THE NATIONAL Association of Athletics Administrations (NAAA) is considering approaching the Ministry of Health to ascertain whether they can host a trial event for a small group of locally-based athletes within reach of achieving their respective Olympic qualification standards.
Initially, the NAAA was scheduled to host its annual junior and senior National Track and Field Championships on June 5-6 and June 25-27 respectively. Owing to the pandemic, these meets – particularly the senior Champs (which serve as a final shot for potential Olympians to secure qualification) – were cancelled.
With the recent government-implemented state of emergency (SoE) and fluctuating global travel restrictions, this means, for the handful of TT-based track and field athletes nearing qualification, their chances of securing a spot at the Tokyo Games have now been immensely reduced.
The International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) deadline for athletes attempting to secure Tokyo qualification is June 29.
NAAA president George Commissiong believes the health and safety of TT’s athletes remains top priority. However, he thinks there is a possibility these athletes can do individual trial events under the existing covid19 regulations, once approved by the Health Ministry.
Commissiong said, “The new situation, and I don’t know if we’re being a little premature, is one that needs some further thought. There are a few people who are close to qualification and at this stage I don’t know what consideration may be given to the hosting of something more like a trial event as opposed to nationals.
“Whether or not consideration will be given to hosting a ‘trial’ with selected events for persons who may be close to qualification is up to the authorities. But that is still something that requires some thought and certainly collaboration with the Ministry of Health. A championship at this time makes no sense. It’s too much risk,” said the NAAA president.
The majority of TT’s Tokyo-bound track and field stars, such as two-time Olympic medallist Kehsorn Walcott, sprinter Jereem Richards and long jumper Tyra Gittens, are already abroad and continuing preparations ahead of the July 23 to August 8 Games.
Besides the few track and field athletes still hoping to secure qualification, national boxer Nigel Paul and UK-based judoka Gabriella Wood also await word from their respective international sporting governing bodies on their chances of qualifying.
On Thursday, national middleweight boxer Aaron Prince secured his Olympic berth because of his fourth place rank on the Pan American boxing ratings. His selection came after the Argentina Olympic qualifiers were cancelled and, luckily for him, three boxers exited the division, propelling him from seventh and into the top four.
For those athletes still in TT seeking qualification standards for major international competition, their training can continue at national sporting facilities.
This was confirmed by Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh, on Monday, at the Ministry of Health’s virtual media conference.
“Under the previous regulations, we did exempt persons training for national teams. Those for Olympics and Concacaf (football) continue. The national teams which were already exempted, that will still apply,” said Deyalsingh.
Additionally, Sport Company of TT (SporTT) chairman Douglas Camacho confirmed that facilities such as the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Mucurapo and Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva remain open to aid these athletes on the brink of qualification for Tokyo.
With the 9pm to 5am national curfew in effect, these facilities will now be opened from 6am to 5pm daily to facilitate athletes and ensure stadia workers have ample time to return home after hosting training sessions.
“Athletes have to book their respective times they want to use the facilities and we will have to manage it. The new times issued by SporTT caters for the athletes and allows stadium staff enough time to clean up and sanitise to get home in time to beat the 9pm curfew,” said Camacho.
TT Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis remains hopeful that the NAAA would get the required approval from the Health Ministry to host a possible isolated event to guarantee final qualification for TT’s locally-based athletes.
He said the TT Olympic delegation is scheduled to travel to Tokyo on July 9 to attend the pre-Games training camp.
Lewis said, “The local track and field athletes are waiting for the NAAA to get the necessary approvals, to have, in a controlled manner, a track event, to give them a final opportunity to compete. But the circumstances are different this time around. The logistics are very complex.”
Lewis has also been advocating for Olympians to get vaccinated before the Games to minimise overall risk. Some athletes have already begun the process while some remain sceptical on the potential short and long term side effects of the available vaccines.
He concluded, “Vaccination is an important part of the toolbox. Now that the Sinopharm vaccine is due here (in TT on Tuesday), we (TTOC) are going to access the right to the IOC, in terms of the Sinopharm programme they have. It’s a lot of work going ahead behind the scenes for us.”