LOCAL RUGBY authorities are hoping that the lack of support and proper facilities for the sport do not deter the country’s rising young talent. This week, as a select squad of high school students trained at the Queen’s Park Savannah for a a trip to Canada, they could not avoid some of the challenges facing the sport.

The TT Schools Rugby Union has selected a 26-man squad to play four matches in a seven-day tour of Ontario-part of an ongoing initiative to get prospective future national players attuned to the trials and pressure of the game at international level.

“This team is really the best out of the schools league,” the team’s assistant manager Ronnie Annandsingh said, underlining the fact that they were operating within limits, as the schools arm of the governing body, the TT Rugby Football Union (TTRFU). “We are hoping that after the schools league, that they join a club and eventually go on to play Under-19 and Under-21 in the TTRFU Senior Division.”

The players were drawn from a wide spread: Fatima, St Mary’s, QRC, Belmont Boys, Tranquillity, St Anthony’s, Mucurapo, Maple Leaf, the International School, St George’s College (Barataria) and St Benedict’s (La Romain).

“We’ve selected the best players out of the north, and also from a south-east school select. The schools union has no league in south as yet, but this (coming) season, we are starting a league at under-14 level,” added Annandsingh, who is also the senior TT squad manager.

They all had to train in the mud and tall grass of an uncut section of the Savannah, opposite the Botanical Gardens, avoiding fitness enthusiasts who were jogging around what used to be the “sand track.” “That happens at senior level, with Sevens rugby,” the former player continued, even as team manager Graham Chin broke into a smile, perhaps, of resignation. “The best we can do is hope that some point there is a home for rugby; but for now, the reality is the reality. The important thing is that we still get the commitment from the players to come out and train.”

Another challenge, common to most amateur sports played in TT, is funding. The budget for the Ontario trip is $402,000; even so, they are now into the third successive annual trip Canada with the schoolboys, after playing in Barbados in 2011 and 2012. Much of the funding has come from corporate TT including the Newsday. Annandsingh believes it is critical to the survival of the sport in TT and the development of a core of competent international players.

“We are trying to give the fellas the exposure. This is really a development tour. To increase their basic skills, how to play against opponents in a particular situation, how to react,” he said. “We are giving them that opportunity. The more games you play, the more practice games you have, the better you will become eventually.”

They have less than a week before leaving for Ontario; the tour runs from August 7-15.



T&T Under-20 Women Soca Warrior player Maya Matouk is of the firm belief that she and her teammates have not accomplished anything and must remained focused on the task at their feet. And that entails maintaining their team bond and improving as a unit as they move on to the Caribbean Football Union Under 20 Women’s Championship in Haiti in October.

Matouk, a student at University of Tampa, led T&T’s charge in their 6-0 defeat of Dominica in their CFU Under-20 Women’s closing first round fixture at Victoria Park, Kingstown, St Vincent and The Grenadines, on Tuesday night, to see them top Group Four with maximum six points. T&T now moves onto the Finals round-of qualifiers in Haiti from which the top three teams from the eight-team tournament will advance to the Concacaf Finals.

At stake in that final tournament in Honduras  in December will be a place in the 2016 Fifa Under 20 Women’s World Cup in Papua New Guinea. “Even though we accomplished our first objective, going on to the next round is going to require us to stay even more humble and dedicated as we will be facing teams that are stronger,” a confident Matouk said.

“We will take the experience of the past games with us and hope to increase our level of play to be victorious in the next qualifying round. Winning this first round was definitely a confidence boost for all and this will keep our spirits high,” she continued.

Looking back at the game in which she notched a double, the ex-St Ann’s Rangers and IMG Academy player said sticking to the game plan laid out by head coach Jason Spence and proper communication among the players and staff were key factors. “Sticking to the game plan given by coach was definitely the key factor in our performance. We were told to give everything we had when we stepped out on the field and that’s exactly what we did,” she said.

The team was skippered by central defender Renee Mike and included the likes of the talented Amaya Ellis, Chelcy Ralph, Tsaianne Leander who scored a double in the 2-0 win over St Vincent and The Grenadines, Shauna-Lee Govia, Naomie Guerra and goalkeeper Nicolette Craig.

“We stayed focused and humble throughout the qualifiers. Being a team with all teammates fully committed and willing to strive for excellence made our goal easier to achieve. We developed an effective method of communication and this was another important factor that allowed the game to be played smoothly,” Matouk added.

