NICHOLAS BONKOWSKY slew a giant for his first singles crown and Nekeisha Blake expectedly captured her fifth when the curtain fell on the National Badminton Championships Sunday night at Central Regional Indoor Sports Arena, Chaguanas.

After both players had sparkled on route to the men’s title match, the clash between Nicholas Bonkowsky and Anil Seepaul was expected to go right down to the wire.

But the five-time national champion, who went in without dropping a set, struggled from the start and was easily beaten 21-14, 21-16 by the Canadian.

Although Anil Seepaul is now 40 years old, he is still playing at a very level and was confident of exacting revenge after squandering an 18-14 lead in the final set and going down in three sets when they clashed in last year’s semifinals.

Bonkowsky, whose mother hails from Trinidad, was then beaten in the final by Kerwyn Pantin in only his second tournament down here, but he got it right in his third on Sunday night.

This was the first national singles final in five year for Seepaul, who had played his other 13 in consective years from 1998 to 2010.

The player from Cristars Club won his five titles in a row from 2000 and has captured several triple crowns in this tournament.

Bonkowsky and Blake were in three finals on Sunday night, but neither managed to achieve their objective.

Blake was actually one win away from the triple crown and combined with the 27-year-old in the mixed doubles final, but the top seeds were beaten 21-18, 21-13 by Alistair Espinoza and national under-17 champ Jada Renales.

Blake had combined with Kerian Quan Chee, the under-19 bronze-medallist in singles, doubles and mixed in the 2005 Caribbean Championships (CAREBACO), a little while earlier to defeat Leanna Castanada and last year’s CAREBACO under-17 singles silver-medallist Renales 22-20, 21-15 in the doubles final.

Blake began the night by whipping Castanada 21-15, 21-10 for the singles title.

It was the first for the player who turns 28 years old next week since she had made it four straight four years ago.

After missing the next two years because of injury, Blake reached the semis when she returned for last year’s edition.

The player from FMT club was not the only one to finish the four-day tournament with a double crown. Espinoza, who was seeded to win singles but went out to Bonkowsky in the quarterfinals. picked up the first of his two titles when he and CAREBACO under-19 bronze-medallist Will Lee defeated the Canadian and 2013 national under-19 champ Jason Ramjass 21-15, 21-19 in the doubles final.

And top seeds Andre Lewis and Derek Singh nosed out former national champ Stephanie Mitchell and Trinidad and Tobago Badminton Association president Derwin Renales 14-21, 21-16, 21-19 to retain their Masters’ (Over-40) crown.

CAREBACO singles gold-medallist Solangel Guzman, a Cuban who is residing here and is in the process of becoming a citizen, did not compete this time after completing a hat-trick of singles titles as well as triple crowns last year.

Richard “Torpedo” Thompson was responsible for one of the most memorable moments at the inaugural IAAF World Relays, in Nassau, Bahamas, last year. In the men’s 4x100 metres final, the Trinidad and Tobago track star overhauled Great Britain’s Dwain Chambers on the anchor leg, turning bronze into silver.

“It’s always a blessing getting the stick around in a relay,” Thompson told the Express, “and an even bigger blessing when we win a medal.

“However, I think any athlete would admit that it’s a bit more fun when you ‘walk someone down’. That race indicated to me that I was back in really good shape because Chambers is a good sprinter. More importantly, it indicated to the world that T&T’s 4x100 team was back as we had a rough year in 2013.”

For the “Torpedo”, the World Relays experience would have been special even if he had left Nassau with no precious metal to his name.

“It was great. I found it really cool that they had us come through a tunnel to introduce us team by team...almost like they do in wrestling. It added more hype for the athletes and the fans. The meet itself was well attended and the fans were very active cheering every country on.”

T&T emerged from the 2014 IAAF World Relays with three medals. In addition to the men’s 4x100m silver captured by Keston Bledman, Marc Burns, Rondel Sorrillo and Thompson, there was bronze for both the women’s 4x100m quartet and the men’s 4x400m team. T&T earned 19 points at the two-day meet to finish sixth—an excellent showing for a nation with a population of just 1.3 million.

Thompson was particularly pleased with the success of the women’s sprint relay combination of Kamaria Durant, Michelle-Lee Ahye, Reyare Thomas and Kai Selvon.

