Jereem Richards broke his personal best and a meet record on his way to defending his men’s 200m title at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games in England, on Saturday.
Richards, who previously had a personal best of 19.83 seconds, won the event in 19.80.
He erased the previous Commonwealth Games record of 19.97, held by Frankie Fredericks of Namibia since 1994.
Zharnel Hughes of England claimed silver in 20.12 and Joseph Amoah of Ghana grabbed bronze in 20.49.
The gold medal run by Richards was TT’s fourth medal at the Commonwealth Games and one week after cyclist Nicholas Paul earned gold in the men’s keirin event.
Paul also won a silver medal and a bronze at the games.
Richards, in an interview immediately after winning the race with SportsMax, remembered his former TT team-mate Deon Lendore.
Lendore, a former top 400m athlete, died in a car accident in Texas in January. Richards and Lendore were part of the TT men’s 4x400m quartet which won gold at the 2019 World Relays.
“Boy, I know Deon is smiling right now,” Richards said.
Since Lendore’s death, Richards has dedicated some of his races to him.
Richards is hoping at the medal ceremony on Sunday, at 5 am local time, the pan version of the national anthem will be played.
“I have one request. If anybody from this meet could hear it I would love to hear the national anthem in the steelpan rendition…that will make my day. That is my favourite anthem, the steelpan one,” he said.
Former president of the TT Olympic Committee Brian Lewis said the pan version of the anthem is supposed to be played at all medal ceremonies for TT athletes. He said the International Olympic Committee has accepted the pan version of the anthem which was done by the National Steel Symphony Orchestra.
“I am advised that it was an error of the Commonwealth Games Federation and Birmingham 2022 that the pan version was not played for Nicholas Paul’s gold medal ceremony,” Lewis said.
Lewis said the TT team in Birmingham, led by chef de mission Lovie Santana , will put measures in place to ensure the pan version is played.
Richards thanked his support team following the race.
“Everybody helped me out this year. I had a big team, a big support team, my family and friends.”
After the race, Richards’s sister Brittney Richards-Nelson wrote on social media, “Forged from the love of liberty. Feeling so proud.”
Richards got out the blocks quickly and heading into the final 100m it was clear it was a two-man race between Richards and Hughes.
Richards had a strong finish as usual and with 40m left the race was over as he opened a huge lead to win comfortably.
Richards was proud of the start he got.
“In terms of the start I have been working on it for awhile now and now I have the confidence and I have the ability to do it.”
Richards controversially won the 200m gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia.
In the final stages of the race, Hughes impeded Richards with his arm.
Hughes, who thought he won gold, was disqualified and Richards was given the gold after initially ending in second place.
There was no chance of a repeat of the 2018 controversy as Richards and Hughes did not run next to each other in Saturday’s final.
Asked if he came to Birmingham with a mission, Richards said, “I have been on a mission. I was very conservative throughout the rounds and I just wanted to make a statement. Coach told me to drop the hammer in the final and that is what I wanted to do just drop the hammer.”
Just over two weeks ago, Richards finished sixth in the 2022 World Athletics Championships 200m final in 20.08.
He said the Commonwealth gold makes amends for the disappointment at the World Championships.
“It definitely does make up for it a lot. To leave here with a personal best (and) so close to a national record once again. I will take it down some time. God’s timing is the best timing, but I am just happy. The two major meets for the season are done. Mentally a big weight has come off my chest.”
Speaking more about the 200m national record of 19.77 held by Ato Boldon since 1997, Richards said, “It could be gone this season (because) I still have a few more meets to go, but the main focus is to keep running fast and staying healthy. I want to get the record, but it is not the main focus it will come when it is time to come.”
The Prime Minister congratulated Richards on his achievement.
“Champion gold for Jereem. Congratulations to Jereem Richards for defending the men’s 200-metre title at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England,” Dr Rowley said.
In a media release, Minister of Sport and Community Development Shamfa Cudjoe, said, "Jereem clocked a blistering personal best ultimately winning gold and defending his 200m title in Birmingham. This is a great moment for sport and the athletic world is celebrating right now. It is with great pride that our entire Ministry, the Government as well as the local sporting fraternity, join in celebrating Mr Richard's latest victory."
The sport minister also acknowledged the significant contributions made by the TT athletes.
“Team TTO continues to fly the colours of our country proudly around the world and we salute them for their exemplary efforts, grit and determination. You never cease to be an inspiration to the next generation of athletes and young people.”
TT Olympian Alvin Daniel, who shares a close relationship with Richards, was elated for the 200m champion.
Daniel said, “I know he was going to win.”
Both Richards and Daniel are Pt Fortin residents.
“I have seen Jereem workout. I went to look at him in Mahaica Oval. He asked me to come down and check him out…he could take workload.”
Daniel said Richards will be on “top in the world very soon.”
Daniel believes Richards can get an Olympic medal one day. “Definitely (he has the potential). I think he is one of our best chances in the next Olympics.”