Less than two years ago, 2014 First Citizen Sports Foundation (FCSF) Awards Sportswoman of the Year Cleopatra Borel was ready to call it a day.
The veteran Trinidad and Tobago shot-putter suffered an injured index finger and she had failed to reach the Olympic final a year earlier by one spot, only to find out later that another competitor, who had reached the final, had tested positive for a banned substance.
It left Borel distraught. “I was there, and when I saw it, it tear at my heart,” related Borel’s mother, Marcelle, who collected the accolade on her daughter’s behalf from Reema Carmona, wife of President Anthony Carmona.
“Because she really worked hard up to that point. Then she got her hand damaged and she was really struggling. She went out there and did her best. We need to keep sports clean. Because she is doing it clean. Back home she started going back to natural foods: dasheen, fig, we tried to get that, so she do it clean.”
As Marcelle tells the story, Cleopatra consi­dered quitting. “Her dad was ill and she was really down at that time because she damaged her finger. She said to her dad, ‘I think I’m going to give up.’ He told her, ‘I may not be here but give it one more Olympics.’ He said: ‘Brazil has always been good to you. Go to Brazil.’”
The following year, 2014, Borel returned with a bang with one of her best years in the field. She threw consistently over 18 metres, and even beat the 19-metre mark. It resulted in her fourth Sportswoma­n of the Year title.
Marcelle has grown accustomed to seeing her daughter battle the odds and win. “Well, Cleopatra is a child that would always surprise us from small. So as she grows older, nothing surprises (us anymore).”
Via her mother, Borel thanked her coach, Ismael Mastrapa Lopez, her physio, the T&T Olympic Committee, the National Association of Athletics Administrators, the Sports Company of T&T, the Ministry of Sport and all of T&T, “especially (her native) Mayaro”.
Sharing honours with Borel on the night was George Bovell, the Sportsman of the Year. Ten years after his previous win, Bovell returned to the top of the podium with three World Cup gold medal­s among his many impressive achievements in 2014. “I’m incredibly honoured to be named Sportsman of the Year in this country,” Bovell said, “especiall­y going up against incredible athletes in the form of Keshorn Walcott, Christopher George and the likes of these amazing and outstanding young people.
“I’m just incredibly grateful for this award, for the opportunity, for my health. I feel very blessed and I like to say that I’m working the dream, not living the dream. Working it every day. Every decisio­n I make is taking me closer to or further away from my goals.”
Bovell’s next assignment after months of training is in Milan next weekend, following which he will set up camp in Italy, which he said could be a potential training base. Bovell said he is grateful to be doing what he loves.
Asked where his resilience comes from, the swimmer waxed philosophical. “Real resilience is those people out there who are taking six, eight rounds of chemotherapy fighting for their lives,” the 2004 Olympic bronze medallist said.
“Those are the real heroes out there. I’m really grateful and I’m very blessed and hope to continue to do it with a bang and finish on top.”