotions and a pat on the back but when you sacrifice to build your own credentials with positivity some folks think twice to support the effort.

Nonetheless, we athletes have a responsibility with what we say and do to keep kids in sports and off the streets like I once was. Disenfranchised groups as para-athletes also have to be encouraged to continue performing for this country at major games. What is their reward for being different and representing T&T?

My job is to run to the best of my ability and do the best to stay clean. The region may not have the facilities for us to test ourselves. Asafa was tested positive and the supplier did not list the banned substances in the product. He got sanctioned.

This is the direction that T&T and Jamaica could aspire to especially if we need to have sport tourism and have international tournaments.

I will continue to do what I have to and let the NAAA (National Association of Athletics Administrations), TTOC (Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee), Ministry (of Sport and Youth Affairs) do what they have to. The Minister always says leave the stars to the astronomers.

At the end of the day I am responsible for owning my failures and sharing my performances. I am a star no matter what anybody says. Who says otherwise can come challenge me at a competition or on the training track for a workout session.

At the end of the day, I can listen to the anthem anytime. I can stand under a flag anytime in Trinidad and Tobago with the same amount of pride as in the Olympics. The glory and honour of my achievements belong to God as He is on the highest podium.

As I continue to celebrate Him, I must contend that this is perhaps the longest celebration of victory in world sports and I am just contented and proud to be a small part of it.

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Contented and proud - Callender strides into Olympic gold debate
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T&T TRACK STAR: Two-time Olympic sprint relay medallist Emmanuel Callender.

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