EMMANUEL Callender said it was an emotional moment for him when the Trinidad and Tobago men’s 4x100-metre 2008 Beijing Olympic team received their gold medals – 14 years later.
Callender, Richard Thompson, Marc Burns, Keston Bledman and Aaron Armstrong received their medals in a short Olympic medal reallocation ceremony at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Tuesday.
At the 2008 Olympics, Jamaica won the men’s 4x100m event, led by legendary sprinter Usain Bolt. However, in 2017, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) revealed that Jamaica team member Nesta Carter had violated the anti-doping code by testing positive for methylhexaneamine. Jamaica were disqualified and TT, who had earned silver, were announced as the new winners.
Callender, speaking to Newsday following the ceremony, said, “I am not looking at (it being) 14 years later. What comes to mind is all the hard work I have put in honestly over the years being a clean athlete. This is just the reality of the sport of what is taking place day to day around the world.
“You see many people recently and in the past tested positive who we would have believed were clean champions.
Callender said he thought about the “blood, sweat and tears towards that first Olympics.”
He was elated to be with his teammates. “It was a really good feeling to share that moment. I think you would have seen in the award ceremony that I would have shared some tears. When I had to sing the national anthem I really could not hold back on the tears.”
For the TT public, it was also a memorable moment hearing the national anthem play.
During the interview, Callender decided to switch things up by asking this reporter about the experience of viewing the ceremony.
“Some people would say the moment would have been lost 14 years later, but I don’t think so. It was special to hear the anthem and see you guys receive the medal,” this reporter said.
At the ceremony on Tuesday, IOC president Thomas Bach said he knew the TT athletes would have liked to experience such a special moment at the 2008 Games.
Bach said, “All of our feelings are mixed I guess. All of us and in particular you would have preferred to have this ceremony in the Olympic stadium in Beijing in 2008 and to share this feeling immediately after your victory, to enjoy it in the emotional moment after having crossed the finish line first.”
He said the IOC’s goal was to protect clean athletes.
“Finally justice is being done and that nobody in the Olympic movement, and particular not the IOC, just accepted the result from Beijing at the time and forgot about everything, but that we took the necessary precaution to make sure that cheaters could never feel safe.”
After Bach spoke, the TT athletes were introduced and brought on stage. After receiving their medals, the president of the TT Olympic Committee (TTOC) Diane Henderson presented all the athletes with a bouquet.
The national anthem was then played on the steelpan for the first time in an international ceremony. The athletes then took pictures with the TT flag.
Former president of the TTOC Brian Lewis was a strong advocate for playing the national anthem on pan.
Lewis said, “I always believed that the steelpan version of the national anthem and getting the IOC to approve it for Olympic medal ceremonies was an important global recognition for our national instrument.”
The athletes were accompanied by members of their families.