PRESIDENT of the TT Olympic Committee Brian Lewis is upset over the omission of sprinter Michelle Lee Ahye from the Olympic women's 100-metre final on Saturday in Tokyo, Japan.
Lewis said Team TTO's chef de mission Lovie Santana was not given a fair opportunity to get a hearing to appeal after Ahye missed out on one of the eight spots in the final, despite having the eighth fastest time in the semis.
Ahye, running in semifinal two, clocked a season’s best 11.00 seconds to finish third on Saturday morning (TT time).
Only the top two in each of the three semifinals qualified automatically for the final, therefore Ahye would have been hoping to qualify as one of the fastest losers.
However, Daryll Neita of Great Britain grabbed the eighth and final spot in the final after finishing fourth in semifinal three in 11.00 as well.
Neita was given the nod as her exact time across the line was 10.992 while Ahye clocked 10.993.
Switzerland's Ajla del Ponte, who qualified automatically after placing second in semifinal one, ran a slower 11.01.
On Twitter, Ahye said, “Still give thanks. God is good, walked away with a season’s best.”
In an interview with Newsday, Lewis called on the authorities to show more respect to TT officials.
“World Athletics and (president of World Athletics) Sebastian Coe have to be called to account. You can’t be talking about putting athletes first and talking about fairness and justice and equity and you don’t have a process that is fair. You have people dealing and interacting with people in a dismissive way as if they just don’t care,” Lewis said.
The TTOC boss said there were several factors Santana would have argued, including the wind factor.
In Ahye’s semifinal the wind was -0.2 and in Neita’s semifinal the runners had the benefit of +0.3 tailwind.
“It is not the same race, it is two different races. It’s two different wind factors.”
The attempt by the TTOC to get a hearing fell on deaf ears as the women’s 100m final was held less than three hours after the semifinals were completed.
Lewis said a fair solution was staring the IOC in the face.
“Again, our point is we don’t want to leave out (Neita). You have a ninth lane. This is a literal dead heat to the naked eye. If you were watching your photo camera you would not literally be able to separate them.
“This is not usual circumstances…but when situations happen that may be a little bit different for what your rules anticipated, what you expect is at least a hearing.
"At the end of the day this is the Olympic final. It comes once every four years. This is not the case where we want you to 'X out' another athlete. What we ask is for consideration on the basis of these situations.”
Lewis said some may argue they were being “sore losers” but these people did not “sacrifice” and “fight hard” for the last five years to make an Olympic dream a reality.
“The next Olympics is 2024. It does not matter who like Michelle-Lee Ahye or don’t like Michelle-Lee Ahye… look at the facts as they are.
"All the TTOC, team TTO and the chef de mission asked for was a hearing, consideration, this is what we are saying.”
It was a challenging 24 hours for the TT Olympic team between Friday and Saturday.
On Friday morning, TT time, it was revealed that two TT athletes and one coach tested positive for covid19. Women’s 400m hurdler Sparkle McKnight and men’s long jumper Andwuelle Wright were ruled out of competition a day before they were scheduled to compete. Wright’s coach Wendell Williams also tested positive. The three are staying in isolation at a hotel in Japan.
Putting aside the disappointment over how Team TTO's concerns were handled, Lewis said he was elated after Jamaica finished 1-2-3 in the women’s 100m final.
“I congratulate Jamaica for their sweep and the Olympic record.”
ROWLEY, CUDJOE: AHYE DID US PROUD
At a covid19 media briefing in Tobago on Saturday, the Prime Minister commended the TT athletes.
Dr Rowley said, “I think we have been well represented in heart and spirit…I think TT is well represented. As much as we would have liked to come home with a basket of medals, those who carry our flag did so with pride and we commend them for the effort they have made.”
Rowley said he was “disappointed” that members of the team tested positive for covid19.
Discussing Ahye, Rowley said, “I am little bit disappointed that Michelle did not get into the finals, but when you didn’t get in by one-thousandth of a second that sound like steel band judging to me, but say what. She did us proud.”
Rowley congratulated the Jamaican women’s 100m runners.
Minister of Sport and Community Development Shamfa Cudjoe wrote on social media, “My athlete! Tremendous love and respect to her always! Thanks for always pouring out everything! We continue to be very proud of you, and we look forward to the relays. #ahye #thequietstorm.”