THE global covid19 pandemic has not hampered the pursuit of three-time TT Olympian, Mikel Thomas from attaining his International Academy of Sports Science and Technology (AISTS) Master of Advanced Studies in Sport Administration and Technology degree.
The 110m hurdle specialist is approximately ten weeks away from becoming the first student from TT and only the third from the region to have attained this esteemed qualification. The unique 15-month programme is considered one of the most prestigious sports management degrees in the world and is endorsed and hosted by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) at its headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.
However, since the recent implementation of worldwide travel restrictions resulting in the closure of several international borders, Thomas departed Switzerland in early March and returned to his US base to be closer to his family during the pandemic. The remaining weeks and climax of this course are now being done online by the seasoned athlete.
Speaking from Atlanta on April 5, Thomas admitted there were obvious challenges, but remains committed to completing this world-renowned sports management course.
“The programme is being done online and the schedule is the same. Classes are as normal, Monday to Friday and culminate in June. It’s going well but it’s not easy when you have to wake up 2-3 am for class but have to do what we have to do in this time. My school did a good job with adjusting. We’ll be on course to graduate,” he said.
The cost of this exclusive programme amounts to over US$50,000 (tuition and living expenses), to which Thomas has already attained the majority through a gofundme account. He still needs approximately US$8,000 to complete his study.
During his stay in Switzerland, the 32-year-old track star visited the International Basketball Federation(FIBA) and discussed their global social programmes and ways to support already-established groups in TT. One of his goals is to collaborate with the 3x3 basketball project in Maloney.
Additionally, the 2015 North American Central American and Caribbean Championship 110m hurdles gold medallist also worked alongside IOC president Thomas Bach and several other executives such as Airbnb co-founder, Joe Gibbs. Together, the trio contributed to a panel discussion in London back in November 2019. Thomas was invited as a guest to discuss ways the venture can help athletes, sport and communities around the world.
But, upon receiving news the US was closing its borders on March 14, the former national 110m hurdles champions opted to return. When asked his thought on the postponement of the Summer Games in Tokyo until 2021, Thomas admitted it was the right decision “It would have been very expensive to maintain life in Europe with no income. The Swiss were making changes and shutting down the country so I chose to return. It was inevitable (Olympic postponement), though, it still felt unreal. It needed to be done but it still heartbreaking especially if you were sacrificing (training) everything and it then disappears,” he added.
On the possible future of his athletic career amidst the pandemic, Thomas declared,
“As for me as an athlete, there are a lot of things on the line. For the next three years, track and field will be jam-packed than ever before. My ultimate goal of going to Europe was to understand sport as a business on a global scale. I’ve done more since being there than I imagined. As time progress I will make a decision moving forward but for now, we are all trying to survive, especially financially.”