Even as Olympic hopefuls engage in keen international competition to register qualifying times for Rio 2016, Sports Minister Brent Sancho and T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis are confirming that new and enhanced arrangements for the preparation of athletes ahead of the games are in place.

But neither official was willing to disclose, at this time, the level of investment required to boost T&T’s chances at the games. In a joint interview with the T&T Guardian, they assured the national community and most importantly the athletes and their representing bodies that this country’s medal push for Rio, would be unlike any before.

Lewis said plans for Rio 2016 were “going excellent,” and explained that a pre-qualification figure could not be disclosed because the approach by his executive, the minister and his staff, as well as national sporting organisations was integrated.

“Plans are going extremely well. The Olympic Committee continues to work very closely with the minister of sport and the ministry of sport, the Sport Company (of T&T) and all the stakeholders. We continue to put things in place. The fact is we are approaching a very crucial milestone in the context of Rio 2016, which is one year to go, from the 5th of August. It is very crucial that we continue to work together because with one year to go, there is no room and margin for error where our athletes are concerned,” Lewis said.

Sancho said his ministry staff met with officials of sporting organisation under the Olympic charter for a programme called the Podium Push.

The minister said, “We have asked the different disciplines to go out and come back to us with what they believe their athletes need to be podium ready for 2016. We are just waiting to put the final touches on that. We will now invest further to make sure that the athletes get everything for the next year to make sure that we achieve the lofty, but very attainable goals set by the TTOC president.”

The success at the Pan American Games said Lewis provided greater clarity in terms of who have qualified, while helping his executive to understand what athletes needed to do to qualify. In his view the Podium Push was an ideal complement to the10 or more Olympic Gold Medals by 2024 programme.

Lewis said, “The Olympic Committee is very happy that everything is being done and we are having the positive, necessary and on-going discussions. I am confident once nothing comes in the way of that our athletes will have no reason to say they weren’t as prepared as they could for Rio 2016. We are on the same page with the minister and I feel confident that I can say that because he has been there before and he understands what is required and that it is about action and not talk.”

Sancho praised the TTOC’s 10 or More Olympic Gold Medal initiative, which in his view epitomized the kind of healthy relationship national sporting organisations needed to establish with the corporate sector.

“It’s a wonderful idea. It’s a true testament to the innovative idea that is set out by the TTOC. At the end of the day, I think any financial rewards at the end of it, is something that could be part and parcel of a drive for an athlete to compete and do well, as well as the national pride that comes with ding well for your country. It’s a truly ingenious idea,” he said.

Lewis said a number of joint projects were in the pipeline between the TTOC and the ministry of sport which includes the Elite Athlete Housing Programme and the setting up of the Good Governance Commission.

“So there is a lot taking place. We all recognise that we can’t continue to do that same things over and over and expect different results. The demands now being placed on our athletes and sports and sport administrators means we all need collectively to rise above the challenge,” said the TTOC official.