National Association of Athletics Administrations of Trinidad and Tobago

media_artricles :: 2017


St Fort within sight of senior success

Trinidad Guardian :: 14.06.2017

Khalifa St Fort has signed off her junior career, at least as far as competing at the national championship goes. On the weekend, 19-year-old St Fort retained her girl's U-20 title in the 100m dash with a convincing 11.40 seconds run in the final which was far off from her national junior record of 11.16 but also well beneath the Pan American Junior standard for 2017.

St Fort also looked primed to do the 1-2 by winning the 200m sprint as well but after a 24.05 seconds run in the preliminaries she opted to sit out the final, denying herself the chance to go out with a bang. The Florida-born teenager who first competed locally in 2015, winning the national junior 100m for the very first time, says she has enjoyed blossoming in front of the home fans and looks forward to continuing along that path.

Her next appearance on a local track however, comes later in June at the NGC/NAAA National Open Championships where St Fort hopes to stake a real claim for individual qualification to the World Championships in London.

At last year's National Open, St Fort placed 4th behind her more seasoned countrywomen such as Michelle Lee Ahye, Kelly-Ann Baptiste and Semoy Hackett, good enough to secure a ticket to the Rio Olympics as part of the relay team. But with the World Championships standing as the next major international meet for 2017, her coach Ato Boldon believes that the Florida-born teen is ready to step out of the shadows of her counterparts and claim individual glory.

"Her results (at junior level) are there for everyone to see and she has achieved all that she could at this level, so it's bittersweet to move on but she and I feel that it is time for her to really break through as a senior. At last year's national championships she showed that she is ready but of course she was 18 then and ran against three grown women who each had close to personal best nights," said Boldon.

It was Boldon, T&T's multiple Olympic medallist, who first discovered St Fort and has continued to chart her course as her coach and mentor. He says that the challenge now as she transitions into becoming a senior, is for St Fort to learn how to manage the huge expectation which matches her ambition. Boldon says this will be key if St Fort is to write her name into track and field history for T&T.

Boldon said, "This year has been the most challenging mentally for Khalifa. She has put on more muscle, become stronger and more powerful but yet she has had a lot more injuries and all that can take a toll. In each of her three seasons, she has improved her personal best and is yet to do that this year. She constantly asks why haven't I run 11 seconds yet or why haven't I broken 23 seconds in the 200m and I have had to tell her to be patient. Besides that, as a professional she has had to manage her contractual obligations and all of that.

"I have told her that she must find ways to learn how to consult with others like Sanya Richards-Ross or Natasha Hastings, all people who I am closely associated with to get counsel on how to manage expectation because for an athlete who has had all of the success she has had over the last three seasons, you kind of tell yourself that you can win them all. And I constantly have to tell her that you can't. These are all the things she is realising now, growing pains which she must deal with."

While she is eyeing senior success, St Fort's overall junior career is not quite finished with at least one more item on the agenda. As the defending Pan American Junior 100m champion from 2015, she intends to represent T&T in Lima, Peru, next month. From the starting blocks it might look like a short, straight sprint; the National Senior Championships in June, Pan American Juniors in July and then the big flourish at the World Championships in August, but even as straightforward as it seems, how she manages her time, her body and her thoughts in this period could define what Khalifa St Fort is truly made of.


St Fort within sight of senior success
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T&T Sprint star Khalifa St Fort runs to victory in the female under 20, 200m semi finals at the 2017 National Athletics Junior Championship at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo on Sunday

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