JUNIOR Sportsman of the Year Nicholas Paul and Junior Sportswoman of the Year Khalifa St Fort were both thankful for a successful 2016, but the athletes are anticipating the new year as they aim to excel at the senior level.
Paul and St Fort were among the winners at the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee Annual Awards Gala at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Port of Spain.
Other winners on the night were Michelle-Lee Ahye (Sportswoman of the Year), Keshorn Walcott (Sportsman of the Year), Akeem Stewart (Sports Personality of the Year), Dylan Carter (People’s Choice Award) and Catherine Forde, who won the Alexander B. Chapman Award for achievements and contributions to sport.
Paul had a stellar 2016 shining at the Junior Pan American Cycling Championships which was hosted at the National Cycling Velodrome in Couva. After receiving the award, Paul stated, “winning this award was a surprise to me and I did not know (I was winning) obviously, but all the hard work paid off so I am just happy with my performance throughout the year and I am very grateful to win this award.” Paul won one gold medal and two silver medals at the Junior Pan Championships which he said were the highlights of his 2016. “There was a lot of high points in my year but I would say the Junior Pan Ams, winning the sprint and coming second in the keirin and the team sprint.” Paul is hoping to continue his success when he enters the senior division. “Next year I am a senior so I just want to keep working hard and try to qualify to ride the Elite Pan Ams. That is one of my biggest goals, to make it to the 2020 Olympics, that is really, really high on my agenda right now.” Paul was invited to train at the UCI (International Cycling Union) World Cycling Centre in Switzerland for a training stint and he spoke glowingly about his experience.
“It was really different (compared) to competing in Trinidad, it was a high level of racing, it gave me a lot of exposure to the elite world and to who the best in the world is. So I am just grateful that I got the opportunity to go out there and witness it for myself.” St Fort, who earned a bronze medal at the Junior World Championships in Poland and represented TT in the women’s 4x100m relay at the Rio Olympics, stated, “2016 has been an amazing experience to go from being the third best on my high school team to now being a Rio 2016 Olympian as well as World Championships (relay) bronze medallist, it’s been a great, great year for me.” St Fort said competing at the Rio Olympics was her biggest accomplishment for 2016.
“Probably Rio because that is something I have dreamt of since I was small, since before I was even running as well as (when) I was running. So being an Olympian at 18 years old is one of the biggest accomplishments so far for me.” St Fort, who is trained by former TT sprinter Ato Boldon, wants to dip below 11 seconds in the 100m and below 23 seconds in the 200m event for 2017 and also compete at the (Senior) World Championships.
“I am still going for my sub- 11 as well as sub-23 and training for World Championships in London.” She continued: “Thank you for your support and I hope we continue to receive your support. We love representing TT and we hope we do you proud in 2017.” Stewart, who won a gold medal (javelin) and a silver medal (discus) at the Paralympic Games in Rio was happy to get the Sports Personality of the Year Award for the second consecutive year.
Stewart said, “It means a lot to me because this is my second consecutive one and I am really grateful for it.” He added, “the experience in Rio was really good (but) before I got to Rio I had to do a drug test in Piarco Airport, a day after I got in Rio (I had another) drug test.
I was a little bit distracted by it but I know I went there with an aim and mission I went and I accomplished it and I was happy with my performance