It takes some­thing spe­cial to stand out in the Olympic games, where more than 11,650 of the world’s best ath­letes have con­verged to com­pete.

But stand out is ex­act­ly what T&T ath­lete Tyra Git­tens did when she com­pet­ed in the Women’s Long Jump. Apart from her ath­let­ic prowess, and beau­ty, what drew the cam­eras to Git­tens was her per­son­al­i­ty.

Git­tens laughed, danced, and smiled when the cam­eras were on her as she wait­ed to com­pete.

Even her com­peti­tor, Tara Davis from the Unit­ed States, fell un­der Git­tens’ mag­net­ism dur­ing the Group A qual­i­fi­ca­tion round.

“She’s so fun­ny,” Davis told the cam­era.

But it was not all fun and games for Git­tens, be­cause when it came time to jump she was all busi­ness.

When the sand was set­tled, Git­tens placed in the top ten in the world in Women’s Long Jump.

The thing is the long jump is not even Git­tens’ true ath­let­ic love.

That pride of place in Git­tens’ heart is the hep­tathlon.

So with all those el­e­ments in place you would think spon­sors would be pound­ing down Git­tens’ door.

But, un­for­tu­nate­ly, this may not be the case.

“I re­al­ly hope Tyra Git­tens gets some kin­da spon­sor­ship/en­dorse­ment af­ter this she’s ,” her fel­low T&T Olympian Michelle-Lee Ahye tweet­ed.

Even be­fore Git­tens com­pet­ed in the Olympics, coach An­to­nia Bur­ton had tweet­ed some­thing sim­i­lar.

“With T&F (track and field) start­ing soon I just want the T&T pub­lic to know that Tyra Git­tens is most like­ly go­ing to make the fi­nals of the women’s long jump and she’s go­ing to be chal­leng­ing for a medal. If you not fol­low­ing her yet (and if you’re a com­pa­ny with mon­ey to en­dorse) do so now,” Bur­ton tweet­ed.

Un­for­tu­nate­ly, the is­sue of fund­ing does not af­fect Git­tens alone.

Git­tens’ fel­low T&T ath­lete Por­tious War­ren who placed just out­side the top ten in the Women’s Shot Put took to so­cial me­dia to lament her fi­nan­cial strug­gle to reach the Olympics.

“For those who know me per­son­al­ly you know of the many road­blocks I faced on my way to be­com­ing an Olympic fi­nal­ist. From com­ing out of pock­et for all of my meets, mak­ing sure I did ther­a­py so that I will stay fo­cus and keep my men­tal health in check,” War­ren post­ed on her In­sta­gram page.

“Some­times I won’t know how my bills were go­ing to be paid but I al­ways found a way. Not on­ly be­cause I have al­ways dreamt about it, but to give the youths of my na­tion the hope, the faith, and mo­ti­va­tion they need to go af­ter what they want and nev­er lim­it them­selves de­spite the dif­fi­cul­ties,” she post­ed.

De­spite these chal­lenges both Git­tens and War­ren have com­mit­ted to work to­ward the Paris 2024 games.

But fi­nan­cial chal­lenges are not lim­it­ed to T&T ath­letes on­ly.

Even Olympic leg­end Us­ain Bolt spoke of the lack of cor­po­rate fund­ing for Ja­maican ath­letes.

“A lot of ath­letes sought sup­port from cor­po­rate Ja­maica in their prepa­ra­tion lead­ing up and head­ing to the Olympic Games and got NO HELP. Ath­letes know your worth/pow­er now that they all want to jump on­to your brand/im­age for free,” Bolt tweet­ed when the Olympic Games end­ed.

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Colm Im­bert, dur­ing his bud­get pre­sen­ta­tion last Oc­to­ber pro­posed an in­crease in the tax al­lowance from $6 mil­lion to $12 mil­lion for com­pa­nies that spon­sor sport­ing ac­tiv­i­ties or events or sports­men or art and cul­ture.

This mea­sure took ef­fect on Jan­u­ary 1, 2021.

But while ath­letes from T&T and Ja­maica ath­letes may have had sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ences with cor­po­rate spon­sors, oth­er coun­tries put their mon­ey where their mouths were.

In­dia saw their in­vest­ment pay off when Neer­aj Chopra cap­tured gold in the Men’s Javelin.

Chopra is the first track and field ath­lete from In­dia to be­come an Olympic cham­pi­on.

The Sports Au­thor­i­ty of In­dia is re­port­ed to have in­vest­ed US $650,000 in Chopra over the last four years, fol­low­ing a strong show­ing in the Un­der-20 Youth games in 2016. It is not to say that T&T does not un­der­stand the ben­e­fits of in­vest­ing in our ath­letes.

