THREE-TIME Olympic silver medalist Richard Thompson spent roughly two hours in blazing sun on the running track at the Hasely Crawford Stadium yesterday, guiding a group of athletically talented kids through a series of exercises and drills used by track athletes in training. It was an effort in keeping with the character of one of the country’s most popular athletes; a man whose humility and commitment to country has always stood out.

“You can’t build a strong house if you don’t have a strong foundation,” he told reporters following the session. “This is the purpose of what we’re doing here today — we’re trying to target some of the younger ones because they will be the ones that we expect to win the gold medals by 2024; not Keston Bledman, not Richard Thompson, not Marc Burns- you know, we’ve been around for a while.” The event was the final stage of the track and field element of the Atlantic Sporting Ambassador Programme that seeks to develop talented TT youths who show potential in several sporting disciplines, including swimming, cricket and sailing. A fortnight ago, Thompson had started with a group of already developing athletes. This clinic targeted kids between the ages of eight and 12; but yesterday, he had more than just track in mind.

“We wanted to introduce them to track and create awareness for sport and exercising at that age,” he explained. “A lot of kids now in our generation are stuck in front of the television, playing X-Box, PS3 and PS4. I think it’s my duty to bring them out of the house, show them different exercises, show them what it takes to be a great athlete.” Thompson has been back home for several weeks, going through the first stages of preparation for what could well be his swansong in the most prestigious arena for his sport — the Olympic Games in Rio 2016. Determined to ensure that TT’s tradition of great sprinters continues, he was making his contribution with the 20- odd youngsters who came out yesterday.

“I remember being very young and looking at Hasely Crawford and Ato Boldon and saying, these people are Olympic medalists and Olympians, and maybe it’s just something ingrained in them, they were born with it. But I didn’t know the actual process of coming to training everyday, working hard for many hours, all the different exercises. Those were things I didn’t have any knowledge about, so from a very long age I want to instil that into them, make them aware that if they do these little things each day, day in, day out, if they believe in themselves, have focus and the dedication and the discipline...” The partnership with Atlantic, therefore, came naturally. Derek Daniel, Atlantic’s Brand and Communications manager explained that yesterday’s exercise was an extension of a programme that has been running for over a decade.

“We invest heavily in the youth development area in sports,” he told Newsday.

“Atlantic has been the sponsor of primary schools cricket for the last 12 years; this is our tenth anniversary with football this year and with track and field, four years. We believe that this is where the future lies, so our investment is primarily around the youth of TT.” Thompson confessed that having been through the mill himself, he had long wanted to impart the basics to those who are likely to replace his generation of athletes.

“A lot of the things that we focused on today were very basic,” he said, adding, “But I would say, for the age group that we are dealing with, I am almost certain that around TT they aren’t doing these little exercises, so as basic as it may seem to a lot of people, at this age it’s new to them and they would have gained a lot of knowledge today.” Yesterday’s target group would be approaching maturity in 2024, the year TT Olympic Committee president Brian Lewis has set in the drive he champions for TT to achieve ten Olympic medals.

Asked for comment, Thompson explained why he was in support of it.

“I think it’s a realistic goal, as long as we start putting that in their minds from now. Brian Lewis I think has a great campaign there, and even if it is that we don’t win ten gold medals in 2024. My dad always told me when I was younger, you aim for the stars and the clouds; worstcase scenario, you end up on the rooftop, so you’re still higher than ground level.

Even if we end up with five gold medals in 2024, it would be a step up from where we are right now.” Thompson plans to visit a couple of schools in the coming week, hoping to reach out and inspire other talented youngsters; one of them, he said, will be the former El Dorado Secondary which played a significant role in the development of the likes of Darrel Brown, Marc Burns and Dion Rodriguez, among others.

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Former national midfielder Dexter Skeene says the T&T Pro League is determined to make a positive difference in football throughout T&T, and the youth and young people of the nation.

Skeene, the Pro League’s Chief Executive Officer, made this statement while delivering his address at the opening of the 2015/2016 season of the Pro League at the VIP, Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo, yesterday.

Speaking to the crowd on hand which included former national standouts in Sedley Joseph and Everald “Gally” Cummings,  Skeene said, “I welcome you here this morning (yesterday) with a tremendous feeling of pride.”

He added: “Why? Because as the league stands proudly with its partner Digicel, a  partner who has stood by the league’s vision, players,coaches, board, management, fans and other corporate partners in fighting a noble cause, purpose and mission.

With regards to the Pro League Skeene said there remained those in key decision making positions who continue to misunderstand what the T&T Pro League is about in a place such as T&T.

