As the country celebrates 52 years of Independence, it is timely to remind ourselves of some of the outstanding contributions of our sportswomen and sportsmen in their respective sporting disciplines locally, regionally and internationally.
In athletics, Hasley Crawford won the 100 metres gold medal at the Montreal Olympics in 1976, 36 years after, Keshorn Walcott became the country’s second Olympic gold medallist when he won the javelin event at the London Olympics in 2012. Jehue Gordon won gold in the men’s 400 metres hurdle at the IAAF World Championship in Moscow, Russia in 2014. Other notable track and field athletes are Cleopatra Borrel, Michelle-Lee Ahye, Wendell Mottley, Ato Boldon, Richard Thompson, Lalonde Gordon, and Richard Thompson.
This country has produced four boxing world champions. Claude Noel became this country’s first world champion in 1981, when he defeated Mexican Rodolfo Gonzalez to win the WBA World Lightweight title. Leslie Stewart won the WBA World Light Heavyweight title in 1987 defeating Marvin ‘Pops’ Johnson at the Jean Pierre Complex. Ria Ramnarine became the country’s first female world champion when she defeated Ana Fernandez in 2005 at the Jean Pierre Complex to win the WIBA Mini Flyweight World title. At the time of her shocking, untimely death in 2009, Giselle Salandy was a multiple World champion holding the WBA, WBC and WIBA middle weight titles.
Debra O’Connor could be considered as one of the best badminton players of all time in T&T and the Caribbean. The four-time sportswoman of the year won the Caribbean Regional Badminton Confederation singles title on five occasions (1984, 1985, 1990, 1993 and 1995). She was also single and doubles champion in 1984, 1985 and 1995. In 1990 and 1993 she was a Triple Crown winner, being crowned singles, doubles and mixed doubles champion.
Cycling has produced outstanding riders such as Roger Gibbon, Gene Samuel, Maxwell Cheeseman, Michael Phillips, Hylton “Barracuda” Mitchell, Roger Smart, Njisane Phillip and Emile Abraham.
Brian Lara, is by far the greatest cricketer this country has produced. The world record holder for the highest first class score (501 not out) and highest test score (400 not out) conquered all bowlers and thrilled the cricketing world with superb timing and stroke play. Other noteworthy cricketers are Sir Learie Constantine, Jeffery Stollmeyer, Sonny Ramadhin, Gerry Gomez, Deryck Murray, Rangy Nanan, Inshan Ali, Ian Bishop, Ann Browne-John and Anisa Mohammed.
Dwight Yorke is the most celebrated footballer, having won several championships in England and Europe with Manchester United. Other outstanding footballers from T&T are Alvin Corneal, Bobby Sookram, Sedley Joseph, Lincoln Phillips, Everald “Gally” Cummings, Richard Chinapoo, David Nahkid, Russell Latapy, and Shaka Hislop. The “Strike Squad”, 1989, “Soca Warriors”. 2006, and “Soca Princess”, 2014, have all given the population a lot be proud Trinbagonians.
Stephen Ames, Carlos “Sexy” Baynes and Maria Nunes have all represented the golf with greater distinction.
Hockey has provided players such as Stacey-Ann Sui Butts, Kwandwane Browne and Dwain Quan Chan.
T&T was crowned joint World Netball Champions with Australia and New Zealand in 1979. During the 1980s the “Calypso Queens” dominated the Caribbean championship and were among the top five countries in the world. Some of the outstanding netballers of the past are Jean Pierre, Janet Bailey, Sherill Peters and Sharon Castanada.
Road running has become a very popular sport in recent years. Some of the outstanding road runners have been Moses Ranghell, Bernard Mungroo, Michael Alexander, Curtis Cox, Richard Jones, Lynette “Granny” Luces, Richard Jones and Tonya Nero.
George Bovell III is the country’s most celebrated swimmer. His greatest accomplishment has been winning the bronze medal in the 200IM at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Other notable swimmers over the years are Paul Newallo, Sebastian Paddington, Sioban Cropper and Shantol Ince.
Some of the outstanding table tennis players are Mansingh Amarsingh, Derek DeSilva, Steve Ragbir, Seamus Clarke, Dexter St Louis and Rheann Chung. Tennis has provided players in the calibre of Lystra Lewis, Allan and Lindsay Price, Beverly Corbie and Shane Stone.
Bert Manhin and Roger Daniel have dominated the sport of shooting, while Jason Gooding and Ancil Greene have been outstanding triathletes. Cheryl Sankar stood tall in Taekwondo.
Weightlifter Rodney Wilkes was the country’s first medallist at the Olympics winning the silver medal in the featherweight category at the 1948 London Games. At the 1952 Helsinki Games, he won bronze at the same event.
It is evident that the country’s Independence can also be measured by the contribution that sportswomen and sportsmen have made not only to their respective sports but also in ensuring that the rest of the world know that T&T is a force to be reckoned with.
As we continue to grow as a society, every effort must be made to support our sportswomen and sportsmen.