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Olympian George seeks to build future champions

Sunday, October 23, 2016
T&T’s Christopher George (in blue) in action against Myanmar’s Yan Naing Soe during the Men’s 100kg Judo competition of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in Brazil in August.

Olympic judo athlete Christopher George plans to mount a one-man crusade aimed at clearing a smoother path for the nation’s emerging athletes in their global development. Build A ChampionTT is the name he has given the project, designed to cultivate champion athletes in the run up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

In an effort to nurture future World and Olympic champions, nourished with the requisite self confidence to clinch these titles, George had his sights on implementing a strategy that could bring much need respite regarding the laborious topic of athlete funding.

Harnessing the difficult personal lessons learned from his onerous personal experiences, George has formalised the Build A ChampionTT initiative which he had causally been hashtaging for the past 36 months.

He said, “I have been hashtaging Build A ChampionTT which speaks to my story and speaks to how we develop champions within in T&T. I am going to be in the United Kingdom for the next year. I’ll be doing my Bar Practice in Training Certificate (BPTC). So I am completing my legal training.

One of the biggest things that I want to do with that is sports advocacy. 

“Sports advocacy is something I feel very strongly about. We lack it tremendously as a people, to speak or help athletes speak for themselves, and then having people with experience directing athletes about what to do, where to go, how to get sponsorship and how to position themselves in a place where they can achieve their goals, because finance is a big part of it.

“Alongside that there is a subsequent piece that I think is paramount to this journey and that is corporate partnerships, and that’s where my legal background is coming in. I want to provide a framework through Build A ChampionTT to really outline how athletes develop this type of relationship.”

George recalled the horror and disbelief felt when he received his Elite Athlete Assistance funding after qualifying for the Rio Olympics.

Was it not for the generosity of those closest to him, as well as his proactive nature, many of the international tournaments he attended and competed at as part of his pre-Olympic conditioning, would not have been realised.

“I received my cheque after I qualified which is kind of tough. I had gone to Paris (France) Peru, Argentine, with training for four to five months in New York, travelled to Cuba, and the thing is, I was almost running on fumes,” he said.

“Personal contributions from family and friends and the 150 individual contributions that I got from my Cloud funding site raised TT$250,000 over the past four years.”

Meanwhile, the cost of airfare to and from tournaments, which he paid for out of pocket, cost another quarter million.

Having lived through the anguish which now seemed routine for local elite athletes, George was convinced Building A ChampionTT could form the blueprint needed to construct winners and sustain their ability to achieve each time they take the spotlight.

The Olympic athlete said his intimate struggles related to funding, and his willingness to do all in his power not to derail his training, while maintaining his sanity was the only way to covert dreams had into reality.

After winning his first national tournament, George recalled living on an aircraft and counted 15 countries to which he travelled to represent T&T. He believed this aspect on his path to sporting success could be a vital tool in educating the next George Bovell, Richard Thompson or Christopher George.

Conscious that the “Building A ChampionTT” project could be seen as could rivalling the T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC) 10Golds24. which already aimed to win the confidence of corporate T&T and secure their investment in future champions, George was firm that his undertaking and its relevance.

“I feel from an individual level, there also needs to be a push towards that. That’s what my next four years is actually going to be with respect to my personal goal, because all athletes’ careers end. But I want to be able to reproduce what I did here. It could be Luke Walker or Xavier George, tremendous young talent from T&T that may need help and direction to actually navigate through the landscape of T&T sport, because until it is you make it, it’s hard to make it,” said George.

On the topic of returning to the mat in search of the elusive Olympic medal the judo exponent said Tokyo 2020 was still a possibility for him, but it would all depends on how his body felt.

“I feel that my journey towards the Olympics in 2020 will be two-told. It could be as an athlete, but it may not be as an athlete. I need to go through this period of recovery. I have a couple niggling injuries that I need to deal with, but I feel that I am strong enough to get through it. So, for the next couple months, with respect to training, I am going to focus on strength and flexibility, trying to get back my general proprioception. 

“Four years of fighting does take its toll on the body, but I think the next three or four months will just be recovery: swimming, flexibility through yoga and then water polo.”


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