Express Editorial : Daily

The shocking death of three-time national Olympian Deon Lendore has extinguished a shining light who enthralled, excited and uplifted us all.

All loss is painful, but when a six-foot, three-inch 29-year-old world class athlete is so suddenly cut down, grief is magnified by shock and the haunting thought of what might have been but will now never be. We hope that his family and friends find comfort in the global outpouring of love, admiration and ­respect for him as an outstanding athlete and human being.

T&T is today as united in sorrow and heartbreak as it was ­united in joy and celebration almost ten years ago when 19-year-old Lendore held that baton passed by Lalonde Gordon, Jarrin Solomon and Ade Alleyne-Forte and crossed the finish line to give T&T the bronze medal in the London Olympics of 2012. We rose as one people to celebrate his arrival on the greatest athletic stage of all. On that day, the boy from Mount Hope who had blazed his trail from Arima’s Abilene Wildcats club while at Queen’s Royal College became a household name.

Lendore’s teenaged promise continued to mature while at A&M University in Texas, which he attended on a track and field scholarship and where he was a stand-out athlete, winning the 2014 Bowerman Award, the highest accolade given to the year’s best student-athlete in American collegiate track and field. At the time of his passing, he was the volunteer assistant coach at A&M while training for this year’s meets, including the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

In 2015, he and teammates Gordon, Renny Quow and Machel Cedenio set a national record in winning the silver medal at the World Championships in Beijing.

In 2018, Lendore gave T&T its only medal at the World ­Indoor Championships with bronze in the 400m event. Despite the glory he brought T&T, he was denied reward from the Government’s then-newly introduced Incentives and Rewards Framework. Asked to explain, Sport Minister Shamfa Cudjoe said since the IAAF World (outdoor) Championship meet was part of the Framework, the global indoor event could not be included.

In 2019, Lendore was on the T&T team that won gold in the 4x400m relay at the 2019 IAAF World Relays in Yokohama, ­Japan, and bronze in the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.

Injury kept him low for a while, but in 2021 he was back at the Tokyo Olympics, making it to the men’s 400 metres semi-­finals. He rounded off the year with bronze at the Wanda Diamond League final in Zurich, Switzerland.

In yesterday’s Express, Sports Editor Garth Wattley described Lendore’s 2021 performance as some of his best running, adding, “That’s the saddest, most ironic things about Lendore’s life being cut short when it was.”

For all his achievements, Lendore remained troubled by a lack of respect for T&T athletes. Interviewed by this newspaper’s Kwame Laurence, he urged more support for athletes to level the global playing field.

He is not the first to make the point, but he could be the last if those with the power finally listen.

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Deon Lendore died tragically, short weeks after he had represented our country in the quarter at the Olympics in Tokyo. This is not a eulogy. There are others who knew him well, in this country and in the United States, who would have reflected publicly on his life and contribution. This is more an attempt to try to situate him in a tradition, one committed to the pursuit of excellence.

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