ATHLETE WELFARE & PREPARATION FUND

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"It's not a sac­ri­fice, it's a choice," says his­to­ry-mak­ing Amer­i­can track sprint­er Lau­ryn Williams. Williams was mak­ing the point in an in­ter­view about the chal­lenges ath­letes have to face. A cred­i­ble voice giv­ing re­al and need­ed ad­vice - an ath­lete who has seen life from the per­spec­tive of a con­tract­ed track and field star and as a free agent bob­sleigh com­peti­tor.

A four-time Olympian and three-time Olympic medal­list and one of on­ly five ath­letes in the his­to­ry of the Olympic Games to win medals at both the Sum­mer and Win­ter Olympics.

Her dec­o­rat­ed ath­let­ic ca­reer end­ed on a high at the 2014 Win­ter Games in Sochi, where she won the sil­ver medal in the two-woman bob­sleigh event.

Eight glob­al medals be­tween the Olympics and worlds, in­clud­ing the 2005 IAAF World Cham­pi­onships 100m ti­tle. Williams is the first Amer­i­can fe­male Olympian to earn a medal at both the Sum­mer and Win­ter Olympics with a sil­ver in the two-woman bob­sled with Elana Mey­ers at the 2014 Sochi Games.

In 2004, the then 20-year-old Uni­ver­si­ty of Mi­a­mi ju­nior won the 100m at the NCAA Out­door Cham­pi­onships in 10.97, the fastest Amer­i­can time that sea­son and the sec­ond-fastest time in the world. "It was the Olympic year and I was the fastest Amer­i­can", Wil­iams was quot­ed as say­ing.

But she had no idea how to nav­i­gate the pro­fes­sion­al op­por­tu­ni­ties that were now open to her af­ter her NCAA win.

"Do you go pro be­fore the Tri­als, dur­ing the Tri­als, or af­ter the Tri­als?" Williams said of her dilem­ma, one faced by every elite col­lege ath­lete look­ing to turn pro in a world or Olympic year. You have to de­cide if wait­ing is worth the risk for a bet­ter con­tract."

Williams ac­knowl­edges that many young ath­letes do not have the ap­pro­pri­ate sup­port sys­tem from the get-go.

Post her com­pet­i­tive ca­reer, the leg­endary track star is now a cer­ti­fied fi­nan­cial plan­ner and en­tre­pre­neur- founder of Worth Win­ning, a 100% vir­tu­al plan­ning com­pa­ny. Au­thor of the Oval Of­fice, a guide to be­com­ing a pro­fes­sion­al ath­lete.

Williams, who has Trinidad and To­ba­go roots, is on a mis­sion to share in­for­ma­tion, guide and ad­vise ath­letes on how to nav­i­gate the labyrinth of pro­fes­sion­al sport.

Her words of wis­dom are worth hear­ing, the busi­ness of pro­fes­sion­al sport is no jok­ing mat­ter, in­formed de­ci­sion mak­ing is a crit­i­cal suc­cess fac­tor.

Williams' vis­it to Trinidad and To­ba­go may be the cat­a­lyst for those will­ing to lis­ten, to learn and ben­e­fit from an ath­lete who achieved at the high­est lev­el of her sport.

Her sto­ry of the strug­gles- the ups and downs of life as an elite pro­fes­sion­al ath­lete will pro­vide.

Writ­ten by Bri­an Lewis.

Ed­i­tor's note:

Bri­an Lewis is the Prei­dent of T&T Olympic Com­mit­tee (TTOC) and the views ex­pressed are not nec­es­sar­i­ly those of the TTOC.

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