THE dream of every athlete is to experience the glory of the prestigious Olympic Games at least once in their lifetime. It is the pinnacle of success, particularly, to people involved in track and field.
Trinidad and Tobago's Kirdell McIntosh is a part of that community and he hopes to achieve his Olympic dream at the 2024 Games in Paris, France.
McIntosh, who is currently based at the Abilene Wildcats Athletic Club in Arima, has competed as a 400-metre runner at the Penn Relays in the United States (2014, 2015, 2017), the Cave Hill Invitational Games in Barbados (2014), the World University Games in South Korea (2015), the Whitsuntide Invitational Games in Grenada (2017), the National Association of Athletics Administrations (NAAA) Junior Championships (2012), the NAAA Championships and several local track meets.
Throughout his career so far, he has accumulated six major medals - three gold medals, one silver medal and two bronze medals.
He has a personal best time of 48.07 seconds, which was achieved in 2017 at the Whitsuntide Games.
McIntosh began his athletics career in November 2011 when he scrapped football for the quarter-mile sprint as an 18-year-old Upper Six student at St Benedict's College. He was encouraged to make the switch by his physical education teacher, Amin Forgenie, and has since enjoyed the journey.
In an interview on August 9, he said, "I began training with Quantum Athletic Club where Trevor James was the coach at the time. I was blessed with the opportunity to have Jereem Richards and Machel Cedenio as my teammates in my first experience of being an athlete. They were the best athletes that I could have had the honour to train with."
In his first season as an athlete (2012), McIntosh finished second at the National Secondary School Championships, third at the NAAA Junior Championships and fifth at the Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA) trials, clocking a time of 48.80.
"(The CARIFTA time) made me extremely proud as I had only been running for three months," he pointed out. "My teammates and family teased me saying, 'how you make 48 seconds and you now start to run.' Soon after, I earned a scholarship from the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) for athletics, and that's where I spent most of my time doing track and field."
He then had to make the step up from junior to senior level. According to him, the transition was not difficult since he had been a junior for just one year. His experience of training and competing among seasoned athletes was key in his advancement.
Unfortunately, McIntosh's sophomore year was abruptly cut short when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in a training session in 2013. This made his track career "extremely gruelling".
He lamented, "Since then, I haven't been able to complete a full season without injury. I would start every season running well for the first two or three months. Then, I would be consistently plagued by injuries."
McIntosh continued, "Really, it's my fault. I was given a time frame for how long I should have been recovering for. But with excitement, plus the anxiety of being on a scholarship and not competing, I was worried that it would have been revoked for the second academic year. So, I rushed my (recovery), and it has since been detrimental to my track career because, to this day, I still get severe knee pains, forcing me to decrease my work intensity."
McIntosh moved to Abilene in 2016 where he continued to develop his athletic career.
The Wildcats quarter-miler was close to achieving his Olympic dream in 2021, winning the TT Olympic trials at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Mucurapo, but fell short of the required qualification time having been negatively impacted by the covid19 pandemic.
He reflectively stated, "2021 was a really rough year as I was only afforded three (development) races. As a result, I was unable to implement the hard work that I had put in. When (the NAAA) announced that the season was being cancelled due to covid19 restrictions, I (along with many others), decided to stop training."
However, during the cancelled season, the NAAA arranged an impromptu two-meet national trials for the Tokyo Olympics one month before the Games on June 21 and June 27. This decision shocked many local athletes.
McIntosh expressed, "I was contacted and notified about it (the trials) the week before. With very little training, I went out and won both races in 49.12 and 48.82, which wasn't fantastic as the qualifying time was 44.90."
Consequently, he also missed out on the TT Olympic 4x400m relay team as foreign-based athletes were selected based on their times in the United States.
Although he decided to focus on track and field, McIntosh has not abandoned his first love. During the athletics off-season, he plays semi-professional football in the UTT Football League as well as the Get Up and Do It Yourself (GUADIY) League hosted by the University of the West Indies (St Augustine).
Now 28 years old, time is running out for McIntosh, as the average athlete retires at 32 years old. He will be 30 when the next Olympic Games come around and he believes that, although it will be more difficult as he ages, it is still possible to qualify.
While working towards his Olympic dream, McIntosh is employed at the Point Fortin General Hospital as a nutrition and dietetic assistant. He believes that it is necessary to have an academic career to support his track goals.
At the UTT, he graduated with a degree in Applied Science for Criminology. He intends to add to his academic CV by pursuing a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) in Criminology.
"As much as I'd love to be a professional athlete, at my age, I must have something to fall back on", said McIntosh.
He continued, "I'm not the only local athlete who isn't a professional. Many athletes who represented the country in the past weren't professionals or contracted to brands like Adidas or Puma. In 2021, I was grateful to be granted government funding to aide my training regime for Olympic qualification. I have to ensure that there is the right balance so that I can achieve my dream of reaching the Olympics while taking care of my personal responsibilities at the same time."
McIntosh is currently on vacation and will resume training on September 1 in preparation for the 2023 season. During his pre-season, he will begin physiotherapy on his injured knee.
He is also set to open his own athletic club based at the Manny Ramjohn Stadium in mid-September (name currently undisclosed) to coach athletes from under-15 level to senior level. He will be assisted by Precious George and Machel Mark.
Next season will be one of the most important in McIntosh's career, as it will be the key stepping-stone to reaching the Olympics. The 2023 IAAF World Championships can be his opportunity to compete against world-class athletes and evaluate his level against the globe's best. With a supportive team, and his friend Richards, he can achieve the dream.