TRINIDAD AND Tobago have made their mark on the Olympic stage, bringing joy to the people of this country. Weightlifter Rodney Wilkes got the ball rolling at the 1948 London Games which was followed by some memorable performances. Sprinter Hasely Crawford, javelin thrower Keshorn Walcott and a men’s 4x100-metre team all reached the top of the podium and the efforts of swimmer George Bovell and sprinter Ato Boldon will never be forgotten.
On Tuesday, TT added a third gold medal to this country’s tally as the men’s 4x100m relay team were upgraded to gold, 14 years after earning a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
This reporter takes a look back at the 19 medals (three gold, five silver and 11 bronze) this country won in the history of the Olympic Games.
TT have picked up medals in three sports at the Olympics – track and field, weightlifting and swimming.
Crawford won TT’s first gold medal at the 1976 Montreal Games.
Crawford had stiff competition heading into the Games as the event included 1972 gold medallist Valeriy Borzov of Soviet Union and the highly favoured Donald Quarrie of Jamaica.
In the second semifinal, Crawford sealed a place in the final by winning in 10.22 seconds. Quarrie was second in 10.26.
In the final, Crawford became a household name in TT when crossed the finish line in 10.06. Quarrie was second in 10.08 and Borzov had to settle for bronze in 10.14.
At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Jamaica won the men’s 4x100m event, led by legendary sprinter Usain Bolt.
Jamaica won the event in 37.10 in a then Olympic and world record.
TT finished second in 38.06.
However, in 2017, the International Olympic Committee revealed that Jamaica team member Nesta Carter had violated the anti-doping code by testing positive for methylhexaneamine. Jamaica were disqualified and TT were announced as the new winners.
The TT team of Richard Thompson, Marc Burns, Keston Bledman, Emmanuel Callender and Aaron Armstrong received their medals in a short Olympic medal reallocation ceremony at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Tuesday.
Not much was expected of Walcott heading into the 2012 London Games. By the end of the Games, Walcott was considered one of this country’s greatest Olympians.
Walcott, only 19 at the time, was still a national junior athlete.
In the qualifying round, he sealed a place in the final by throwing 81.75m on his third and final throw. Walcott had the tenth best throw among the 12 finalists.
In the final, Walcott broke the national record with a throw of 84.58m to cop gold.
It was Walcott’s day as Vitezslav Vesely of Czech Republic, who threw a massive 88.34m in the qualifying round, could only manage an 83.34m throw in the final to snatch bronze.
Antti Ruuskanen of Finland took silver with an 84.12m effort.
TT made their Olympic debut at the 1948 London Games with five athletes.
Weightlifter Wilkes became this country’s first Olympic medallist after finishing second in the men’s featherweight.
Wilkes, nicknamed the Mighty Midget, died in 2014 at age 89.
Wendell Mottley was one of many formidable 400m runners this country produced in the 1960s. At the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Mottley grabbed a silver medal in the men’s 400m event. It was a memorable Games for TT as it was the first Olympics that this country claimed medals in track and field.
TT had to wait 36 years before earning another silver medal. During the 2000 Sydney Games, TT fans had to set their alarms to wake up in the wee hours of the morning to watch Ato Boldon in action because of the 14-hour time difference.
It was worth it in the end as Boldon finished second in the men’s 100m event. From the mid 1990s to early 2000s TT’s track and field medal hopes relied almost entirely on Boldon’s shoulders.
Boldon inspired a new wave of sprinters and at the 2008 Beijing Games, Richard Thompson announced himself.
Thompson was in the form of his life heading into the Beijing Games.
Running for Louisiana State University, Thompson won the NCAA Men's Outdoor Track Athlete of the Year award and the SEC Men's Outdoor Track Athlete of the Year award.
Thompson copped silver in the men’s 100m final behind Bolt, who set a world record of 9.69.
Four years later at the 2012 London Olympics, the quartet of Thompson, Bledman, Callender and Burns took silver in the men’s 4x100m event. It was the most successful Olympics for TT as the team left London with four medals.
Eleven of TT’s 19 medals are bronze with Wilkes grabbing the first one at the 1952 Helsinki Games. Following up his silver medal four years earlier, Wilkes took bronze in the men’s featherweight.
Wilkes was not the only TT weightlifter to earn a medal at the games as Lennox Kilgour was third in the men’s middle-heavyweight division.
At the 1964 Tokyo Games, Edwin Roberts became the first TT track and field athlete to cop a sprint medal with his bronze in the men’s 200m event.
Roberts was joined by Mottley, Kent Bernard and Edwin Skinner in the men’s 4x400m race. They did not leave empty-handed, ending third.
It was a dry period for TT between 1964 and 1996 as during that time Crawford’s gold medal in 1976 was the lone podium finish.
At the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Boldon ended TT’s drought by copping bronze medals in both the 100m and 200m.
The 100m final was drama-filled. Linford Christie of Great Britain, the former Olympic champion, false started to add more tension to the race.
Boldon then false started and on the third attempt to start the race Christie false started again and was disqualified.
Christie was reluctant to leave the track but, when he eventually left, the race began.
Boldon led at the 60m mark, but Frankie Fredericks of Namibia and Donovan Bailey of Canada surged to the front. Bailey grabbed gold in a new world record of 9.84, Fredericks was second in 9.89 and Boldon had to settle for bronze in 9.90.
In the men’s 200m final, Boldon copped his second bronze medal of the Games when he stopped the clock in 19.80.
American Michael Johnson broke the world record on his way to gold in 19.32 and Fredericks was second in 19.68.
Boldon snatched his third bronze medal of his illustrious Olympic career in the men’s 200m event at the 2000 Sydney Games.
Bovell was the next athlete to get bronze for TT becoming the first swimmer to earn an Olympic medal at the 2004 Athens Games. A few TT swimmers competed at the Olympics before Bovell.
Bovell’s achievement was celebrated as it was TT’s only medal at the 2004 Games.
Bovell, competing in the men’s 200m individual medley, touched the wall in one minute, 58.80 seconds (1:58.80) in a new national record.
American swim legend Michael Phelps won in an Olympic record of 1:57.14 and countryman Ryan Lochte was second in 1:58.78.
At the 2012 London Games, TT, as they did in 1964, showed their prowess in the men’s 400m event.
Lalonde Gordon earned bronze in the men’s 400m event and the men’s 4x400m team also took bronze. The TT relay contingent included Gordon, the late Deon Lendore, Jarrin Solomon, Renny Quow, Machel Cedenio and Ade Alleyne-Forte.
TT could not continue their prolific form at the 2016 Rio Olympics as a bronze medal by Walcott in the closing stages of the meet was the only medal earned. It was his second medal after winning gold four years earlier.