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Walk the Talk

Published: 
Thursday, January 22, 2015
TTOC President Brian Lewis talks about participating in the 33rd annual International T&T Marathon. PHOTO: CLYDE LEWIS

When T&T Olympic Committee president Brian Lewis was elected to the post in May, 2013, he made a pledge that he would do all in his power to ensure that this country secured ten gold medals by the 2024 Olympic Games.

Now, almost two years later, Lewis intends to show his determination to get national athletes the facilities and compensation they deserve to achieve gold by testing his endurance and walking the full 26.2 miles at the 33rd T&T International Marathon on Sunday.

Lewis, 54, revealed to the T&T Guardian on Tuesday, during an interview at the TTOC’s office at Abercromby Street, Port-of-Spain, that competing in the marathon will be a fitting test of his commitment to his word because he has knee injuries from his previous rugby career. 

He is determined, however, to finish the race to highlight the TTOC’s initiative #10golds24 athlete and preparation fund, which was officially launched last month. 

Lewis jokingly added that he has competed in the marathon “about six times” but that was when he was in his 20’s and 30’s.

“I can’t run a marathon by any stretch of the imagination because I am now into my 50’s. So I decided to walk the marathon for a number of reasons. 

“In sports a marathon is like the ultimate endurance event that tests everything so I felt like given what I am attempting to do, which is raise awareness and kick-start our campaign, #10golds24 athlete, and preparation fund, it had some symbolism to me participating in an event that would certainly test my mental and physical endurance,” he said.

The marathon is one of the ways Lewis hopes to raise at least $500,000 to kick-start the campaign. His ultimate goal is to reach about $20 million, so that athletes can always have the access to what they need to perform at their best.

According to Lewis, there are many naysayers who believe that this country cannot achieve such a tremendous feat as ten gold medals in such a short space of time. 

But he believes if focus is placed on developing athletes with the proper equipment and facilities, it can be done.

“The athletes have to be the centre and focus of what needs to be done. We have to focus on serving the athletes and commit to trying to create the environment that will allow them to perform at their best on the day when they need to do it most.”

He added that the Ministry of Sport’s elite athlete assistant programme is helping but even more is needed to help athletes as a lot of people still do not accept that becoming an olympic champion is a full-time commitment.

“There is no one who can convince me that the sports system in T&T, and even our societal system provide the support that is necessary. 

“The reality is our aspiring elite athletes who want to become olympic champions face a struggle and that struggle is financial.”

Besides helping athletes to achieve gold medals, Lewis wants to keep them encouraged and intends to introduce a medal bonus. The amount has not been decided. 

Another frightening fact that Lewis shared was that many athletes do not have medical or health insurance, so if they are injured it not only ends their career but they face the reality of having to find money to see about medical care themselves.

“We are trying to develop a health and medical plan, and in that regard we are working with our partners Guardian Group. I can tell you from firsthand experience because sport played a big part in my life by keeping me on track and I know what happens when you get injured, you have to paddle your own canoe. 

“There are a number of very good athletes who have fallen through the cracks because of injury. We need to realise that it’s a myth that our athletes are well taken care of.”

The time has come for the country to look towards its most precious asset which is the human resources and if sport is taken seriously and given the time and effort that is needed, T&T will be able to tap into a US billion-dollar industry, said Lewis.

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