Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) president summarised the Team TTO effort as “ tough but positive” at the Rio Olympic Games.
Keshorn Walcott’s bronze medal was the only precious metal Team TTO earned after a four-medal haul in the previous London Olympics.
“Going into Rio, we had a realistic shot at equalling our London take but it didn’t turn out that way. From my perspective, I look at it more from the reality of high level sport, There are things that happen outside of your control and things that happen inside your control and you look at it and see where maybe we can do things a little better given hindsight,” Lewis explained.
Besides the Olympic back-to-back medal haul of Walcott, Lewis said when the performances of Machel Cedenio ( 4th in the fastest Men’s 400 m final ever ), Michelle-Lee-Ahye ( first T&T woman to run in three finals- Women’s 100m , Women’s 200m and Women’s 4 x 100 relay) : Cleopatra Borel (7th in the Women’s shot putt final) ; Dylan Carter “ there were a lot of PRs and national records.”
“It is difficult when you understand the process and know the stories, difficult to express disappointment and dissatisfaction with personal bests. If you look at how many finals we were in , yes there were disappointments, “Lewis said referring specifically to the Men’s 4 x 400 relay that was disqualified.
“It was heart-breaking. Going into the Games, you would have had that down on paper as one where we had a good shot at a medal. But again that demonstrated the uncertainty, the unpredictability of elite level sport,” Lewis reasoned. “So it is never won on paper.”
Lewis said the Olympics was the pinnacle of high performance sport and was an unforgiving environment where, the former TTOC general secretary added, every detail of preparation counted.
“When you look back at some of the athletes who had overcome injuries and challenges , even while they qualified and met the standards set by the international organisations and the IOC, “It probably was a bridge too far.” given the reality of elite level sport, Reflecting on the administrative side, Lewis said the TTOC had achieved many of its goals including re-branding and re-imaging Team TTO ; fully embracing the digital age with their strategic marketing initiatives; and engaging fan participation.
“It was a resounding success in the context of raising the profile of Team TTO. There was a whole 21st century approach in terms of how we marketed and how we rebranded.....I think that we really as a team TTO- the athletes the coaches, the team officials and the administrators -we really got engaged in it and , as a result, that little juncture between sport and entertainment hit in a very big way, “ Lewis said adding that one of the downsides of that was fan engagement and heightened expectation“. But it is not something that I would discourage and I think there are lots of important lessons coming out of it. What I enjoy about it as the pure and unadulterated accountability to the public “The lessons include being more confident in setting the goals and beimg a bolder Olympic Committee in assisting the athletes in a timely manner.
“I think that we need to be more proactive in ensuring that the athletes receive the support that they need now for 2020. I think that that we were aware in 2012 and 2008 as to the athletes who were likely to be figuring in 2016 as we are now. We know more or les the pool of athletes to be in mix for 2020 and 2024. And so we have to start meeting their needs with more immediacy.”
Lewis said once athletes had passed through the qualifying procedures for their international organisations, they were deserving of support.
“The bottom line is regardless of the various NSOs and people saying maybe this one is too old, this one not good enough, once there is a process and the athletes are qualifying through that process, whether it be a World Champs, CAC games, Pan Am Games Commonwealth it is a stepping stone, a pathway,” Lewis opined,” so you have youth Commonwealth Games, Youth Olympics, CAC Games C Wealth, Pan Am Games, inside that World Champs or Continental . yes you may get an athlete who comes up as a surprise during a quadrennial but all of us in the environment from the media to the administrators know more or less. To me, we have to be more transparent, if there is qualification standards and people are meeting those qualification standards , then you have to ensure that as far as resources provide the athletes get that support but more importantly soon. I f it is one important thing I would like to see the TTOC do is from now more timely support, start from 4 years out., What you do is use the various games in the quadrennial as a benchmark. Let the athletes know they must perform and have certain results and this is what we will use as a yardstick.”