Stewart aims for historic Olympic debut

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REIGNING MEN’S para-athletics javelin (F43) and discus (F43) world record-holder Akeem Stewart is presently on course to becoming the second athlete from the Western Hemisphere to participate in both the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Stewart, who smashed both aforementioned records at the 2015 Parapan Games in Canada, has already achieved the qualifying times for both events at next year’s Paralympics and is now seeking to extend a couple metres on his distance to secure a spot among the males at the esteemed Olympic level.

Having broken the world record in the Parapan discus event last year with a mammoth 63.03m throw, Stewart fell just 2.7m short of attaining the current Olympic qualification standard (66m). Within the coming months however, the 23-year old para-athlete is expected to compete at several IAAF-sanctioned meets in an effort to achieve the talismanic feat of competing on both stages. Historically, 12 athletes have competed at both the Olympic and Paralympic levels, with American Marla Runyan (200; 2004) being the lone participant from the Western Hemisphere.

Stewart now stands just 2.7m away from becoming the first Trinidad and Tobago athlete en route towards attaining such a unique sporting accomplishment.

Speaking to president of the Trinidad and Tobago Paralympic Committee (TTPC) David King on the possibilities of such an achievement, he was quietly confident that Stewart would be able to seal an Olympic spot.

“For the Paralympic movement in Trinidad, when the possibilities of successes such as this, it is important for encouraging other persons that are differently abled to come forward and realise that sport is something I can do and excel at a very high level,” said King.

“Akeem has shown that he possesses great talent and if he does indeed secure Olympic qualification, it will definitely be a great day for our nation’s para-athletes.” The Tobago-based will vie for honours in the men’s discus (F43) and javelin (F43) at the Paralympics and will attempt to attain a qualifying mark for both events for the Olympic Games.

And even though Stewart’s pet event is the men’s shot put, next year’s Paralympic Games will not feature his classification in this event.

Additionally, president of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTO C) Brian Lewis also held in high regard the recent works of Stewart and his coach Wade Franklyn. Following his double-gold performance in Canada, Lewis and his TTO C team travelled to the sister isle to uphold his organisation’s promise of a Pan Am/Parapan medal bonus. Here, Stewart was rewarded with a total of US$6,000 - $3,000 per gold medal. Lewis backs the youngster that created history for the red, white and black.

“We have an athlete who is able to cross both dimensions (Olympic and Paralympic) of the sport. It is a tremendous opportunity and credit to him and the NAAA’s, his coaches and family for giving him that much needed support through it all. We very much want to encourage him to press on. We look forward for him not only to qualify for the Olympic Games, but to also medal at the Parapan Games in particular. This would be a great feat if he can qualify for both world events,” explained Lewis.

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