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No days off: Carifta champ Tafari Waldron back in training
Carifta Games 2023 boys under-20 5000m champion Tafari Waldron with his medal at the Queen's Park Savannah, Port of Spain on Tuesday. - Roger Jacob

No days off: Carifta champ Tafari Waldron back in training

Go Back : Newsday : Jelani Beckles : 11.04.2023

WHAT does it take to be a champion?

For Carifta Games 2023 boys under-20 5,000m gold medallist Tafari Waldron, there are no shortcuts to success.

Less than 12 hours after returning home from the annual games, Waldron was at the Queen's Park Savannah in Port of Spain on Tuesday afternoon to continue training.

The Cougars athlete, 17, was one of five TT gold medallists at the 50th edition of the Carifta Games, which ended Monday night at the Thomas A Robinson Stadium in Nassau, Bahamas.

TT ended the three-day meet with 22 medals - five gold, eight silver and nine bronze.

Waldron, a member of Cougars Track and Field Club and a Form Five student at Queen's Royal College, won gold comfortably on Monday in a personal best time of 15 minutes, 33.38 seconds (15:33.38).

TT's track and field contingent had little time to celebrate as they had a flight to catch, eventually touching down in TT at around 3am on Tuesday.

Waldron, a Belmont native, was back home around 4am.

He told Newsday that he can't afford to fall back as he has major events to compete in this year.

Discussing his gold medal, he said, "(It was) kind of emotional because since last year I did not get to do what I wanted to do because I was injured." Waldron earned bronze in the same event at the 2022 Carifta Games in 16:35.73.

"It was only dwelling on my mind, and every training day leading up to it I was saying I have to improve on this. (I told myself) I can't get injured again, I have to go back and get gold this time...

"It is a good feeling, a relief as I got to redeem myself."

Cougars coach Kelvin Nancoo was the TT head coach at the Carifta Games, while Derrick Simon served as TT's middle- and long-distance coach.

The TT Carifta team returned to TT between 3 am and 4 am on Tuesday which meant the athletes and officials did not get a sound night's sleep.

Asked why he returned to training so quickly, he said, "It have Pan Am juniors coming up (this year) and I already ran the qualifying time at Carifta. Not to say I don't believe in rest, I just don't like to drop back unless it is off season...I like to continue pushing and continue improving."

Waldron lapped some of his opponents in Monday's final and dominated the field for the majority of the race. In the closing 50m, Waldron was seen gesturing to the crowd to make some noise as he approached the finish line unchallenged.

"Coming to the finish I noticed there was a TT section cheering, but Bahamas and the other countries had a bigger crowd...so I was trying to get them to get a little louder."

The Bermuda pair of Kahzi Sealey (15:37.56) and Jake Brislane (15:45.84) copped silver and bronze.

Waldron also competed in the boys Under-20 1,500m event finishing sixth in 4:10.26 in a field of 15 athletes. TT's Omare Thompson finished seventh in 4:10.94.

"My goal going into the games was to bring home two medals," Waldron said.

He said there was pushing among athletes during the 1,500m race as competitors tried to make space for themselves. Waldron and Thompson both received minor injuries during the race from the spikes (shoes) of other athletes.

"It just motivated me to come back harder for the 5,000m race."

Waldron said the 5K events locally leading up to the Carifta Games made him "sharper."

Representing TT at the junior level is just the start of the journey for Waldron. "I want to get out there on a scholarship. I want to make senior teams like World Champs, Olympics...be the best I could be."

He wants to study in Florida, Texas or Arkansas.

Waldron was elated with the performance of his team-mates. "I was proud of everybody's performance. All the hard work paid off for everyone...Everybody did their best and you can't ask for nothing better than that."

No days off: Carifta champ Tafari Waldron back in training
Carifta 5,000m champ Tafari Waldron runs laps around the Queen's Park Savannah, Port of Spain on Tuesday. - Roger Jacob