SPORTS Minister Shamfa Cudjoe declared her Government will "pay up" on September 12 and reward this country's national athletes who have represented with distinction and won medals on the international stage.
Cudjoe was speaking at a function hosted by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann's, in recognition of the athletes who competed at the recent Central America and Caribbean (CAC) Games in Barranquilla, Colombia.
The cash reward for TT athletes who have won medals is part of the national sport policy which will be launched on September 12. Cudjoe said the Cabinet has also approved the reward of national teams who have created history by qualifying for their respective World Cups for the first time.
Cudjoe said, "Emanating from the national policy for sport 2017-2027, equally important (is) the institution of an incentive and reward framework for our national athletes who medalled at intentional sporting events such as World Championships, Olympics, Paralympics, World Cup, Commonwealth Games, Pan Am Games and CAC Games."
She explained, "The framework was approved by the Government in March 2018; it will see athletes rewarded for these games for gold, silver and bronze achievements. The incentives and rewards framework also identifies rewards for junior athletes, para-athletes and national team athletes.
"In April, the Government further approved the inclusion of senior national teams that qualify to compete at major international events for the first time. The first beneficiaries will be the national senior (men's) hockey team and national senior female volleyball team which qualified for their respective 2018 tournament."
Cudjoe, addressing the happy athletes in the audience, said with each medal won at the CAC Games – TT won 30 medals (9 gold, 8 silver, 13 bronze) – it provided her with a headache she did not mind.
"I paid specific and very close attention to the CAC Games this year and day after day these young people made (us)...proud and every time somebody won a medal, I'm checking my budget, checking my budget," she said while chuckling.
On the sport policy, she said, "We are getting ready to launch the sporting policy on September 12 and distributing the cheques for the first set of athletes for the year 2018 and 2017 on September 12, and around December we will issue the cheques for 2016 and 2015. You won so we have to do our part and pay up."
PM Rowley said despite being a dot on the map, this county continues to produce more (sporting) heroes per capita than any other nation in the world. He urged the athletes to keep striving for excellence to ensure TT never is beaten in sport, even if we might trail in other fields. He lauded the sporting fraternity for always shining a global spotlight on TT.
"This is the season of independence...and as we reflect on our own independence...not many people expected us to so distinguish ourselves in front of this red, white and black. The sporting fraternity took up the profile of this new nation and holds us up to the rest of the world. Congratulations to the sporting fraternity," he said.