“To at­tain ex­cel­lence in sport and in­crease par­tic­i­pa­tion in ma­jor sport­ing events is de­pen­dent on the cre­ation of high per­for­mance ath­letes,” the 2008-2009 progress re­port for the Vi­sion 2020 Op­er­a­tional Plan stat­ed.

In No­vem­ber 2006, Cab­i­net ap­proved the Elite Ath­letes As­sis­tance Pro­gramme (EAAP) pol­i­cy guide­lines to pro­vide fi­nan­cial sup­port for the prepa­ra­tion and con­tin­ued de­vel­op­ment of na­tion­al ath­letes who at­tained the in­ter­na­tion­al qual­i­fy­ing rank­ing, as de­ter­mined by the In­ter­na­tion­al Sport­ing Fed­er­a­tions.

The EAAP fund­ing is in­tend­ed to meet ex­pens­es such as train­ing sched­ules, coach­ing fees, nu­tri­tion­al and med­ical ex­pens­es, trav­el ex­pens­es for train­ing, sanc­tioned com­pe­ti­tions and pre-games tours, ac­com­mo­da­tion for train­ing and pro­fes­sion­al ex­pens­es.

In April, Dy­lan Carter, for­mer sports­man of the year Jereem Richards and Nigel Paul were pre­sent­ed with cheques to­talling $450,000 from Min­is­ter of Sport and Com­mu­ni­ty De­vel­op­ment Sham­fa Cud­joe.

In Feb­ru­ary, five oth­er ath­letes And­wuelle Wright, Machel Ce­de­nio, Kyle Greaux, Sparkle McK­night, and Jerod El­cock al­so re­ceived fund­ing as part of the EAAP.

Ac­cord­ing to the cri­te­ria, ath­letes ranked in the World Top 10 po­si­tions qual­i­fy for the EAAP’s cur­rent max­i­mum sum al­lo­ca­tion of $250,000.

While ath­letes ranked in the World Top 11-40 po­si­tions will ben­e­fit up to $187,500 (75 per cent of the max­i­mum sum).

And ath­letes who medal in the spe­cif­ic Games and Cham­pi­onships may ben­e­fit, on a case-by-case ba­sis, from up to $75,000 (30 per cent of the max­i­mum sum).

Apart from this a to­tal of 12 ath­letes were se­lect­ed for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Sol­i­dar­i­ty Schol­ar­ship Pro­gramme which com­menced from Jan­u­ary 1st 2018.

Each ath­lete was sched­uled to re­ceive a to­tal of US$ 500 per month, once they com­plied with Olympic Sol­i­dar­i­ty con­trac­tu­al oblig­a­tions.

The se­lect­ed ath­letes were: Khal­i­fa St Fort, Ka­maria Du­rant, Sparkle McK­night, Michelle-Lee Ahye, Machel Ce­de­nio, Jereem Richards, Nigel Paul, Michael Alexan­der, Nicholas Paul, Aisha Chow, Kel­ly-ann Ar­rindell and Dy­lan Carter.

Ahye was even­tu­al­ly re­moved from the schol­ar­ship due to an an­ti-dop­ing rule vi­o­la­tion. Ad­di­tion­al sup­port was of­fered to a few ath­letes for prepa­ra­tion to­wards the Olympic Games 2020 —and medal bonus pay­ments for top fin­ish­es at the Pan Amer­i­can Games 2019 held in Li­ma Pe­ru.

“Each year, Na­tion­al Olympic Com­mit­tees are giv­en ac­cess to a Fund­ing Grant to sup­port ath­letes to reach their max­i­mum po­ten­tial through sport, which is all geared to­ward the Olympic Games. In an ef­fort to sup­port TeamT­TO ath­letes, fund­ing sup­port is strate­gi­cal­ly al­lo­cat­ed to TeamT­TO ath­letes for the op­por­tu­ni­ty to train, pre­pare and achieve sport­ing ex­cel­lence,” the T&T Olympic Com­mit­tee stat­ed in its 2019 an­nu­al re­port.

“In 2019, 100 per cent of the PA­SO Sup­port Grant was used across 8 sport­ing dis­ci­plines to sup­port 32 ath­letes and their NSO’s, ei­ther to­wards their prepa­ra­tion for the Pan Amer­i­can Games and or the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and qual­i­fy­ing events re­lat­ed to ei­ther event. Funds pro­vid­ed to NSOs were utilised for elite ath­lete pro­grammes, such as train­ing camps, coach­ing, med­ical sup­port and trav­el to in­ter­na­tion­al com­pe­ti­tion,” it stat­ed.