“They’ve had a terrible streak of bad luck over the past few years getting the stick around. Not only did they get the stick around this time, but they won their first global medal. That’s a great sign for when Kelly-Ann (Baptiste) and Semoy (Hackett) are thrown back into the mix.”

Baptiste completed a 21-month drug ban in January, while Hackett will be eligible to compete in May following a 28-month doping ban.

In Nassau last year, Lalonde Gordon, Renny Quow, Machel Cedenio and Jarrin Solomon finished third in the men’s 4x400m final in a national record time of two minutes, 58.34 seconds.

“For a number of years,” said Thompson, “the 4x100 men carried the rest of the team on our shoulders. We’ve expanded beyond that and have shown that T&T are beyond capable in different events and gender. The men’s 4x4 has been very consistent in the last three years and the women have stepped up significantly as well.”

The triple Olympic medallist is anticipating more success for Team T&T at the 2015 IAAF World Relays, scheduled for May 2 and 3.

“I don’t expect anyone to be in peak shape in May, especially since World Champs is in late August. However, I know that we are a hard-working bunch, and will be showing up there in good enough shape to give a good account of ourselves.

“The goal,” he continued, “is always to try to win, but I think that if we can leave with a medal in every event that we enter, that would be a solid showing.”

Thompson said there needs to be a permanent place on the international athletics calendar for the IAAF World Relays.

“Apart from the meet itself being a huge success, I had a lot of fun away from the track. Bahamas is a beautiful island so any chance I get I’ll be there. I’ll be there this year, God spare life, health and strength.”

Minister of Sport Brent Sancho has sent deepest condolences to the family and friends of former sporting administrative icon, Dr Alloy Lequay, who passed away on Sunday.

Commenting on Lequay’s passing, Sancho said, “Alloy Lequay was a giant in the sport industry in Trinidad and Tobago for decades and continued to advise others long after he relinquished his position at the helm of the (TT) Cricket Board. Many do not know that he also contributed in the sport of table tennis and to our country’s political history, serving as a member of both houses of Parliament. His determination and passion for sport are well documented and acclaimed, not just here at home but in the region. His was a life well lived and he will be missed. I offer my sincere condolences to his family and to the sport community at this time.”

Dr Lequay, who died at the age of 90, gave his life to the development of sport administration in Trinidad and Tobago and was recognised nationally in later years for his contributions, having been awarded with the Chaconia Gold medal in 1988. Most recently, he was conferred in 2012 with an honorary Doctor of Laws (LLB) degree from the University of the West Indies.

Undoubtedly, one of Lequay’s enduring legacies is the Sir Frank Worrell Cricket Development Centre in Couva which opened its doors in 2002.

Also paying respect to Dr Lequay was the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee through its president, Brian lewis.

“Mr Lequay left an indelible mark during his long and meritorious contribution to sport and the history of sport in Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean. He played a key role in the de-centralisation of cricket in Trinidad and Tobago and was influential in table tennis. It was the vision of the former cricket administrator to acquire lands for a National Cricket Centre, which houses among other things the Sir Frank Worrell Development Centre and an international-size cricket field. May His Soul Rest In Peace,” said Lewis.


History has a far reaching impact. It touches the welfare and prosperity of us all, not only in this generation but far into the future. History may well point the way and explain why those who can make a difference prefer to ignore the nation’s athletes and the extent of the disregard they face. Our refusal or maybe it is fear of facing up to the problem will not make it go away. In fact it makes the situation worse.

Disregarding the plight of our athletes add to the social inequality, dysfunction, and growing disaffection. Fundamental truth informs the stubborn question— why?

The status quo would wish to distort the irrefutable truths comfortably peddling denial and distortions and a paradigm built on centuries of western culture, social and economic construct. The legacy of the plantation economy is intact and remains a strong element in T&T’s 21st century narrative.

To understand the societal and economic undercurrents that create subconscious barriers, a recommended starting place for sport leaders would be ‘Theory of the Plantation Economy’ by Lloyd Best and Kari Levitt and CLR James’ ‘Beyond the Boundary’.

Not to be left out of the reading list would be books, essays and articles by Eric Williams, Lloyd Best, Denis Pantin, Arthur Lewis, Norman Girvan, Eric St Cyr and George Beckford to name a few. There are practical realities and heartbreaking stories concerning athletes in T&T.

Our vulnerable athletes—sportsmen and women need more than pity. Pity will not solve their problem or make a positive difference. Priority must be placed on the welfare of our athletes. T&T is a major transshipment point for drugs, the illicit trafficking of people, money laundering and financial crimes, fuelled by corruption and illegal gambling.