The T&T forward was a member of the T&T Under-17 Women’s Team that won the 2013 Caribbean title in Haiti, beating the hosts 1-0 in the final. She is familiar with the conditions there and has a feel for that stage. “Now we have a few weeks to prepare for the next stage which is going to be tougher and will require more out of us. But I think everyone’s up for it and we’ll be working  towards staying on top of our game and pull off the results to keep us going in this campaign,” Matouk said.


Olympic and Pan American Games medallist Emmanuel Callender says the determination of this country’s athletes to always excel has led to T&T’s improved medal position at the Pan American Games, which came to an end in Toronto, Canada, last weekend.

Speaking to the T&T Guardian at Piarco International Airport on the team’s return home on Tuesday morning, he said, “We came out with eight medals. We also came out with a lot of personal best. The team is a fairly new one. We have some new athletes running on the 4 x 100 relay. The chemistry is now starting to build. It’s a very good one.”

Of the relay team of which he was a member, Callender said, “We only had one day to practice before we ran that 4 by 100m. We had to pull it together as quickly as possible. I think we did very well. We came off the heat above a lot of other countries. Our hand-offs weren’t the best, but we can work on it and make things a lot better.”

With his sights already fixed on this country’s participation at the World Championships and other international meets later this year, Callender said the 4 by 100-metre relay team of which he was apart, which secured bronze for T&T, still needed to overcome some technical hurdles from the starter to the anchor, if they were to retain a place on the podium in the future.

During the time they spent together, he was clear that his teammates were undoubtedly committed. Commenting on his present form, the 100 metre sprinter said if the Rio 2016 Olympic was tomorrow he would not be ready. He believed same could be said for his teammates.

“I don’t think people understand what it takes to step up on that Olympic podium. It’s not an easy task. We have to work a lot closer with the Minister of Sport and the TTOC and other organisations and corporate T&T, to help the athletes in terms of finances because finances are a main part in preparation going towards the Olympic Games. Truth be told, most of the athletes don’t work. We have to depend on the Olympic Solidarity Fund and the Elite Funding to ensure that we stay healthy, pay coaching fees, pay rent and the other stuff so we could be on the medal podium,” he said.


T&T’s Machel Cedenio clocked 44.97 to win the Men’s 400m at the IAAF Diamond League meet in Stockholm, Sweden yesterday. The 19-year-old unleashed a burst of speed on the final stretch which left the crowd stunned. “That was astonishing from Cedenio,” remarked one television commentator. “It just all changed in the last 40m. It was quite incredible.”

Dominican Republic’s Luguelin Santos nabbed the silver in 45.21 while Great Britain’s Martyn Rooney was third in a season’s best of 45.41. The result bumped Cedenio up to third in the Diamond League 400m standings with four points. He is led by Grenada’s Kirani James and Russia’s Wayde Van Niekerk, who have each won two races this season.

It capped off a successful week for Cedenio, who earlier managed an individual 400m silver and anchored T&T’s gold medal winning 4x400m run at the Pan American Games in Toronto, which ended on Sunday.

Also announcing herself yesterday was Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce who warmed up for the world championships with a dominant win in the women’s 100 metres. Fraser-Pryce, the world and Olympic champion, clocked 10.93 seconds in the headline race to beat Tori Bowie of the U.S. by 0.12 seconds.

“The time wasn’t what I wanted, but I’m grateful I came out here and did my best,” Fraser-Pryce said. “There’s always pressure going into a world championships, but I’m not worried about that. I’m not worried about anything.” Fraser-Pryce also reiterated her stance that she won’t defend her 200 title at the worlds, a day after hinting she may change her mind and run both distances.

“In Beijing, I’m not running the 200. I’m telling my coach he has to change my mind,” she said. “The 200 is too far, so I’m set for the 100.”


Even as Olympic hopefuls engage in keen international competition to register qualifying times for Rio 2016, Sports Minister Brent Sancho and T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis are confirming that new and enhanced arrangements for the preparation of athletes ahead of the games are in place.

But neither official was willing to disclose, at this time, the level of investment required to boost T&T’s chances at the games. In a joint interview with the T&T Guardian, they assured the national community and most importantly the athletes and their representing bodies that this country’s medal push for Rio, would be unlike any before.

Lewis said plans for Rio 2016 were “going excellent,” and explained that a pre-qualification figure could not be disclosed because the approach by his executive, the minister and his staff, as well as national sporting organisations was integrated.

