Repeating as a medallist at the Olympic Games is no easy feat. The 2012 men's javelin champion, Keshorn Walcott proved his mettle with bronze at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. But the Toco thrower's success did not happen by chance. A strong support system, including a pair of Cubans--coach Ismael Lopez Mastrapa and physiotherapist Abdel Murguia Miranda—as well as manager Sean Roach, kept him on course throughout the quadrennial.
During the Ministry of Sport's “Roundtable Review” of the Rio Games, last week, Walcott spoke passionately about the need for structure in local sport. However, in a subsequent interview with the Express, he cleared the air about the role of the Sports Company (SPORTT) in his own Olympic preparations.
“Everybody's going to say that I said the Sports Company didn't do anything for me. I didn't mean it like that. They helped us to go to Cuba for the training camps and I'm appreciative of that.
“But I'm already an elite athlete,” Walcott continued. “How you're going to get the rest of the athletes to that stage? That's what I was really focusing on. But I'm grateful for everything they've done for me--the Ministry of Sport, the Sports Company, everyone.”
Walcott made special mention of the corporate entities who have supported him over the past four years.
“Thanks to my sponsors, Blink bmobile, American Stores, Nike, Guardian General, and of course Caribbean Airlines.
“Since 2012, after the Olympics, Caribbean Airlines have helped me a lot with travelling back and forth, and that's been a great help. And American Stores… when I received a house from the Government, I didn't have time to go shopping for furniture, so I'm really thankful to them for giving me that opportunity to furnish my house.”
Walcott said family support played a major role in his Rio success.
“My parents who keep pushing me, my siblings, my second family. Yeah, I have a second family. It's a family I've grown really close to throughout the years. A lady, her name is Jasmine Pierre, she's from D'Abadie, she has really helped me a lot, so that's my second family. They have supported me in tremendous ways.”
It is evident that Walcott has benefited immensely from the structure he has set up for himself. He stresses, though, the need for improvement on a national scale.
“Hopefully, it can change for the younger ones because we want to have more athletes representing the country at the Olympics and World Championships. If they put a better structure in place, more athletes will come through the system instead of going out to the United States. Many athletes aren't making it through the season because the college season is hard, and colleges want them for their profit.”
Twenty-three-year-old Walcott, Michelle-Lee Ahye, 24, and Machel Cedenio, who turned 21 last month, opted to not compete on the American collegiate circuit. All three were individual finalists at Rio 2016, with Walcott earning T&T's lone medal at the Games. There was criticism in some quarters, however, of Team TTO's performance.
“Members of the team did well,” said Walcott. “People got personal bests. People made finals. We didn't get the medals, but it's still headway, something we could bank on for the future. If the 4x4 men didn't get disqualified, we could have gotten a medal, even gold. With Machel, Michelle and myself going to the future, it's not as bad as people are seeing it for the Rio Olympics.”
Walcott, who was just 19 when he captured the Olympic javelin title at the 2012 London Games, was hoping for a career haul of four Olympic gold medals. He has modified his goal to three golds.
“Going towards 2020, I'm going to try and put everything in place for me. My goal is always to try to win, so that's the same objective. The next four years we're going to see how things go. Hopefully, they go my way.”