Drugs present a real danger to our country and society—sport like the rest of society is in danger and not immune to the destabilising effect. Other issues impacting athletes are LGBT issues, domestic violence/gender issues. Good governance and national sport organisation strengthen issues. There are reports that athletes have suffered at the hands of re-tooling within the public sector.

Re-tooling seems to be the buzzword and/or code in certain sections of the public sector. It is perceived to be a euphemism. What is the truth and what is mere fiction is best left to those with evidence that can stand legal scrutiny. Those who are pursuing the re-tooling agenda need to be mindful that they are embedding the seeds of hate and anger. The retooling proponents have hardened their hearts, plugged their ears and shut their eyes.

That way they will not see with their eyes nor hear with their ears nor understand with their hearts the dark despair and anguish caused by their re-tooling. There are diverse reasons why the issues and challenges facing athletes in this country do not receive the serious and urgent attention required. No matter the strength of views and feeling about the topic. We must not continue to sweep the problem under the carpet.

Whatever the perception, the same problems our athletes are facing will be spoken by others in various sections of our society. Ignoring or trivialising the issues will not make them go away. There are social challenges facing T&T and our willingness to dialogue and acknowledge them will determine in many significant ways what type of future our children, youths and young people will face.


Deon Lendore surrendered his National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division 1 Indoor Track and Field Championship men’s 400 metres title, in Arkansas, USA, late on Saturday.
Lendore, a senior at Texas A&M University, clocked 45.81 seconds to finish second in section two and fourth overall in the finals. The title went to American Vernon Norwood, the Louisiana State University (LSU) student getting home in 45.31. Lendore’s Texas A&M teammate, Grenadian Bralon Taplin picked up silver in 45.55, and United State/University of Florida athlete Najee Glass got bronze in 45.77.
While Lendore missed out on a top-three finish in the individual event, the Trinidad and Tobago quartermiler had the satisfaction of anchoring Texas A&M to men’s 4x400m gold in three minutes, 02.86 seconds. Lendore produced a 45.34 seconds split.
Sparkle McKnight ran the second leg for University of Arkansas in the women’s 4x400m relay, the T&T athlete splitting 51.79 to help her team earn silver in 3:28.70, just behind University of Texas, the winners in 3:28.48. On Friday, McKnight was part of the triumphant women’s distance medley relay team.
McKnight featured in a huge Arkansas celebration on Saturday night, the school emerging as women’s team champions with a total of 63 points.
University of Oregon (46.5) and University of Georgia (37) finished second and third, respectively, while Deandra Daniel’s Coppin State University finished joint-32nd with six points. The T&T athlete earned all six points with her third-place finish in Friday’s high jump.
Lendore’s Texas A&M accumulated 33 points for fourth spot in the men’s team competition, behind champions Oregon (74), Florida (50) and Arkansas (39).
At the NCAA Division 2 Indoor Championships, in Alabama, Kevin Roberts’ Tiffin University finished sixth in the men’s team competition with 28 points. Adams State University earned 45 points to capture the men’s title, while the women’s title went to University of Central Missouri (47).
Roberts, a freshman at Tiffin, finished ninth in the men’s long jump (7.08m) and 12th in the triple jump (14.51m).
At the Division 1 Championships, Daniel continued her fine run of form, earning women’s high jump bronze with an impressive 1.87m clearance.
“It means a lot to me to come in third,” said Daniel, in an interview on the Coppin State website “I put in the work and got the results I deserved. I am very pleased with my efforts today and I had great attempts at each height. I knew in my heart that I could do it. Jumping today I felt relaxed and great. That helped me throughout the competition.”
Daniel said she was grateful to her high jump coach at Coppin State, former T&T athlete Natoya Baird, as well as the school’s women’s track and field head coach, Alecia Shields-Gadson.
“I just want to thank God because without him I wouldn’t have been able to reach this far and accomplish any of this. Also, I want to thank my main coach Natoya for believing in me. She is the best coach and we have built a great relationship, not only as coach but as good friends. I want to thank coach Shields for her great support, and everyone else for their prayers and support. It meant a lot and it mattered.
“Finishing third feels great, but I didn’t accomplish all of my goals for indoors. I will be even better for outdoors,” Daniel warned.


