“One was the finalists at the World Championships in 2019 T&T 4x400m men’s team and the 4x100m women’s team would have qualified by that route. The second route was the World Relays coming up month-end, the first and second of May, the top eight finalists in the relays and the finalists at the World Championships would all have a berth at the Olympics
The National Association of Athletics Administrations of T&T (NAAATT) yesterday announced the withdrawal of the team from the upcoming World Athletics Relays to be held in Chorzow, Poland, from May 1-2.
T&T was to be represented in two events – the men’s 4×100 metres and 4x200m, opting not to defend its title in the men’s 4x400m as they have already qualified for the upcoming Olympics.
Members of the reigning 4x400m champion were to feature though on the two teams, Deon Lendore and Jereem Richards who are listed on both squads and Machel Cedenio to the 4x200m group.
Lendore and Richards were to joined on the 4x100m team are Olympic sprint relay gold medallists Keston Bledman and Emmanuel Callender along with Jerod Elcock, Kyle Greaux and Andre Marcano. Cedenio was to be on the 4x200m team which were to be chosen from the names listed above minus Bledman and Marcano.
Jeber Barreto Solis
However, yesterday a release from acting NAAATT president George Comissiong confirmed that the national teams were being pulled from the competition due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Jeber Barreto Venezuela
“It is with regret that NAAATT announces that it is withdrawing its team to compete at the 2021 World Athletics Relays, to be held in Poland on May 1 and 2. This decision has not been taken lightly but after careful consideration of the various challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the potential risk to participants and the significant difficulties with travel arrangements. NAAATT is particularly concerned over the welfare of our athletes,” Comissiong stated in the release
“Preliminary arrangements were made to enter a Men’s 4x200m and a Men’s 4x100m team. In the case of the latter, participation was seen as a means to qualify for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics – the top eight (8) teams at the Relays automatically qualify for the Olympics. In light of this, NAAATT will now have to explore other options to have the Men’s 4x100m team qualify,” said Comissiong in the release, adding that a number of other countries including USA have declined participation. “Yesterday, Jamaica withdrew its team, citing similar challenges.”
However, Comissiong does not believe that all is lost and he and his association are seeking various avenues in both the United States and the Caribbean, to ensure that the 4x100m team will race at the Tokyo Games
“Ideally in the US as recent as last weekend the 17th April, there was a meet supported by NACAC and USATF, it was called the Tropical Relays and we had actually entered to compete but based on the poor responses that the meet organisers got, they cancelled the event.
“We have a number of other meets in States that when we looked at the schedule they don’t have relays,” said Comissiong, who explained that there are three possible ways to get to the Olympics in terms of the relay event.
“One was the finalists at the World Championships in 2019 T&T 4x400m men’s team and the 4x100m women’s team would have qualified by that route. The second route was the World Relays coming up month-end, the first and second of May, the top eight finalists in the relays and the finalists at the World Championships would all have a berth at the Olympics.
“We expected the two lists to look very similar but if the two lists are identical and it’s 16 teams required for the Olympics, eight more teams will be invited so if you didn’t qualify through either the two routes the championships or the relays championships then those places up for grabs and that is where the other teams, like T&T, need to look for meets to compete.”
Comissiong added that T&T’s best chances to qualify for the men’s 4x100m relay event are in the US in terms of proximity, language and COVID challenges
“We have quite a few athletes out there, some of them in pretty, good form but they are on the collegiate circuit and as soon as that finishes or depending on where the meets are located, we can integrate them into our team.”
He identified Dwight St Hillaire, who “has been having an excellent season” competing for the University of Kentucky
Comissiong also made reference to the possible meet in Grenada which may present another opportunity for several Caribbean countries including the host, Jamaica and T&T to book a spot at the Olympics.
“COVID has posed some challenges, we don’t have that flexibility in travelling but I am hopeful based on past experience that we find a meet where we could qualify,” said an optimistic Comissiong, who added that his organisation has been in contact with national athletes through the entire process, leaving them with comforting words saying: “We know that some of the athletes would be disappointed obviously but the decision, at the end of the day, is really in their best interest.”