media_artricles :: 2017
TT athletes motivated despite 10-month wait for Rio rewardsJelani Beckles :: Newsday :: 29.06.2017
Ten months have elapsed since Keshorn Walcott, Akeem Stewart and Nyoshia Cain earned medals at the Olympic Games and Paralympics in Brazil but the trio has yet to receive any reward from the Government for their medal-winning performances.
Nevertheless, TT's athletes have remained focused and motivated to compete, saying the delayed recognition has not affected them.
Walcott won this country's only medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, when he earned bronze in the men's javelin last August. In September, Stewart and Cain both got on the podium at the 2016 Rio Paralympics.
Stewart won gold and broke the world record in the F44 men's javelin event and copped silver in the F44 men's discus. Cain earned bronze in the T43/T44 women's 100m event.
The Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee has rewarded the trio with medal bonuses after their achievements last year.
Stewart earned US$10,000 for his gold medal and US$8,000 for his silver. Cain and Walcott both got US$5,000 each for their bronze medals.
Immediately following the team's return home from Brazil, Sports Minister Darryl Smith had said formulating a policy where rewards are fixed is high on the agenda.
In a recent interview, Smith said the draft for the new sport policy is complete and Cabinet has to approve it. "I have the draft and we are going through it now. I am going to take it to Cabinet soon, Cabinet will approve it and we are going to have a fantastic launch," Smith told Newsday last week.
The Sports Minister said the new sport policy will include an athlete reward plan which will give details on how athletes will be rewarded for achievements.
"All that (fixed athlete rewards) is part of the new sports policy. We never had a policy on that, so the new policy that we just did includes all of that," he said. The last sports policy in Trinidad and Tobago was established in 2002.
Sean Roach, manager of Keshorn Walcott, said yesterday his client is not affected by not receiving anything yet from the Government for his Olympic bronze medal. After winning the Olympic gold in London on 2012, former Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar greeted Keshorn at the Piarco International Airport, outlining a number of rewards he would receive.
Roach indicated, though, that he is in support of the new policy.
"I think that it is important because it is all about setting goals as an athlete. Having rewards and having set rewards where they will know if I achieve this goal, this is what I will get, is very important for the athlete because it gives them something to work towards." Roach said sport is now a business and some athletes depend solely on their athletic careers to earn a living. He said athletes should be rewarded for their efforts, as a lot of money is spent to prepare for meets including travelling, medical care, training and nutrition.
Roach denied being disappointed with Keshorn having to wait for a reward, noting that patience is needed.
"I would not say I am disappointed as yet. We have had negotiations with the Ministry outlining some little things that we would have liked to have seen with Keshorn.
As far as I am told, things are on stream. I know these things take time. Even when the then Prime Minister (Kamla Persad-Bissessar) announced the different rewards for Keshorn it did not manifest immediately, it took some time," he explained.
Cain, who will compete in the 100m, 200m and long jump events at the World Para Championships in London from July 14 to 23, said she has not been affected by the lack of rewards from the Government.
"No, I won't say it has affected me in any way, because I know sometimes the Government feel athletes always on a 'gimme gimme' kind of thing. I have not really allowed that to hamper me. I have remained focused nevertheless." However, Cain says a concrete athlete reward policy is something she would support. Cain said, "To me it is a good thing. Sometimes, not all the time we will need money.
There are certain things that athletes could probably gain from the Government instead of always receiving money. Sometimes athletes need accommodation, a better home for their family and stuff like that." Stewart, who will compete in the javelin, shot put and discus events at the Para World Championships said he is still motivated.
"I am self motivated, so things like that don't really demotivate me. My main goal is to enjoy track and field and try to empower other athletes and just have fun," he declared.