TTO to Tokyo: Olympic campaign begins for Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad andd Tobago swimmer Dylan Carter will compete in the men's 100m freestyle, at the Tokyo Olympics 2020, which start on Friday.  - AP PHOTO
Trinidad andd Tobago swimmer Dylan Carter will compete in the men's 100m freestyle, at the Tokyo Olympics 2020, which start on Friday. - AP PHOTO

A trimmed Trinidad and Tobago Olympic delegation will feature at Friday’s opening ceremony at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium owing to covid19 countermeasures.

The opening ceremony gets underway from 6.54 am and TT will be the 120th country to make their historic march at the parade of nations.

TT’s full 60-member contingent will not be present at the celebration since coronavirus restrictions have limited the number of national delegates who will take part in the presentation.

The decision to reduce participating members from the opening ceremony is part of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Japanese government, Tokyo metropolitan government and organising committee’s measures to reduce the spread of covid19 at the Games.

It is understood that both the opening and closing ceremonies will be limited to those eligible to stay at the athletes’ village around that time.

TT Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis has already confirmed he will not be present for the parade of nations as he is currently in mandated three-day quarantine.

Lewis arrived in Tokyo on Wednesday and completes his quarantine period on Saturday, following another PCR test. Following a negative result, only then will Lewis be allowed to attend events.

Olympic sailor Triniadad and Tobago's Andrew Lewis. - Vidya Thurab

It remains doubtful, however, if debutant Olympic cyclists Nicholas Paul, Kwesi Browne and Teniel Campbell and two-time Olympian Andrew Lewis (sailing) will take part in the ceremony.

These four athletes are based at satellite villages – separate locations from the main Olympic Village because their events are being contested at different venues – and are uncertain to be given access to the ceremony.

TT’s flag bearer for Friday’s parade will be sprinter Kelly-Ann Baptiste, who will be taking part in her fifth Olympics.

TT may also feature joint flag bearers since the IOC’s executive board recently approved a change to its protocol guidelines to allow one female athlete and one male athlete of each national Olympic committee (NOC) to bear the flag jointly during the opening ceremony.

This was done to ensure full gender representation across all teams from the 206 competing NOCs.

Meanwhile, boxer Eldric Sella – a Venezuelan refugee who left Trinidad on Tuesday en route to the Games – will be among the 29 athletes that make up the second-ever Refugee Olympic team.

The Refugee Olympic Team is composed of 29 refugee athlete scholarship-holders from 11 countries who have been living and training in 13 host countries.

Sella’s team will march at the parade of nations with the Olympic flag, in second position, immediately after Greece. For all official representations of the team (including possible medal ceremonies), the Olympic flag will be raised, and the Olympic anthem will be played.

Although the 24-year-old boxer left Trinidad to head to Japan, Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds said on Tuesday that Sella did not get the necessary approval to return to Trinidad.

According to Hinds, if he wants to return, Sella would need to apply for a visa requirement. Whether it would be granted or not, lies in the hands of authorities.

Two-time Olympic medallist Trinidad and Tobago's Keshorn Walcott. - Angelo Marcelle

In addition to the Games being postponed for one year owing to the pandemic, several other hiccups occurred in the lead up to the Tokyo edition.

Most recently, the show director of the Olympics opening ceremony Kentaro Kobayashi has been dismissed, one day before the event is due to be held.

According to multiple international reports, footage of Kentaro Kobayashi from the 1990s recently emerged in which he appeared to be making jokes about the Holocaust.

Japan’s Olympic chief Seiko Hashimoto said the video ridiculed “painful facts of history”. The dismissal is the latest in a string of scandals to hit the Games.

Earlier this week, a composer quit the team creating the ceremony after it emerged he had bullied classmates with disabilities at school.

In March, Olympics’ creative chief Hiroshi Sasaki quit after suggesting that plus-size comedian Naomi Watanabe could appear as an “Olympig”. He later apologised.

