Trinidad and Tobago bobsleigh team opts out of Pan Am Champs

L-R: Pilot Axel Browne, De Aundre John, Xaverri Williams, Nicholas King, Wayne Garrett and coach Lee Johnston. - Steffensphoto
L-R: Pilot Axel Browne, De Aundre John, Xaverri Williams, Nicholas King, Wayne Garrett and coach Lee Johnston. - Steffensphoto

Trinidad and Tobago have opted out of the first-ever Pan Am Championships for bobsleigh and skeleton athletes.

The logistics of transporting the team’s equipment from Europe to Lake Placid in New York for the March 21 to 23 event are reportedly unfeasible. The efforts and finance required for this move, TT pilot Axel Brown said, could be used later on this year as they prepare for the start of a new season.

The Pan Am Champs is a race-in-race format, where the feature event is the BMW International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) World Cup finals.

On their non-participation, Brown said, “We have already finished our season, with athletes at home now. Also, the shipping would need to be booked, planned and started a month or so ago. Additionally, it would cost around US$30k to ship our sleds round trip to and from the race.

“That money would be better used elsewhere in things like summer push training, etc. That's what would get us better for Milan 2026 (Winter Olympics), not a single competition.
"We would have loved to be competing in it, but we simply can’t afford to ship the sleds there to get a team there.”

TT’s first-ever female pilot Akenke Oliver, however, remains hopeful she can put her newfound skills to the test at the New York event. Oliver is yet to officially debut for TT competitively in the women’s monobob event. Her challenge, however, is to get a sled.

“Akenke’s aiming to get to her race there and we’re currently struggling to find her a sled. You have to use a certain kind of sled in these races and they’re hard to find. And if you can find them they’re expensive, and obviously we don’t really have the funds to be doing that at the moment. So if she’s there, she would be the only TT athlete competing,” Brown added.

Oliver is nearing full recovery after a crash during the Europe Cup qualifiers at the Olympic Sliding Centre in Austria in late January. TT’s Xaverri Williams and Du Aundre John also crashed in their two-man qualifier. These crashes made them unable to qualify.

Both Oliver and Williams were also training to become pilots.

The trio also suffered some injuries.

“Akenke was left with a severe concussion after her head hit the ice in the crash. Thankfully we ensure all athletes have excellent safety equipment, well above the minimum standard. But regardless, the helmet saved her life, I've never seen a helmet in such bad shape after a crash.

“Xaverri also had to withdraw after his crash led to his brakeman, De Aundrè John, suffering a fractured shoulder,” Brown said.

TT bobsledder Akenke Oliver. - TT Bobsleigh Facebook page

Despite the crashes, Brown confirmed both Oliver and Williams remain motivated to get back behind the steering. He gave an update on their recovery.

“Neither driver seems deterred from their long-term goals, which is a relief. Akenke especially hopes to bounce back as soon as for Lake Placid. I really hope she can and of course will be giving her all the help I can!

“Xaverri was able to race in the four-man event with me that same week. So he was all good. Du Aundre is ahead of schedule with his shoulder recovery, but is now back in TT.”

Brown reflected on this experience to help educate the public on the dangers of the sport, particularly as new drivers.

“New drivers will inevitably make mistakes. The sad reality is that in this sport, even small mistakes can be very costly, which is what we saw. Two small driving errors led to three athletes having hospital visits.

“So, when you see the likes of me or other ‘world-class’ drivers smoothly running down the track, know that it's not that easy. It also shows the importance of a good driver. Hopefully, this dispels the myth that bobsleigh drivers don't do much!”

“We even had someone ask, ‘Why doesn't someone else jump in?’ when I was out sick. This shows how 11 years of experience in the sport is not just replaceable.”

With the season wrapped up, pending Oliver’s debut, Brown thanked the Ministry of Sport and Community Development and other stakeholders for their help

“We received a bit of assistance from them this year, which helped to start the development team and also to further our season already. Though in the scheme of things we would need much more to be consistent medallists, we're obviously also very grateful for what we did get this season.”


"Trinidad and Tobago bobsleigh team opts out of Pan Am Champs"

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