Proud mom of Trinidad and Tobago youth swimmer: I'm his back-office staff

Nikoli Blackman with his mother Denise Williams-Blackman. -
Nikoli Blackman with his mother Denise Williams-Blackman. -

THERE is nothing like a mother’s love.

For their child, a mother will go the extra mile to ensure their well-being and positive development.

When it comes to being the mother of a young athlete, much more is required to ensure the athlete is physically and emotionally ready to compete.

First Citizens teller supervisor Denise Williams-Blackman, mother of TT junior swimmer Nikoli Blackman, told Newsday she is happy to support behind the scenes and play the role of "back-office staff” to her only child.

Nikoli, 17, is one of TT’s most promising young swimmers making a name for himself in the pool. The Fatima College student will be aiming to continue his journey when he starts school at the University of Tennessee in August.

Nikoli, who started swimming at three, has broken multiple meet records at the 2022 Pam Am Age Group Championships held at the National Aquatic Centre in Couva.

He was a finalist in the 50m freestyle at the 2022 FINA World Junior Swim Championships in Peru.

TT swimmer Nikoli Blackman, back left, with his mother Denise Williams-Blackman and another national junior swimmer at the Piarco International Airport last month after returning from the Carifta Swimming Championships. - JORDON BRIGGS

The First Citizens and TT Olympic Committee Junior Sportsman of the Year demonstrated his quality again at the 2023 Carifta Aquatic Championships last month in Curacao, winning more than ten medals.

Williams-Blackman said her husband Bertram does the lion’s share of the dropping off and picking up for training, while she tries her best to ensure everything is well taken care of at home preparing meals for the rising star.

“Dad is the one that shuttles him up and down and gets very involved supporting front-line on the deck. I am back-office staff: food and nutrition,” she said.

As an athlete, Nikoli is normally up early to train, which forces his parents to also make the necessary sacrifices.

“There was (a period for) a few years, once he has to get up on a morning I am up and making sure he has something nutrition-wise, whether it is a hot drink and one slice of toast, a quick thing before he goes to training. He has been doing morning training for a few years now.”

Williams-Blackman said she also religiously reminds her son to take his vitamins.

“Making sure he is well supplemented as well because we know your food doesn’t give you everything you need, especially for the kind of work he is putting out…I make sure he is well supplemented all around for his energy, his focus. (I make sure) his daily intake of multi-vitamins and multi-minerals (are met). That is definitely where I focus.”

Williams-Blackman said she always prepares lunch for her son to take to school as she wants him to eat healthy and was grateful that he is not a fussy eater. “Luckily for me, Nikoli pretty much eats everything,” she said while chuckling.


Williams-Blackman said she realised her son was passionate about sport when at seven years old, he became emotional while watching Olympic swimming during the 2012 London Games.

She said an advertisement came on showing Olympians from around the world and Blackman's eyes became full.

"He wondered if he could ever be like that or be there," she said.

TT swimmer Nikoli Blackman with his mother Denise Williams-Blackman. -

As a mom,Williams-Blackman said it was difficult to control her emotions when Nikoli was competing, but in recent years she has learnt how to manage those feelings.

“I have tamed somewhat…I always want to see his races. I want to be able to tape them because he and his dad like to look over the races and talk about it. If he is going behind a record of course it is a lot of adrenaline pumping and sometimes even in taking the video you could hear the little excitement building, but I have come a long way because long ago I used to be screaming down that (National) Aquatic Centre.”

She added, “From very early in Nikoli’s swimming I purposed to be his best cheerleader.”

Williams-Blackman said her job is usually very hectic which leaves little time for herself.

"I wanted to go and try to swim the (Subway Maracas Open Water) 1km and I was trying to explain to somebody this is me trying to fit something for me into an already busy schedule."


Williams-Blackman will soon have to cheer her son from afar when he heads to US to pursue his studies and swim career.

TT swimmer Cherelle Thompson, who made her Olympic debut at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, also attended University of Tennessee, a top swimming institution.

Williams-Blackman said her son wants to make his Olympic dream come true.

“It is possible (for him to go to the Olympics)…We have been in touch with the coaches (at Tennessee) and we know one or two people who are going there presently and I honestly believe it will just add value to everything that is going on with him right now.”

She said she will miss him, but will manage. “A lot of people saying, ‘The bird leaving the nest, how are you going (to cope.)’ Listen, I am going to be okay. I am the kind of person I will be okay. Although I told him, ‘Niko, you know you have to call your mother every week, right?’”

Williams-Blackman said the love and support for her son will continue no matter where he is.


"Proud mom of Trinidad and Tobago youth swimmer: I’m his back-office staff"

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