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Jereem Richards relishes proving critics wrong in 2022
Jereem Richards celebrates after winning the gold medal in the men's 200 metres during the athletics competition in the Alexander Stadium at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, on August 6. (AP PHOTO) -

Jereem Richards relishes proving critics wrong in 2022

Go Back : Newsday : Jonathan Ramnanansingh : 14.09.2022

THE HIGHLIGHT of Jereem Richards' 2022 season thus far, has been proving his critics wrong.

Richards made the statement on Wednesday at the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee's (TTOC) virtual presentation, where TT's 12 Commonwealth Games medallists, were financially rewarded through its athlete medal bonus initiative.

The sprinter, who favours 200m and 400m events, has had a medal-laden 2022 season across the local, American and European circuit.

At the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England in July and August, Richards successfully defended his 2018 200m gold medal by breaking the Games' record while picking up his personal best time of 19.80 seconds.

He also anchored TT to a historic men's 4x400m relay gold with Dwight St Hilliare, Asa Guevara and Machel Cedenio.

In June, at the National Association of Athletics Administrations Open Championships, Richards ran the fastest 200m time ever on local soil to win gold in a blistering 19.83.

He set a new championship record, then-personal best and also earned IAAF World Championships qualification. It was also his first sub-20 seconds performance for the year. Since then, Richards has gone on to dip below the 20-second mark on three occasions.

Richards however, said many critics denied his 19.83 time at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo was authentic. He proved otherwise at the Birmingham meet, five weeks later.

"This has been, by far, the best season that I've ever had in my life. I've had two personal bests in both events; 400m and 200m. I was able to dip under 20 seconds four times this season.

"One of the best feelings ever, honestly, was to back it up because a lot of people in the track like to say Trinidad's track is 90 metres. Just to prove people who stay stuff like that, wrong, was a big feat to me," he said.

In March, Richards made history by winning World Athletics Indoor 400m gold in Belgrade, Serbia. His 45-second flat time was a championship record and new national record. He also became the first TT athlete to win the world indoor 400m.

He has been outstanding throughout the season is more often than not, among the medals at any meet he contests.

"God has really blessed me richly this season but I've also worked very hard. I'm thankful for the support I've gotten from my family, friends, TT, my sport psychologist... because so much went into this.

"I've done so much, worked so hard, tried to be the best I could in all aspects of my life and it really came forward and it was a successful year. If I had to do it over again, it would be hard to.

"I feel like I've done everything right there. There were spaces where I could have done better but this was the hardest I've ever worked in my life, sacrificed a lot and I was able to be successful."

Richards added that his former teammate and training partner Deon Lendore, who passed away in a car accident in Texas, US in January, continues to serve as one of his greatest inspirations.

Since his passing, Richards regularly mimics Lendore's trademark 'bow-and-arrow' celebration when he grabs a podium spot. He does it in memory of his close friend, who served as one of key motivators.

"Although sad, Deon's passing was a big motivation for me this year. I still think about him and it was something, at this point, still so unreal to believe.

"I know at the end of the day the type of person he was, the happiness he brought to the team, the motivation he was to all of us. My entire generation coming up as athletes would have looked up to Deon and want to emulate and be just like him," he said.

Now, Richards is the oldest member of the 4x400m team and hopes he can follow in Lendore's footsteps to inspire the younger generation of athletes. Richards led the team for the first time at Commonwealth.

On leading the team, he said, "It was a hard task because I felt like no one could be the type of person he (Deon) was. But it definitely was motivation to try to live up to that.

"I know he would have wanted his legacy to live on and to continue bringing the venom he would have brought on and off the track, and motivate younger athletes like he would have done. I know he would have never wanted something like that to die out.

"I thought about him in and out of practice. Each time I had to run, even if I felt scared a little, I told myself that 'Deon wouldn't get scared, he would motivate his team'. And I would question myself asking 'What would Deon do'?

"It was a sad moment this year for me but a pivotal one."