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Year of the 'Dream'
FLASHBACK:ĂŠJereem RichardsJereem Richards of Trinidad and Tobago TTO celebrates after winning the Men's 400 Metres final in a new championship record time of 45.00 on day two of the World Athletics Indoor Championships Belgrade 2022 at Belgrade Arena on March 19, 2022 in Belgrade, Serbia. -World Athletics

Year of the 'Dream'

Go Back : Express : Kwame Laurence : 25.12.2022

One off-track moment, on January 10, cast a shadow on Trinidad and Tobago athletics for the entire year.

In a country with a strong 400-metre tradition, Deon Lendore was one of the best, occupying third spot on the all-time T&T performance list at 44.36 seconds. Lendore was preparing for what promised to be one of his best seasons on the track when he died in a vehicular accident in Texas, USA less than a fortnight into 2022.

The local track and field fraternity mourned the loss of Lendore, none more so than his friend and Abilene Wildcats clubmate Jereem "The Dream" Richards. Motivated by the memories of Lendore's success on the track and the inspiration he provided as a senior member of the national 4x400m relay team, "The Dream" ran his heart out. In March, Richards travelled to Belgrade, Serbia, where he struck gold in the World Athletics Indoor Championship Men's 400m event. He clocked a championship and national indoor record time of 45 seconds flat to become T&T's first-ever gold medallist at the global indoor meet.

For his outdoor campaign, Richards switched focus to his pet event, the 200m. Solid in April and May, the Point Fortin sprinter exploded in June, getting to the line at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain in a personal best 19.83 seconds for runaway gold at the NGC/NAAATT National Open Championships.

The 19.83 scorcher was only the third sub-20 run of Jereem's career. He would add three more in the next two months.

Competing in the second semi-final heat at the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon, USA, on July 19, Richards was third in a fast 19.86 seconds. He was unable to reproduce that run in the final, finishing sixth in 20.08. Richards competed in a second final at Oregon22. He combined with Dwight St Hillaire, teenager Shakeem McKay and Asa Guevara for fifth spot in the men's 4x400m championship race in three minutes, 00.03 seconds. Kashief King was also part of T&T's 4x4 success in Oregon, anchoring the team to fourth spot in their qualifying round heat.

Richards was back on the job in early August at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England. After cruising through the rounds, the Florida-based athlete put on a masterclass in the men's 200m final, stopping the clock at a championship record and personal best 19.80 seconds to repeat as champion.

Not satisfied with one title at Birmingham 2022, Richards returned to the track the following day to anchor T&T to victory in the men's 4x4. He teamed up with St Hillaire, Guevara and Machel Cedenio for gold in 3:01.29.

At the behest of the half-lap king, the steelpan version of the national anthem was played during the 200m medal ceremony. That melodic rendition of "Forged from the Love of Liberty" was heard again when St Hillaire, Guevara and Cedenio joined Richards on the podium for the 4x4 ceremony. Che Lara and King both ran in the qualifying round, and were rewarded with gold as well.

Surely, Lendore would have been part of that 4x4 celebration had his life not been cut short in January.

T&T ended the 2022 Commonwealth Games with three medals in athletics. In addition to Men's 200 and 4x4 gold, there was men's 4x100m silver for Jerod Elcock, Eric Harrison Jr., Kion Benjamin and anchorman Kyle Greaux, the T&T quartet clocking 38.70 seconds. Akanni Hislop anchored in the qualifying round, and also received a silver medal.

Keshorn Walcott just missed out on the Birmingham 2022 podium, T&T's 2012 Olympic champion throwing 82.61 metres for fourth spot in the men's javelin.

Walcott earned one of two T&T medals at the North American, Central American and Caribbean (NACAC) Championships in Freeport, Bahamas. The Toco athlete threw 83.94m to seize silver. Elcock, Harrison Jr., Guevara and Greaux also claimed silver, the men's 4x1 quartet clocking 38.94 seconds.

Another highpoint for T&T in 2022 came on August 26 at the Athletissima Wanda Diamond League meet in Lausanne, Switzerland, where Richards secured third spot in the 200 in 19.95 seconds - the sixth sub-20 run of his career. Like Richards, Michelle-Lee Ahye was a defending champion at the Commonwealth Games. The T&T sprinter surrendered her women's 100m title in the penultimate round. Running in the second semi-final, she finished third in 11.29 seconds - not fast enough to progress to the final on time.

Earlier in the year, Ahye made an appearance in a global final. The Carenage sprinter got to the line in 7.11 seconds for seventh spot in the World Athletics Indoor Championship women's 60m dash.

Elcock was also a finalist in Belgrade, clocking 6.63 seconds to finish sixth in the men's 60m.

Aaron Antoine and Keeran Sriskandarajah were the standout athletes for T&T at the Carifta Games, in Jamaica. Antoine struck gold in the boys' under-20 high jump with a 2.16 metres clearance, while Sriskandarajah won the boys' under-17 1500m in 4:10.58.

Antoine, Sriskandarajah, McKay, sprinter Shaniqua Bascombe and jumper/sprinter Janae De Gannes are among the rising stars in T&T athletics. They are the future!

The present, though, belongs to Richards. In 2022, he did not allow us to forget the past, paying tribute to the late Lendore at every opportunity. The "Moodset" symbol and archer celebration served as constant reminders of an outstanding career on the track.

Lendore brought us much joy before his tragic death. Richards did the same between March and August, making 2022 the "Year of The Dream".