And in February, Yoshiro Mori was forced to step down as the head of the organising committee after he made remarks about women that were criticised as “inappropriate”.

Mori was quoted as saying women talked too much and that meetings with many female board directors would “take a lot of time”.

Amid the challenges that surround the Tokyo Games, TTOC president Lewis remains upbeat for Team TTO. Since his arrival there, he has been impressed with the covid19 countermeasures put in place and how technology is being used to aid the fight against the virus.

Delegation members were mandated to download a specific app to their phones to help organisers monitor movement and other details of athletes during the Games. He added that robotics among other advanced technologies were being utilised to help curb the spread of covid19.

He also credited chef de mission Santana and covid19 liaison office Rheeza Grant for ensuring Team TTO athletes remain safe and secure at the Olympic Village.

The feeling in the TT camp is a positive one, Lewis said.

“So far, so good; the athletes are with the chef de mission and covid19 liaison officer and are paying strict attention to covid19 countermeasures. They are all staying focused and staying isolated, adhering to measures to testing because everybody in the village is being tested daily.

“They anticipate some positive tests (among the general athlete population) but there’s a stringent test, detect, isolate and contain strategy in place to deal with instances as those. It’s all a part of cluster management,” he said from his Tokyo base on Thursday.

Team TTO got its Olympic campaign underway on Thursday night with rower Aisha Chow in the women’s singles sculls heat two.

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At 12 am on Sunday, cyclist Teniel Campbell makes her Olympic debut in the women’s road race.

TEAM TTO OLYMPIC DELEGATION MANAGEMENT – Lovie Santana (chef de mission), Rheeza Grant (covid liaison officer)

MEDICAL TEAM – Dr Rudranath Ramsawak (chief medical officer), Dr Nailah Adams (doctor), Dr Anyl Gopiesingh (athletics doctor), Jelani Baptiste (physiotherapist), Alban Merepeza (physiotherapist), June Durham (massage therapist), Odessa Chandler (massage therapist), Shurlan Bonas (massage therapist), Brent Elder (massage therapist)

TRACK AND FIELD – Michelle-Lee Ahye (100m, 4x100m relay), Kelly Ann Baptiste (100m, 4x100m relay), Sparkle McKnight (400m hurdles), Tyra Gittens (long jump), Semoy Hackett (4x100m relay), Khalifa St Fort (4x100m relay), Ayla Stanisclaus (4x100m relay), Kyle Greaux (200m), Jereem Richards (200m), Machel Cedenio (400m, 4x400m), Deon Lendore (400m, 4x400m relay), Dwight St Hillaire (400m, 4x400m relay), Andwuelle Wright (long jump), Keshorn Walcott (javelin), Kion Benjamin (4x100m relay), Adell Colthrust (4x100m relay), Eric Harrison (4x100m relay), Akanni Hislop (4x100m relay), Richard Thompson (4x100m relay), Asa Guevara (4x400m relay), Che Lara (4x400m relay), George Comissiong (team manager), NicConnor Alexander (coach), Dr Ian Hypolite (coach), Charles Joseph (coach), Ismael Lopex Mastrapa (coach), Wendell Williams (coach)

BOXING – Aaron Prince (middleweight boxer 69-75kg), Reynold Cox (team manager), Rawlson Dopwell (coach)

CYCLING – Teniel Campbell (road race), Kwesi Browne (sprint, keirin), Nicholas Paul (sprint, keirin), Desmond Roberts (team manager), Alejandro Gonzalez Tablas (coach), Elijah Greene (mechanic)

JUDO – Gabriella Wood (+78 kgs), Lee Calder (coach)

ROWING – Felice Aisha Chow (single sculls), Sarah Trowbridge (coach)

SAILING – Andrew Lewis (laser men), Kairon Serrette (team manager)

SWIMMING – Dylan Carter (100m freestyle), Cherelle Thompson (50m freestyle), Tracy De Montrichard-Carter (team manager), Chase Bloch (coach)

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