In May, the Sports Min­istry con­tributed over $2.7 mil­lion to­wards Team TTO’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in Japan.

The TTOC was orig­i­nal­ly work­ing with an over­all bud­get of $4 mil­lion but on­ly re­quest­ed $2.7 mil­lion from the min­istry.

Britain made a to­tal in­vest­ment of £345 mil­lion to 31 Olympic and Par­a­lympic sports for the Tokyo Games.

This was £2 mil­lion less than the record £347 mil­lion al­lo­cat­ed in the run-up to Rio in 2016.

“Is it that T&T is will­ing to spend $3 bil­lion to get medals? The an­swer to that is ob­vi­ous,” TTOC pres­i­dent Bri­an Lewis said.

Lewis said T&T still has a cul­ture that sees “sports as a waste of time and an ob­sta­cle to ed­u­ca­tion.”

On the con­verse, Lewis said Ja­maica sees Track and Field as a part of their na­tion­al iden­ti­ty, and that is why a school com­pe­ti­tion like “Champs” can draw ca­pac­i­ty crowds.

Lewis said some coun­tries take sports se­ri­ous­ly and put their mon­ey where their mouths are.

Malaysia told them they pumped US$5 mil­lion in the cy­clists alone, Lewis said. But the Gov­ern­ment alone should not be blamed Lewis said. Lewis said if at least 100,000 peo­ple in T&T were will­ing to com­mit $5 a month that would go a long way. In De­cem­ber 2014, the TTOC launched an ini­tia­tive called #10golds24. As the name sug­gest­ed, the goal was for T&T to win 10 gold medals by the 2024 Olympic and Par­a­lympic Games.

Lewis said this was an “as­pi­ra­tional goal.”

TTOC’s 10 Gold by 2024 Ath­lete Wel­fare and Prepa­ra­tion Fund is to be con­vert­ed in­to the Team TTO Foun­da­tion.

This fund which is fu­elled by the TTOC’s an­nu­al marathon walk and mer­chan­dis­ing to raise funds for Olympic-bound ath­letes.

“The na­tion­al sport­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions that are heav­i­ly crit­i­cised, with jus­ti­fi­ca­tion in some in­stances, are all vol­un­teers. I don’t get a cent. The elect­ed mem­bers of the TTOC don’t get a cent, don’t get per diems, don’t get stipends, we are an NGO in terms of struc­ture,” Lewis said.

“I am not say­ing we should get paid. I am say­ing the peo­ple who re­al­ly im­pact and dri­ve the thing the ath­letes, the coach­es, the ad­min­is­tra­tors who re­ceive the brunt of the crit­i­cism are the ones do­ing it for the love and the pas­sion and pur­pose,” Lewis said.

“The sport ad­min­is­tra­tors, the ath­letes, the coach­es they do it be­cause they are pas­sion­ate about sport, they love sport and they love their coun­try,” he ar­gued.

The TTOC is an in­de­pen­dent or­gan­i­sa­tion re­spon­si­ble for pro­vid­ing T&T ath­letes with re­sources they need to achieve goals at the Olympics, Youth Olympics Games (YOG), Cen­tral Amer­i­can and Caribbean Games (CAC Games), Pan Amer­i­can Games (Pan Am Games), Com­mon­wealth Games and Youth Com­mon­wealth Games.

“The TTOC is fund­ed prin­ci­pal­ly through grants from the Pan Amer­i­can Sport Or­ga­ni­za­tion (PA­SO), the In­ter­na­tion­al Olympic Com­mit­tee (IOC) and cor­po­rate spon­sor­ship. The TTOC is non-prof­it and in­de­pen­dent of gov­ern­ment and gov­ern­ment fund­ing oth­er than con­tri­bu­tions by the Min­istry of Sport to the na­tion­al team’s rep­re­sen­ta­tion at In­ter­na­tion­al Games,” its web­site stat­ed.

The 2020 Olympics is the first time since 1992 that T&T has not won a medal.

We had not won a medal sev­en Olympics be­fore then.

A medal bonus of US$40,000 for gold, US$15,000 for sil­ver and US$10,000 for bronze had been in­sti­tut­ed.

A to­tal of 33 ath­letes trav­elled to Tokyo which was the coun­try’s largest con­tin­gent ever.

“We are a so­ci­ety that wants to reach the des­ti­na­tion but we don’t want the jour­ney. We want the end re­sult but we don’t want to en­dure the process,” Lewis stat­ed.

Lewis said the T&T ath­letes mar­ket­ed the coun­try over the 17 days of the Olympics.


LINK ORIGINAL: The Trinidad Guardian