Richard "Torpedo" Thompson is back, and hoping to inspire Trinidad and Tobago's next generation of sprinters.
Thompson is expected to combine forces with his 2008 Olympic sprint relay gold medal winning teammate Keston Bledman in today's North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletics Association (NACAC) New Life Invitational men's 4x100 metres event in Miramar, Florida, USA.
"I think I can bring a spark to the team in many ways," Thompson told the Express. "I always compete with heart. But I think more importantly I bring wisdom to a team that has quite a few youngsters in the pool like Kion Benjamin and Eric Harrison that I can mentor off the track as well.
"The environment of an Olympics," the T&T track star continued, "can be overwhelming to someone who has never been there so it's the responsibility of people like Keston and me to guide them."
The NACAC New Life Invitational men's 4x1 is an opportunity for T&T to take a firmer grip on an Olympic qualifying berth. Sixteen countries will compete in the event at the Tokyo Games, and T&T is currently in 15th spot with a 38.46 seconds clocking from the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. Jerod Elcock, Bledman, Akanni Hislop and Kyle Greaux combined for Pan Am silver.
Hislop is unavailable for the NACAC New Life meet. Thompson is expected to replace Hislop, joining forces with Elcock, Bledman and Greaux on one of two T&T teams in Miramar. The other team is likely to be Benjamin, Tyrell Edwards, Adell Colthrust and Jereem "The Dream" Richards. Andre Marcano is also in the T&T sprint relay pool.
"I believe we need to run faster than 38.46 to secure our spot. We're in 15th with the 16th team one hundredth of a second behind us and a number of countries hovering just above the 38-mids. They will be finding races to lower their time just as we are."
Thompson and Elcock are also listed for action in today's individual 100m event, while Greaux in on the 200m entry list. The women's 100m is expected to feature T&T sprint stars Michelle-Lee Ahye and Kelly-Ann Baptiste.
A hip injury had sidelined Thompson for the 2017, 2018 and 2019 seasons. The 2008 Olympic Games 100m silver medallist appeared at one indoor meet in 2020, but made his full comeback on Sunday, clocking 10.38 seconds to finish second in a 100m race in Florida.
Thompson was a satisfied man after the outing.
"I thought it was a solid run for someone who hasn't been on the scene in five years. I hit the start the way I wanted to but the latter part of the race needs work. That, I hope, will come with more races."
The 35-year-old enjoyed his return to the track.
"It felt good to race again. I wanted to feel the excitement of competition, being in an environment where you feel butterflies in your stomach from anxiety to perform well, and a rush of adrenaline when the gun goes off. I missed it so much.
"I was nervous before. Nervous to run well and nervous to finish healthy. But once that gun goes off it just feels natural and all fear goes away. There's no training or anything else that can simulate that feeling of actually lining up in competition."
Thompson, the 100m national record holder at 9.82 seconds, needs a 10.05 clocking to qualify for the Tokyo Games individual 100.
"That seems like a far stretch from 10.38 at the moment, given the qualifying period at the end of June. I would have liked to kick off my season earlier to give myself more time but my body didn't allow me to. Maybe my body surprises me and is able to go there faster than I expect."
Whether or not the "Torpedo" faces the starter in the 100m dash in Japan, Tokyo 2020 seems set to be his swansong.
"One more opportunity to represent T&T at the highest level was the driving force behind my preparation. It would take a truly special individual performance in Tokyo," Thompson ended, "to make me compete another year."