Deon Lendore has run his race.
He would not have expected the running to stop for him so suddenly. But humans just don’t get to choose when and how we stop living.
The tragedy of this athlete’s passing via a car accident in Texas adds another layer of numbness to the mass of numbness that the society has already been undergoing because of Covid-19’s death-dealing.
He was not a veteran like calypso’s Mighty Bomber, or kaiso-jazz innovator Clive Zanda, men who were able to use their talents to a much fuller extent.
But Lendore did give sports fans a reason or two to smile.
Perhaps top of his highlight reel would be his anchor leg run in London, 2012 when as a 19 year-old, he ensured an Olympic bronze medal for T&T and a 4x400 metres relay team that included Lalonde Gordon, Jarrin Solomon and Ade Alleyne-Forte.
Following close behind, only because they were not at the Olympics, would be the World Relays gold medal won in Yokohama, Japan in 2019, and the World Championships silver medal Lendore helped Gordon, Renny Quow and Machel Cedenio win in Bejing, 2015. He ran the third leg then, coolly keeping the first place that Gordon had established on leg two. But Cedenio could not stop LaShawn Merritt and the USA.
Lendore and company set a national record that day in earning their super silver, a record it took the quartet of Gordon, Solomon, Jereem Richards and Cedenio to break dramatically to win gold at the London World Champs two years later.
Individually, Lendore did not have the same success, with injury playing a key role. But the worst seemed to be behind him following a 2021 in which he produced some of his best running. That’s the saddest, most ironic things about Lendore’s life being cut short when it was.
Lendore ended 2021 with a 400m bronze medal at the Wanda Diamond League final. That was a big step forward, because to get to that race, he had to show consistency over a series of events over many months against the world’s best quarter-milers. One sensed that his body of work as an athlete was far from complete.
One can only imagine the depth of emotion that must be surging through his former team-mates with whom he made history, not to mention his own family.
The sporting community has been down this road too many times before with the sudden passing of footballers Shahdon Winchester, Kevon Carter and player and then coach Michael McComie to name just a few in more recent times, and going a bit further back, Marvin Lee and Mickey Trotman.
There is always the hope at times like these that good can come out of it; that the example set by the deceased can inspire others to do better.
Well what can his fellow athletes and the wider sporting fraternity take from Deon Lendore?
In search of the answer, I went back to the last interview he gave to the Express. In that piece with colleague Kwame Laurence, Lendore declared: “I’ve pushed my body to its limits.”
At the very least then, Deon Lendore left it all on the track. He did his best. If we in our own spheres of endeavour, and with our own responsibilities can say the same when all our doing is done, we would have done well too.
And speaking in a year when T&T failed to win a medal at the Olympics, Lendore also addressed the local treatment of athletes.
Hear him: “I’ve said my name needed respect because I’ve been doubted all season. You can give your all, and they always compare you to the opponents and what they’re doing. Why not compare their support to what we get? It’s not an even playing field. There’s so much I can say but I’ve realised the more you say, the more you’re likely to get put on the wait-list with respect to getting support you need.
“I think this season and what we’ve all been through shows that the sport can swing any direction it wants. What we need to realise though is that it’s more likely to swing in the direction of those who have a stronger support system. Listen to the athletes. We see what goes on behind the scenes. We aren’t just blowing smoke and complaining. There’s more to this sport.”
Can’t add anything to that except to say that if the authorities in athletics and Government really want to do right by Lendore, then heed his plea and don’t mamaguy people. Give real, sustained, and timely support to those he has left behind.