International Olympic Committee (IOC) Thomas Bach speaks during a press conference in Tokyo Friday, March 13, 2015. Japanese auto giant Toyota signed on as a worldwide Olympic sponsor Friday in a long-term deal reportedly worth nearly $1 billion. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

TOKYO - The world's biggest automaker is driving onto the world's biggest sports stage.

Toyota Motor Corp. signed on as a global Olympic sponsor Friday in a landmark deal reportedly worth nearly $1 billion, becoming the first car company to join the IOC's top-tier marketing program.

The eight-year deal underlines Asia's growing influence in the Olympics, bolsters the IOC's long-term financial security and gives Toyota a worldwide platform that shuts out rival auto manufacturers.

The deal starts globally in 2017 and runs through the 2024 Olympics. It will cover three consecutive Olympics in Asia, including the 2020 Tokyo Games on Toyota's home turf.

The International Olympic Committee's TOP sponsorship program gives companies exclusive worldwide marketing rights and permission to use the Olympic rings in advertising.

Terms of the deal were not announced, but Japanese media reported Toyota will pay $835 million — a record by far for any IOC sponsorship deal. Four-year TOP sponsorships have usually sold for about $100 million and eight-year agreements $200 million, so the Toyota deal represents four times that.

Toyota joins as a sponsor in the new "mobility" category.

"This is a very symbolic day," IOC President Thomas Bach said after signing the agreement in Tokyo with Toyota president Akio Toyoda. "It is the first time in the successful history of the TOP program that we have had a mobility category."

Toyota becomes the third Japanese company to become a worldwide Olympic sponsor after Panasonic and Bridgestone. Toyota also becomes the 12th TOP sponsor overall and third committed through 2024. Other TOP sponsors include Coca-Cola and McDonald's.

"This agreement is a powerful indication of the strength of the Olympic brand globally and the appeal of an association with the Olympic movement," said IOC marketing commission chairman Tsunekazu Takeda, who is also president of the Japanese Olympic body and vice-president of Tokyo's organizing committee.

The Toyota deal covers the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and the 2022 Winter Games and 2024 Summer Olympics. The host cities for the 2022 and 2024 games have not yet been selected.

Two Asian candidates — Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan — are bidding for the 2022 Games, with the IOC vote to be held on July 31.

While Toyota will join the TOP program in 2017, it will have marketing rights in Japan with immediate effect. The agreement covers all Toyota brands, including Toyota, Lexus and Scion.

The IOC said Toyota will work with organizing committees to "provide sustainable mobility solution for the games to help with safer, more efficient mobility, including intelligent transport systems, urban traffic systems and vehicle-to-vehicle communications systems."

Toyota will showcase its products at the Tokyo Games, including the Toyota Mirai, a hydrogen-powered vehicle that is eco-friendly and in line with the Olympic theme of sustainability.

The car category has traditionally been only for sponsorship deals with national Olympic committees and local games organizers. Another Japanese car company, Nissan, is among the national sponsors of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

BMW was a domestic sponsor for the 2012 London Olympics and Volkswagen for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi. BMW is a sponsor of the U.S. Olympic Committee in a deal that expires after 2016.

Starting in 2017, Toyota will have exclusive rights in the more than 200 countries recognized by the IOC.

"From the beginning of 2017, Toyota is our exclusive worldwide partner for the mobility category," Bach said. "And exclusivity means no other partner can join the program and can support the national Olympic committees."

The deal shuts Korean car giant Hyundai out of the 2018 Pyeongchang Games on its own territory. China, the world's most populous country, will have no Chinese car sponsor if Beijing gets the 2022 Games. And if Boston wins the right to host the 2024 Olympics, the U.S. car industry will be shut out for its home games.

"It's a game-changer," former IOC marketing director Michael Payne told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "It brings the value of TOP into line and locks up the major markets wherever the games are and takes out all of the competition."

Other TOP sponsors are General Electric, Atos, Dow, Omega, Samsung, Visa and Procter & Gamble.

The Toyota deal is another example of Japan's economic influence in the Olympics. Last year, the IOC awarded Japanese TV rights to a national consortium in an eight-year, four-games deal worth $1 billion through 2024.

It also marks another success for Bach in ensuring the long-term financial security of the Swiss-based Olympic body. Last year, NBC signed a record $7.75 billion agreement with the IOC to extend its U.S. broadcast rights deal through 2032.


Wilson reported from London.