TRINIDAD AND Tobago left its mark on the Olympic scene, bringing joy to the people of this country. Weightlifter Rodney Wilkes got the ball rolling at the 1948 London Games which were followed by memorable performances. Sprinter Hasely Crawford, javelin thrower Keshorn Walcott and a men’s 4×100 meter team all reached the top step of the podium and the efforts of swimmer George Bovell and sprinter Ato Boldon will never be forgotten.
On Tuesday, TT added a third gold medal to this country’s tally as the men’s 4x100m relay team went gold, 14 years after winning a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
This journalist reviews the 19 medals (three gold, five silver and 11 bronze) won by this country in the history of the Olympic Games.
TT has won medals in three sports at the Olympics: athletics, weightlifting and swimming.
Crawford won the first TT gold medal at the 1976 Montreal Games.
Crawford had fierce competition ahead of the Games as the event included 1972 gold medalist Valeriy Borzov of the Soviet Union and much-favorite Donald Quarrie of Jamaica.
In the second semi-final, Crawford secured a place in the final by winning in 10.22 seconds. Quarrie was second in 10.26.
In the final, Crawford became a household name in the TT when he crossed the finish line in 10.06. Quarrie was second in 10.08 and Borzov had to settle for bronze in 10.14.
At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Jamaica won the men’s 4x100m event, led by legendary sprinter Usain Bolt.
Jamaica won the event in 37.10 in an Olympic and world record at the time.
TT finished second in 38.06.
However, in 2017, the International Olympic Committee revealed that Nesta Carter, a member of the Jamaican team, violated the anti-doping code by testing positive for methylhexaneamine. Jamaica was disqualified and TT was announced as the new winner.
The TT team of Richard Thompson, Marc Burns, Keston Bledman, Emmanuel Callender and Aaron Armstrong received their medals during a short Olympic medal re-awarding ceremony at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland on Tuesday.
Not much was expected of Walcott for the London Games in 2012. By the end of the Games, Walcott was considered one of this country’s greatest Olympians.
Walcott, who was only 19 at the time, was still a junior national athlete.
In the qualifying round, he secured a spot in the final by throwing 81.75m on his third and final throw. Walcott had the tenth best throw among the 12 finalists.
In the final, Walcott broke the national record with a throw of 84.58m to win gold.
It was Walcott’s day as Vitezslav Vesely of the Czech Republic, who threw a whopping 88.34m in the qualifying round, could only land an 83.34m throw in the final to snatch the bronze.
Finland’s Antti Ruuskanen won silver with an effort of 84.12m.
The TT made its Olympic debut at the 1948 London Games with five athletes.
Weightlifter Wilkes became this country’s first Olympic medalist after finishing second in the men’s featherweight category.
Wilkes, nicknamed the Mighty Midget, died in 2014 at the age of 89.
Wendell Mottley was one of many great 400m runners this country produced in the 1960s. At the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Mottley captured a silver medal in the men’s 400m. These were memorable Games for the TT as they were the first Olympic Games where this country won medals in athletics.
TT had to wait 36 years before winning another silver medal. During the Sydney Games in 2000, TT fans had to set their alarms to wake up in the wee hours of the morning to watch Ato Boldon in action due to the 2pm jet lag.
It was worth it in the end as Boldon finished second in the men’s 100m. From the mid-1990s to the early 2000s, TT track and field medal hopes rested almost entirely on Boldon’s shoulders.
Boldon inspired a new wave of sprinters and at the 2008 Beijing Games Richard Thompson announced himself.
Thompson was in the shape of his life heading into the Beijing Games.
Running for Louisiana State University, Thompson won the NCAA Male Outdoor Track Athlete of the Year and the SEC Male Outdoor Track Athlete of the Year.
Thompson took silver in the men’s 100m final behind Bolt, who set a world record 9.69.
Four years later, at the 2012 London Olympics, the quartet of Thompson, Bledman, Callender and Burns won silver in the men’s 4x100m. These were the most successful Olympic Games for the TT as the team left London with four medals.
Eleven of the 19 TT medals have been bronze, with Wilkes winning the first at the Helsinki Games in 1952. After his silver medal four years earlier, Wilkes won bronze in the men’s featherweight category.
Wilkes wasn’t the only TT lifter to medal at the games as Lennox Kilgour was third in the men’s light heavyweight division.
At the 1964 Tokyo Games, Edwin Roberts became the first TT track and field athlete to win a sprint medal with his bronze in the men’s 200m.
Roberts was joined by Mottley, Kent Bernard and Edwin Skinner in the men’s 4x400m race. They did not leave empty-handed, finishing third.
It was a dry period for the TT between 1964 and 1996, because during this period Crawford’s gold medal in 1976 was the only podium.
At the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Boldon ended the TT drought by winning bronze medals in the 100m and 200m.
The 100 m final was dramatic. Linford Christie of Great Britain, the former Olympic champion, made a false start to add more tension to the race.
Boldon then made a false start and on the third attempt to start, Christie made a false start and was disqualified.
Christie was reluctant to leave the track but, when he finally left, the race began.
Boldon led at the 60m mark, but Namibia’s Frankie Fredericks and Canada’s Donovan Bailey surged ahead. Bailey took gold with a new world record 9.84, Fredericks was second in 9.89 and Boldon had to settle for bronze in 9.90.
In the men’s 200m final, Boldon notched his second bronze medal of the Games, stopping the clock in 19.80.
American Michael Johnson broke the world record en route to the gold in 19.32 and Fredericks was second in 19.68.
Boldon snatched his third bronze medal of his illustrious Olympic career in the men’s 200m at the Sydney Games in 2000.
Bovell was the next athlete to earn bronze for the TT, becoming the first swimmer to win an Olympic medal at the Athens Games in 2004. A few TT swimmers competed in the Olympics before Bovell.
Bovell’s achievement was celebrated as it was the only TT medal at the 2004 Games.
Bovell, a participant in the men’s 200m IM, hit the wall in one minute, 58.80 seconds (1:58.80) in a new national record.
American swimming legend Michael Phelps clocked an Olympic record 1:57.14 and his compatriot Ryan Lochte was second in 1:58.78.
At the 2012 London Games, TT, as in 1964, showed its prowess in the men’s 400m event.
Lalonde Gordon won bronze in the men’s 400m and the men’s 4x400m team also won bronze. The TT relay contingent included Gordon, the late Deon Lendore, Jarrin Solomon, Renny Quow, Machel Cedenio and Ade Alleyne-Forte.
TT was unable to continue their prolific form at the Rio 2016 Olympics as a bronze medal by Walcott in the closing stages of the competition was the only medal won. It was his second medal after winning gold four years earlier.