“Plans are going extremely well. The Olympic Committee continues to work very closely with the minister of sport and the ministry of sport, the Sport Company (of T&T) and all the stakeholders. We continue to put things in place. The fact is we are approaching a very crucial milestone in the context of Rio 2016, which is one year to go, from the 5th of August. It is very crucial that we continue to work together because with one year to go, there is no room and margin for error where our athletes are concerned,” Lewis said.

Sancho said his ministry staff met with officials of sporting organisation under the Olympic charter for a programme called the Podium Push.

The minister said, “We have asked the different disciplines to go out and come back to us with what they believe their athletes need to be podium ready for 2016. We are just waiting to put the final touches on that. We will now invest further to make sure that the athletes get everything for the next year to make sure that we achieve the lofty, but very attainable goals set by the TTOC president.”

The success at the Pan American Games said Lewis provided greater clarity in terms of who have qualified, while helping his executive to understand what athletes needed to do to qualify. In his view the Podium Push was an ideal complement to the10 or more Olympic Gold Medals by 2024 programme.

Lewis said, “The Olympic Committee is very happy that everything is being done and we are having the positive, necessary and on-going discussions. I am confident once nothing comes in the way of that our athletes will have no reason to say they weren’t as prepared as they could for Rio 2016. We are on the same page with the minister and I feel confident that I can say that because he has been there before and he understands what is required and that it is about action and not talk.”

Sancho praised the TTOC’s 10 or More Olympic Gold Medal initiative, which in his view epitomized the kind of healthy relationship national sporting organisations needed to establish with the corporate sector.

“It’s a wonderful idea. It’s a true testament to the innovative idea that is set out by the TTOC. At the end of the day, I think any financial rewards at the end of it, is something that could be part and parcel of a drive for an athlete to compete and do well, as well as the national pride that comes with ding well for your country. It’s a truly ingenious idea,” he said.

Lewis said a number of joint projects were in the pipeline between the TTOC and the ministry of sport which includes the Elite Athlete Housing Programme and the setting up of the Good Governance Commission.

“So there is a lot taking place. We all recognise that we can’t continue to do that same things over and over and expect different results. The demands now being placed on our athletes and sports and sport administrators means we all need collectively to rise above the challenge,” said the TTOC official.


Ensuring greater appeal to youngsters is as a key aim for the Olympic Movement by Thomas Bach during his address to open the 128th International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session here this evening.

In a lengthy speech, during which he outlined the necessity for and significance of the Agenda 2020 reform process, the IOC President highlighted youth groups as a key target audience which must be prioritised.

“We have to keep our focus on the road ahead and be aware of the bigger developments in the world to anticipate the defining trends of the future,” he said.

“We have to look no further than our host country Malaysia to get a sense of what the future will look like.

“The median age here in Malaysia is around 25.

"In fact, with over half the world’s population under 30, there are more young people in the world than ever before.

“We must ensure that the Olympic values resonate with the next generations.”

As well as tomorrow’s vote between Brasov and Lausanne to decide the host nation of the 2020 Winter Youth Olympics, Bach also highlighted the new Olympic TV Channel as a “gamechanger” which will realise this ambition.

During a address which explored well-trodden themes, Bach also claimedrecent successes in acquiring long-term contracts in marketing and television-rights negotiations worth $14 billion (£9 billion/€13 billion) is evidence that “our partners have such great confidence in the IOC and the direction we are taking”.
Image title

He also claimed commitments from five countries so far to bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics and Paralympics - the United States along with France, Italy, Germany and Hungary - were evidence of enthusiasm for the Games.

Bach is now overseeing his fourth Session as President since being elected to replace Jacques Rogge at the 125th Session in Buenos Aires in 2013.

He spoke this evening alongside Prince Imran, the IOC member and Olympic Council of Malaysia President, as well as Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who came to the Opening of this Session having just held talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron, who is visiting the country.

Others in attendance included Kazakhstan Prime Minister Karim Massimov and Chinese Vice-Premier Liu Yandong, the delegation leaders for the Almaty and Beijing Olympic bids.

Following the speeches, there was a performance by the National Philharmonic Orchestra as well as several other local artists to set into motion a four-day Session due to begin with tomorrow’s 2022 Winter Olympics and 2020 Winter Youth Olympic votes.

It is scheduled to continue until Monday (August 3).