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OLYMPIC JAVELIN champion Keshorn Walcott expressed his appreciation for the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs, who provided him with a cheque yesterday, at the VIP Room, Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo, as part of its Elite Athlete Assistance Programme (EAAP) .

Walcott was among a group of 15 athletes who received a total of $1.4 million from the EAAP. The other athletes who were beneficiaries of the funding yesterday were Cleopatra Borel, Aleena Brooks, Machel Cedenio, Jehue Gordon, Jamal James, Emmanuel Mayers, Jarrin Solomon, Reyare Thomas, Kamaria Durant, Quincy Wilson (track and field); Marlon James Moses, Clement Marshall (shooting); Dylan Carter (swimming) and Kale Wilson (squash) .

“I’m always grateful for the help from the Ministry of Sport,” said Walcott. “They have been helping me since early in my career. I’m thankful for the help.” Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Darryl Smith, in his address to the athletes in attendance, noted, “you all usually get these cheques in April (or) May. (It’s) just proper planning and putting things in place .

We were thinking about the future and we’re just planning ahead now .

“And we’re able to give these cheques two (and) three months earlier,” he added .

“Because we don’t want the rushing that is the usual norm when you have to travel and you want to train.” The Minister admitted, “we have inefficiencies. We are not perfect but we are trying our best to put policies and things in place to put the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs back on top. And I will not sleep a night until I get that done.” The 22-year-old Walcott will enter the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil as the first Trinidad and Tobago athlete to be defending his title since Hasely Crawford did so at the 1980 Games in Moscow, Soviet Union (now Russia) .

“The season has been good,” said Walcott. “I’m still in different aspects of training now, in the general stages still. My meets are a long way off. I don’t have indoors.” Walcott added, “training has been good, preparation has been coming along really well so hopefully I’ll continue doing what I need to do.” The 2015 Pan American Games champion has his training sessions at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, under the guidance of the Cuban-born coach, Ismael Mastrapa .

“Most times I go to Cuba for a few weeks,” said Walcott .

“When I start competition I normally have a base, either in Finland or some other (European) country, just for the travelling.” On his current tag as an Olympic champion, the 2014 Commonwealth Games silver medallist pointed out, “it feels good to know I’m the Olympic champion. Hopefully I’ll go out there and do my best and retain my title. That will be my goal.” He added, “me and my coach, that’s what we’re (preparing) for, for the last four years, and hopefully things will go how we want.” Walcott admitted that his season will start in May but his schedule has not been mapped out as yet .

“(It usually) starts with the Diamond League or, hopefully, a local meet,” he said .

“We don’t map out the entire season because things tend to change. Nothing is carved in stone. The season will begin in May and continue until September.”