Thompson earns TT Olympic silver
By WALTER ALIBEY Sunday, August 17 2008
The final of the Men’s 100 metres at the Bird’s Nest Stadium saw a long awaited Caribbean dominance in world athletics, with Jamaican Usain Bolt literally flying to a new world record time of 9.69 seconds and Trinidad’s Richard Thompson claiming the silver in personal best time of 9.89 seconds – the first medal for TT at the Games.
American Walter Dix, who secured third and the bronze medal prevented a region’s one, two, three in the final with a time of 9.91. Otherwise the Caribbean had been in for a clean sweep of the medals with Churandy Martina of the Netherlands Antilles fourth in 9.93 and Jamaican Asafa Powell fading in fifth with 9.95 seconds.
Michael Frater, another athlete from the Land of Reggae was sixth (9.97) while Trinidad and Tobago’s Marc Burns struggled in at seventh (10.01). The USA’s Darvis Patton completed the competitive field in 10.03 and eighth position.
Family members at Thompson’s Fitt Street, Woodbrook home were lost for words as they tried to express their joy. His elder sister Michelle described him as a humble soul who was totally focussed on the event.
“Richard went into the Olympics a very simple man. There was hardly anything known about him and Trinidad and Tobago. But now they know about Trinidad and Tobago,” Michelle said with visible joy yesterday.
Natalie, another sister said, “When I spoke to Richard on Monday he said if he got into the final yesterday, he would have brought home a medal. Yesterday I was a bit nervous because I know Bolt and Powell were doing quite well but I was always very confident that he would have returned home with a medal.”
His father Ruthven Thompson, who made the trip with his mother Judith and 11 other relatives to Beijing for the race described his son’s performance as majestic. “He surprised everyone with a performance that is as good as any in the world,” Ruthven said from a Beijing hotel.
Richard who went to school at Queen’s Royal College (QRC) is the youngest in a family of four with the others being a bigger brother Ruthven Junior, Michelle and Natalie.
According to Natalie, “He played football and ran at school until he was forced to make a decision in 2003.”
This decision led him to the Louisiana State University (LSU) where he produced three consecutive sub-ten performances during the National Collegiate Amateur Athletics Association (NCAAA), with his best being a 9.93 clocking which also earned him the victory.
His success was accredited to the support he received from his family and the values that Ruthven and Judith worked so hard to instill. This achievement also followed that of fellow countrymen Ato Boldon silver also in the 100 metres) and Hasely Crawford, still the only Trinidadian to collect a gold medal at the Olympics.
His father had been loyal to QRC and their foundation and he took the entire family to every event that Richard or any other member would take part in. It was in this circle of love that Richard developed a never-say-die attitude to win, in spite of the challenges that he may be up against.
According to his aunt Jessica and sisters, “We were only praying for Richard to get a good start in the race.” And in the dash he got just that, as he snatched the lead after the first 40 metres but could not prevent the bolting Usain from taking the front position. Still Thompson stayed on his heels and avoided challenges from Frater on his left and Dix on his right side. His uncle Ronnie said the Caribbean unity blossomed at the end of the race as there were hugging and picture-taking among the two islands.
Attempts to contact Richard yesterday proved futile but he will next be in action for Trinidad and Tobago in the 4x100 metres relay event where his colleague Darrel Brown, who pulled up with an injury in round two of the heats, will not be taking part.
At yesterday’s PNM monthly General Council meeting, Prime Minster Patrick Manning said that he thought our representatives did “exceedingly well”. He commended Usain Bolt on his gold medal win and Richard Thompson on copping the silver medal at the games.
Manning was impressed that six of the finalists came from the Caribbean. “The Caribbean makes up such a small population and look we have produced persons with such qualities.”
Conrad Enill the Minister of Energy and Chairman of the PNM spoke on behalf of the party and extended congratulations to Bolt and Thompson for their first class performance. “This shows that the Caribbean is really coming into its own. Similar to Trinidad trying to achieve first world status, the performance we watched was, in fact, first world.”