TWO-TIME TT Olympic medallist Emmanuel Callender offered words of encouragement to his fellow national track and field athletes Andwuelle Wright and Sparkle McKnight, after the pair tested positive for covid19 and are now ruled out of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Callender said there will be more opportunities.
The TT Olympic Committee (TTOC) revealed in a media release on Friday that long jumper Wright, 400m hurdler McKnight and long jump coach Wendell Williams are in mandatory quarantine at an approved isolation hotel facility.
The TTOC said all three gave approval for their medical status to be revealed.
Wright, a 23-year-old Tobagonian, was expected to make his Olympic debut and McKnight, 29, was set to run at her second Olympic Games.
It was reported in 2020 that McKnight planned to retire if the Olympics were held last year as scheduled. The pandemic postponed the Games by one year.
The athletes and official returned positive results after daily routine saliva antigen tests at the Olympic Village.
They also had two nasopharyngeal PCR verification tests in accordance with Tokyo 2020 covid19 protocols, countermeasures and guidelines.
In an interview with Newsday, Callender said, “God knows best and this isn’t the end…important thing right now is their health and strength, so look at the positives that you are alive and well and just recover.”
Callender was part of two TT men’s 4x100m relay teams which earned medals at the Olympics. He was part of the team which won gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and silver at the 2012 London Olympics.
Callender knows the TT athletes will be disappointed.
“It is going to be hard for them being there at the Olympic Games. Putting in all that hard work since last year to now due to the pandemic…those things will be on their mind, but they have to look at the brighter side and give God thanks and praise and hope they come out of this healthier and stronger than before and look forward to next year World Championships,” Callender said.
“They may not want to hear that at this point in time, but we have seen the hand they have been dealt with.”
McKnight was scheduled to line up in the heats of the women’s 400m hurdles at 8.24 pm on Friday (TT time).
Wright was carded to participate in Group B of the men’s long jump qualification from 6.10 am on Saturday (TT time).
The TTOC said, “Wendell Williams, Wright and McKnight are in daily contact with team TTO Tokyo 2020 covid19 liaison officer Rheeza Grant and chef de mission Lovie Santana.”
It is uncertain if the trio got vaccinated before the Olympics. It was not mandatory for athletes to get vaccinated before the Olympics began on July 23.
Team TTO's 50 members are tested daily and must comply with the stringent Tokyo 2020 countermeasures instituted by the Japanese Government, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and the International Olympic Committee.
In an interview with Newsday on Friday, Grant said, “I could safely tell you that they are doing fine. They are in isolation and we are in constant communication with them.”
Asked what the mood in the camp is like following the news, Grant said, “Of course covid19 is something that is real. It is something that won’t go away anytime soon. The most we could do is just protect ourselves as best as we could, but the mood in the camp is the same as before. Everybody is just focused on their competition and beefing up their counter measures especially when it comes to covid19.”
Grant said the TT contingent is taking the pandemic seriously.
“We have been having constant meetings and sending out lots of messages in terms of reading the (covid19) playbook and following all the counter measures. We would have also put in place (measures) for the team apart from the IOC and Tokyo 2020 (Organising Committee).”
Former national triathlon champion Jason Gooding, who is in Tokyo as a triathlon official, could relate to the pain of the athletes.
Gooding described the situation as “unfortunate.”
As a nine-time TT triathlon champion Gooding said he knows what it takes to reach the highest level of sports.
“I think you really have to be an athlete or have done sports to understand the level of discipline, the level of preparation and sacrifice that they have to make to reach this level and to reach this competition. It is a real shame that they got it.”
A report by the BBC on Friday said that more than 200 cases of covid19 have been linked to the Olympics. The people who tested positive include athletes, media personnel and volunteers.