Support for athletes is crucial in the effort to build on Trinidad and Tobago's impressive showing at the 2023 Commonwealth Youth Games. This is the view of Team TTO chef de mission Jehue Gordon.
"We have to continue to support the athletes, not only financially but mentally and emotionally. I believe we have what it takes. However, we need the politics to be in the athletes' favour."
TTO earned four gold medals, five silver and six bronze to finish seventh at CYG 2023.
"I'm extremely proud of the entire contingent," Gordon told the Express. "Fifteen medals, one Games record. I couldn't have asked for a better showing after picking up one medal in the last edition. Doing it in front of the home support makes this success even sweeter."
Nikoli Blackman secured three of the four TTO gold medals, the 18-year-old swimmer touching the wall first in the men's 50, 100 and 200-metre freestyle finals. The other gold went to another swimmer, Zarek Wilson in the men's 100m butterfly. Wilson got home in a Games record time of 53.70 seconds.
"I was really impressed with Nikoli Blackman. Three gold medals, leading the charge by winning our first gold and followed up in every other event with dominating performances and medal colour."
Gordon described CYG 2023 as "fantastic".
"A great display of talent and culture. Every athlete, coach and official I interacted with from the member countries only had good things to say.
"Success," the chef de mission continued, "can be subjective depending on the cap you are wearing. As team leader for TTO, it was a huge success. The team vibe and energy was fantastic, the facilities were great and the performances were outstanding. The team sports faced their own challenges. However, we knew what they were up against."
Gordon said there were a number of factors that contributed to the host nation's 15-medal haul.
"The hard work by the athletes, the great medical support, the welcoming and supporting environment, and lastly the home crowd support."
Two doctors - Nailah Adams and Candice Williams - were part of a large medical team chosen for national duty at CYG 2023. The 13-strong team also included physiotherapists Aqiyla Gomez, Jelani Baptiste, Verne Alleyne and Shenice Gittens.
Experienced integrated manual therapist/massage therapist Ian Sharpe was on the TTO medical staff as well, along with massage therapists Jameel Walcott, Brent Elder, Shurlan Bonas, Dennora George, Derek Ashby-Williams and Odessa Chandler.
Sharpe worked on Blackman and Wilson during the Games, contributing to their combined six medals--four gold, one silver, one bronze.
A beneficiary of Sharpe's expertise during his successful track career, Gordon has a deep appreciation for the behind-the-scenes work of medical personnel. The 2013 men's 400m hurdles world champion emphasised the importance of their role in high level sport.
"I would like to thank my medical staff for the outstanding work for country. Many of them close their offices to ensure that our athletes have the best chance of competing at their best."