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BATTLING HARD: T&T quarter-miler Asa Guevara sets off on his lap of the track after receiving the baton from leadoff runner Renny Quow, right, in the World Athletics Championship men's 4x400 metres qualifying round in Budapest, Hungary, on Saturday. Quow, Guevara, Shakeem McKay and Jereem Richards clocked 3:01.54 to finish seventh in heat one, the quartet failing to qualify for the final. - Photo: Getty Images for World Athletics


Go Back : Express : Kwame Laurence : 27.08.2023

Trinidad and Tobago's campaign at the World Athletics Championships here in Budapest, Hungary, did not bear the desired fruit.

TTO earned its' first-ever World Champs medal in 1997, when Ato Boldon struck gold in the men's 200 metres. Since then, the country has gone medal-less at the biennial meet five times, including the last three editions.

Budapest 23, however, will not only be remembered for TTO's absence from the podium. For the first time in 24 years, there were no Trinidad and Tobago finalists at the global championship.

"Coming into these Championships," Team TTO manager Dexter Voisin told the Express, "there were four individual qualifiers and three qualified relay teams. Only one athlete and one relay team were ranked in the top eight. Based on these facts, it was understood by all that it would have been an uphill task which needed a level of commitment by all in order to achieve the desired results."

Voisin said that though the athletes were firmly focused on the task at hand, the TTO goals were not achieved.

On the positive side, there were two individual semi-finalists - Jereem "The Dream" Richards in the men's 400 and Michelle-Lee Ahye in the women's 100. Keshorn Walcott, however, was a non-starter. The 2012 Olympic Games men's javelin champion was ranked seventh in the world ahead of the meet, but was forced out by injury.

There was TTO representation in three relays here in Budapest - women's 4x100, men's 4x100 and men's 4x400. They all bowed out in the qualifying round. The country has a strong tradition in World Championship relays, earning precious metal in the men's 4x4 as well as the men's and women's sprint relay. The most recent relay success came in 2017, TTO grabbing gold in the men's 4x4.

Also in 2017, Richards bagged 200 bronze. In 2019, 2022 and 2023, however, there were no podium appearances for TTO.

"Recommendations are made by team managers after each meet," Voisin explained. "However, turning things around needs the involvement and commitment by all stakeholders as it relates to what is needed to implement meaningful changes to see a turnaround in the sport, and by extension all sport.

"For me to say I expect to see a change in fortunes at the Paris Olympics next year will mean that I have control of the Road to Paris, which I don't. However, I am certainly willing to be part of any planning process towards Paris with the key stakeholder, the Olympic Committee (TTOC) in that instance."

Leah Bertrand was the youngest TTO athlete to compete in an individual event here in Budapest. The 21-year-old sprinter held her own, finishing sixth in her women's 100m first round heat and 29th overall in 11.32 seconds. Of the 16 athletes who travelled to Budapest on national duty, seven are between the ages of 18 and 21. Two are teenagers - Revell Webster, 18, and Devin Augustine, 19.

"The positives coming out of Budapest," said Voisin, "will have to be taken more by the young athletes who would have experienced a competition of this magnitude for the first time as a trigger to jump start their athletics career on the senior stage and continue to represent TTO for years to come as part of the transition.

"I am optimistic for the future based on the emerging pool of young talent. Over the years, our young talent moved to the US college system to further their education and track and field careers. Some survived and a lot have not. Based on the trend," the team manager ended, "the future of our emerging talents will depend on their successful transition through the US collegiate system."