Distinguished Ladies and Gentleman
In the summer of 2002 I traveled from Baltimore to Port-of-Spain to London and finally to Manchester to represent Trinidad and Tobago. This was my first National Team. The team was in Manchester for the commonwealth games, and I was excited to represent my country. After the longest journey ever, I was presented with my competition uniform. I immediately realized that key pieces were missing and I become horrified. However, I was lucky to have a friend from Secondary School on the team, and he provided a lot of support and advice. My friend warned me that it is not always easy to represent Trinidad & Tobago. His advice made me feel as if I was a member of a team of athletes, coaches, medical and administrative personal, and we were all doing our best to make our country proud.
While things have improved over the years on team T&T, there is still a lot of room for growth. A challenge has been set by TTOC president, Mr. Brian Lewis, to win ten Olympic gold medals by 2024. Today ladies and gentlemen I'll like to briefly explore what it takes to meet such as challenge. To meet this goal we must become the kind of country that strategically produces champions. We must ask ourselves, is it possible for Trinidad and Tobago to evolve into a sport loving, butt kicking, hard working, sacrifice making, Olympic medal winning nation? I dear to say “yes it's possible”.
In the history of the Olympic Games Trinidad and Tobago has won two gold medals, so if we want to win 8 additional gold medals in less than 10 years we have to make drastic changes. To reach our target team Trinidad and Tobago will have to win approximately 2.66 gold medals at 2016, 2020 & 2024 Olympic Games. This is by no means an easy undertaking, but it is possible. Canada, Sweden, Belgium, Finland, Portugal, Greece and Argentina, are all established sporting nations, but each won less than 2 gold medals at the London Olympic Games. However, I still believe it is possible for Team T&T to meet the challenge set by Mr. Lewis.
It's possible, not easy, but possible. How can we compete against, and perform better than countries that have bigger budgets, better facilites, and larger populations than Trinidad and Tobago? The answer is quite simple, we have to put our people first! Yes honorable guest the answer is simple, but not easy. Today I'll like to purpose five steps that can take us closer to winning 10 Olympic Gold Medals by 2024.
The first step is to create a large pool of coaches, sport administrators, sport medicine personal and support staff.
The staff ranging from volunteers to full time professionals will administer training programs, keep our athletes injury free and provide other services athletes need to succeed. Our local athletes are talented, and they need the guidance of a cohesive coaching and technical staff. Can coaching and the various fields necessary for athlete development evolve into a full time career paths here in Trinidad and Tobago? I believe it's possible. Do you?
The second step is it to create a large pool of potential Olympic athletes.
Our coaches have to Recruit! Recruit! Recruit! Talent identification is key to this endeavor, and every young Trinbagonian should be considered a potential medalist. Therefore, we must develop a sporting culture in this nation, which starts at an early age, and matures into adulthood. The importance of physical education classes and after school sport clubs can not be exaggerated, they contain our next generation of champions. In addition, we must encourage young girls to participate in sport, and see it as a viable career path.
Ladies and gentlemen as a young girl growing up in Mayaro, I was not afforded the opportunity to truly participate in Track and Field. It saddens me when I speak to young people from rural areas and opportunities are still limited. Trinidad and Tobago has produced many world class athletes from our rural areas, the time has come for us to maximize our talent nation wide. I ask you today, do you believe we can introduce sport to even more of our young citizens? I believe it's possible. Do you?
The next step is to select our target Olympic Events.
This is necessary because it is quite challenging for any country to sponsor individuals in all Olympic events. This does not mean that we stop participating in a wide variety of events, but more resources must go towards targeted events. We must decide where we have the best chance to medal, and invest in those events. Exposure of athlete's to target events will be wise. More events can be added over time as the program develops. Can we expect to see greater success if we focus on the areas where we are most talented? I believe it's possible. Do you?
The 4th step is to provide the basic needs of our athletes – healthy food, clothing and shelter.
Far to many of our athletes are unable to meet these basic needs. However, many choose to work and represent Trinidad and Tobago. Is it possible for this nation to provide a home for individuals training for the Olympic Games? I say yes its possible. Can we provide a world class Olympic training center? I believe it's possible. Do you?
The final step is to provide necessary equipment, facilities and technological expertise.
To produce the kind of success we desire it is imperative that our athletes have the tools necessary to practice their sport. Once again we have made strides in this area, but it will take more if we are interested in producing multiple Olympic gold medals. It is my opinion that our athletes and coaches have done well in light of the obstacles faced. However, more is needed if we are serious about winning Olympic goal medals. I ask you once again esteem members of the sporting fraternity, can we meet the needs of our athletes? I believe it's possible. Ladies and gentlemen I leave you with the words of Paulo Coelho: There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve, (that is) the fear of failure.