ANDREW Lewis was moved to tears, on Wednesday, recalling the rush he felt during and after the World Cup Series race in Florida over the weekend, which saw him qualify for his third consecutive Olympic games.
Qualification for the Olympics was that much harder for sailors this time around, with the number of entries being reduced from 53 spots in his first appearance in 2012 to 38 spots in 2016 to 35 this year.
Lewis nevertheless made history for team TTO, becoming the first TT sailor to qualify for three Olympic Games, ahead of Canada, Mexico and other larger Olympic hopefuls.
"...I had faith. I stayed calm. I turned nerves into fire the whole time. When it started to become complicated, I said to myself, 'steady as she goes, Andrew. Steady as she goes.
"Inch by inch, foot by foot, leg by leg, (I) pulled away Argentina, pulled away Spain, El Salvador, Peru, passed Canada, putting Canada in second at that time, and on the last leg, (nearing) the finish, I was in the position of qualifying. I knew where I was," Lewis said, then pausing to compose himself.
"My life started to flash... I wanted this really bad because I didn't know if I would do this again."
Lewis was speaking to an audience of sponsors, family, supporters, and media, at a function hosted by one of his major sponsors, Atlantic.
While he is visible nationwide, though the Andrew Lewis Foundation, and the various activities he and his sponsors undertake, the sailor said he remains grounded, emphasising that he did not qualify for the Olympics, so much as team TTO did.
"This is not about me. This is about us, all of us, qualifying for the Olympics."
He said his top form over the last year can be attributed to the acquisition of a full-time coach and improved training facilities.
"Last year was insanely better, having a full-time coach. It really opened my eyes. It shocked me to realise what proper coaching and proper facilities can (achieve)," said Lewis.
Atlantic, for which Lewis is sports ambassador, hosted a function on Wednesday to celebrate the sailor's achievement, together with his other sponsors, Republic Bank, Blue Waters, and Tatil, as well as the Sport Company of TT (SporTT) and the Prime Minister's Sport and Culture Fund.
Each representative of Lewis's respective sponsor lauded his character, saying his determination and willingness to help others, made him the ideal person to align their brands with.
Lewis came in for high praise for his contributions to community development over the years, and his commitment to working with underprivileged children.
SporTT chairman Douglas Camacho gave a brief address and said he knew Lewis for many years, and although he did not always have the full backing of sponsorship, he never used it as an excuse to slow down.
"He said, 'this is what I have and this is what we'll make do with," Camacho told the audience. "The truth is, he never lost sight of his goal."