“But the Pro League can stand proud confident that notwithstanding, at times hostile environment our owners clubs and players and coaches continue to improve on the quality of football that is on display at Digicel TT Pro League Games and Tournaments.

He boasted, “No matter what,  we are determined to make a positive difference in football and through the youth and young people of the nation..

“The Pro League is about building an industry, it’s about developing football as a profession, creating a pathway for youngsters to aspire to earn a living from playing football.

“It is about supplying the national senior team with players like Attaula Guerra, Willis Plaza, Jan-Michael Williams, Joevin Jones, Keron Cummings, who can effectively and efficiently compete at international level.

Reflecting on the start of the league, Skeene noted it all started in 2002 with some innovators, pioneers who had a vision to create an industry with professional football, to take T&T football to the next level.

He said the list included Jerry Hospedales, Jamaal Shabazz, David John-Williams, Darryl Mahabir, Richard Fakoory who had invested over $325 million, in bringing professional football to where it was today.

Comparing both  league, Skeene said when you place everything into context you understand what is required and the life cycle necessary for a successful professional football league.

Skeene said that despite many broken promises, the league would continue to soldier on and make representation for community grounds.

“It was always part of the business model submitted to the Ministry of Sport to the understanding that if this is provided after a few years clubs would have no excuse not to be self-sustaining and viable. Community fields is a critical success factor and I remain convinced when put in place it will be the catalyst to take professional football to the next level.”

“It is about giving our coaches like Ross Russell, Angus Eve, Stewart Charles, Earl Jean, Jamaal Shabaazz, Marvin Gordon, Richard Hood, Leroy De Leon, Anthony Streete, and Keith Jeffrey the opportunity to work full time as coaches just like the Jose Mourinhos and Arsene Wengers of the world.

“We must not limit ourselves; we are just as talented, ambitious and intelligent as anyone anywhere in the world. The TT Pro League is the platform, the stage, the place, the forum where we can achieve greatness, utilising and exposing our indigenous talent.

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International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach has vowed to "work even harder to put sport at the centre of society" after the United Nations (UN) General Assembly adopted sport in its post-2015 Development Agenda in New York.

In what has been hailed as "a historic moment for sport and the Olympic Movement", sport is included in the UN's "final outcome document" as an “important enabler” of sustainable development for the goals, adopted by UN Member States with a commitment to implement them by 2030.

“Sport is also an important enabler of sustainable development," reads Paragraph 37 of the document entitled, “Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development."

It adds: "We recognise the growing contribution of sport to the realisation of development and peace in its promotion of tolerance and respect and the contributions it makes to the empowerment of women and of young people, individuals and communities as well as to health, education and social inclusion objectives.”

In a letter sent to stakeholders throughout the Olympic Movement, IOC President Thomas Bach claimed how this shows “that with [the] Olympic Agenda 2020 [reform process] we are aligned with the United Nations post-2015 Development Agenda.

"This new UN Agenda specifically acknowledges the important role that sport plays promoting healthy lifestyles, education and social inclusion.”

Inclusion of sport within the UN Agenda has been repeatedly trumpeted as a core aim for the organisation in recent months, with developing closer relations with the UN a key priority for Bach since he assumed the Presidency in 2013.

Bach has insisted that sport should not be separate from political affairs and how - while remaining politically neutral - it should play an active role on the world stage.

But this comes in the same week as the IOC was criticised for its "astonishing omission" of a specific human rights clause in its Host City Contract for the 2024 Olympics, and human rights groups are likely to be sceptical about the extent of the body's true commitment to realising themes such as social inclusion.

This follows much criticism of human rights policies of several nations bidding for or hosting major Olympic Movement events in recent years, including the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics and Baku 2015 European Games, as well as in China ahead of the awarding of the 2022 Winter Games to Beijing in July.

Despite their pledge to remain politically neutral, the IOC have offered some concessions, however, including the introduction of a clause specifically prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation as well as requirements to allow the media to report freely on the Games and for the building of infrastructure for the event to comply with international labour standards.

But they have not gone far enough, groups claim, particularly given the context of their specific aim to play a wider political role.

Bach is due to address the UN Assembly during the meeting in New York, as well as hold bilateral meetings with many of the heads of State and Government present.

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Head coach Phil Simmons courted controversy yesterday when he slammed “interference from outside” as the reason for the omission of Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard from the one-day squad, for the upcoming tour of Sri Lanka.

Could this, then, finally be it? Could the man who has been deeply embedded for four decades in a culture of cronyism and patronage finally be on his way out of the opulent edifice that houses an organisation he has built in his own image and presided over for 17 years?

WITH SEVERAL of the nation’s top athletes currently nursing long-standing injuries in a crucial pre-Olympic year, president of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) Brian Lewis