Paralympics gold medallist and two-time javelin and shot-put record holder Akeem Stewart is calling for a reform of the Division of Sports after he was forced to withdraw from a national track and field event in Trinidad last weekend because he has had no resources and facilities to train for it.
Stewart, who described his preparations for competition as an exercise in frustration, also said if he stays in Tobago, he will fail as a professional athlete.
“Right now, I, along with the other athletes in Tobago are suffering. The Dwight York Stadium has been closed down so long and nothing was put in place (for us to train) knowing that we have seasons ahead of us.
“I don’t think I want to stay in Tobago to do anything relating to sports because I will be setting up myself to fail. I won’t give up but will just keep my distance form Tobago. It could get so bad that when I do an interview I’ll only mention Trinidad, I won’t lie to myself,” he told Newsday Tobago in an interview last Friday.
Stewart was name Para-athlete of the Year at the 2017 THA Sport Awards, held in April this year. He was named 2016 THA Sportsman of the Year at the Awards held May 2017.
Stewart said operations at the Sports Division must be reviewed, and suitable persons appointed to oversee sports in Tobago who were willing to drive development and change in the sector. He noted that there was a netball league and a football league but nothing on the island to push track and field.
On November 9 last year, Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for Tobago Affairs, Ayanna Webster-Roy announced that gym at the Central Administrative Services, Tobago offices (CAST) at Orange Hill was available for use by the island’s elite athletes.
Asked about using that gym to train, Stewart said he could not train there since there was no lifting platform for his workout there. He is currently using the gym at Shaw Park, which he said was in a poor condition and the lifting platform for training was a hazard to life and limb for athletes.
“When we go out and perform, the fame only last three days when we get back home. They (Sports officials) don’t care about the preparations for the upcoming weeks. I am at a point where I have no high expectations.
“Since I have been representing Trinidad and Tobago, for 10 years, the most the Tobago House of Assembly ever did to contribute towards my growth is to buy one shot-put and discus. Then when we fight against the odds and succeed internationally, they come running to praise us, but this is the time we need to see them, during the shaping and developing process in our career,” Stewart said.
“I am frustrated and my coach is frustrated and now I have to leave my coach in Tobago to go to another coach in Trinidad because Tobago cannot offer me what I want, which is simply a training venue with a discus circle, and a proper gym with a lifting platform.”
“I will have to forfeit the rest of the season with the discuss training because that is the only option I have right now. I have to focus on shot-put because that’s the only thing I have the resources to train for right now,” he said.
Last year November Stewart got the opportunity to participate inn a two-week training programme in Texas at the Michael Johnson Performance Centre.
“Now that I have finished that training, I have the competitive part. I have to be home to compete in the local meets in order to qualify for the international meets. Right now, I’m just home and it makes no sense being in Tobago because I don’t think I’m benefitting with anything from Tobago. The athletes are sacrificing a lot and when we expect simple things such as having a facility to train comfortably, we don’t have it, much less rewards.”
Stewart is currently preparing to compete in the Arizona Desert Challenge in the USA from June 12-17 and will be competing in the National Open Championships on June 22-24.