Sprinter Kelly-Ann Baptiste remains passionate about winning a medal for at the Olympic Games although it may likely be her final appearance next year at the postponed event in Tokyo, Japan. This was quite obvious during an interview with Andre Errol Baptiste on isports on i95.5fm on Saturday.

"The dream is still there," said the World Championship medallist. "I've always wanted to get an Olympic medal in an individual event and that still haven't evaded me, it's something I still want to achieve.

"I'm going to be 34 in October. I don't see myself going past this next Olympics, this is my fifth Olympic Games and so I genuinely want to be there to help the team bring home its first Olympic medal."

Baptiste is based in Orlando, Florida in the US and has been faring well during this period of the COVID-19 pandemic, awaiting its end to figure out how to move forward.

"Things were a bit weird at first in terms of the lockdown and everything like that but now, they're opening up stores and things are getting back to normal in some ways so actually not as bad in my area.

"We only started getting back on the track three weeks ago and for the rest of the season for myself, my teammates and my coach, we're just kind of in the frame of mind of having fun. No one knows what is going to happen next year.

"We know that the Olympics is still happening but next year and then there is the World Championships in Oregon. I know the World governing athletics body put out a kind of like a reschedule for the meets that suppose to start I think in August through October but no one knows if that is going to come off so for us it's just, staying fit knowing that there's still going to be Olympics next year.

"So I'm just having fun, trying to move and not get myself too out of shape," said Baptiste who trains with several T&T athlete and international track stars under Lance Brauman at Pure Athletics.

"Shaunae Miller-Uibo, from the Bahamas, she is the 400 metres Olympic champion, Noah Lyles, he is US 200m specialist, Keston (Bledman) is here, Machel Cedeno is here, Khalifa (St Fort) is here, and a couple of other people from Jamaica.

"It's always been so much fun to have just people from your country here, makes it very similar to just being home and have an atmosphere like, just having people you can relate with."

She has been relating well to St Fort, who Baptiste shared is "settling in well".

"Khalifa is somebody that I have admired in terms of her work ethic, her dedication to always want to be well. In some ways, Khalifa reminds me of myself and I just think that she, with the right environment and the right training, she can be a world-beater. I'm excited for her and I'm looking to see what next year holds. She's been doing very well and you know it's a bunch of 'Trinis' here which just makes things easier for her.

And lucky for them Bledman and Cedeno are as excellent in the kitchen as they are on the track.

"Machel cooks the most," said Baptiste laughingly, "Bledman could cook. He can cook anything, Trinidad and America food very good."

A thriving environment for the young sprinter which pleases the reigning National Amateur Athletics Association senior "Sportswoman of the Year", who added: "She has been liking it and I've been loving having her around and seeing how she has progressed and developed over the past couple of months. I'm truly really excited for her."

Baptise also spoke highly of her relay teammate national sprint champion Ahye, who is currently on a two-year ban. She reached out to her and encouraged her to keep "her head up" and if she needs anything, Ahye could reach out to her.

"Michelle is a very strong person mentally, I think this would make her stronger. This coronavirus could be a blessing in disguise, I wish her all the best," said Baptiste who she believes is an important component needed for T&T to reach the podium in the sprint relay.

"For us to win an Olympic medal in the relay we need to have our four best whoever it may be. We need our best to stand a chance and Michelle is one of our best. It's a great thing that Khalifa is here, I'm here, Semoy (Hackett) is here, Michelle is close by (Mauricia) Prieto is in Alabama and some younger ones are coming up.

"So I think our prospects look well, I just think it's about planning. The planning that goes into creating an Olympic medal, it just needs to be there and I just feel like, we have gotten away with just having four fast people and that's not going to cut it any more," said Baptiste, who is currently relying on her sponsors to survive during this pandemic.

"Well you will have to hope that your shoe company holds the faith because most people would have a contract and with no meets, in your contract there is a stipulation that if you compete then you get x-amount of money and so you just hope that considering everything that is going on that your shoe company holds good faith and that they still care and for the people who don't have a contract, you would hope that your maybe country or your government steps in to assist you because without meets you can't make money and if you don't have a shoe contract which a lot of people don't then you're just one your own and you have to fend for yourself and so it's things like federations or even the private sector that can come in and people have different sponsorships they may have and you rely on those things to kind of help you during this time. But I think a lot of people are still waiting on support.

A familiar situation as with funding for elite athletes which due to a bad experience Baptiste has opted to go it on her own.

"If you have a clear picture of what someone is doing in terms of performance that's already laid out like why make it harder for them so for me and my career I just felt like it was always a hassle, or just made hard to access funding and so I decided that I would fend for myself and I don't have any animosity towards the federation or government where that is concerned," reasoned Baptiste, who was previously coached by Ato Boldon.

She gushed over the four-time Olympic medallists, who she believes has a lot to offer as a coach to T&T.

"I respect his energy, his experience is huge. He is an Olympic medallist several times, he's an established track and field athlete for the country. He has been there to the Games, he knows what it is like" said Baptiste. "The value he could bring to the team would be tremendous."

Although her career seems to be winning down, Baptiste still has the optimism of reaching the podium on the Olympic stage and still has a vivid image of when she was in Athens she saw Veronica Campbell-Brown winning the 200m gold medal and stepping on the podium she had tears in her eyes and that and it resonated with her.at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

"I'm at the stage that I probably don't have the child-like passion about track and field but for me, it's more about the mission to inspire people. I want to an example of what's possible to the people that come behind me.

"I think that is what drives me every day to get up and go to training and leave my heart on the track and just be an example of what's possible and if that amounts to an Olympic medal that's great and if not, I just hope along the way throughout my career, I would have inspired somebody to dream big!"

Source: https://www.guardian.co.tt