NEWS of the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics for about one year has come hard to local boxers who were already in peak form in preparation for upcoming qualifiers.
“It was a great disappointment,” Trinidad and Tobago Boxing Association (Amateur) president Cecil Forde said. “We were certain that the team would have qualified at least four boxers. It’s the best team I have ever had to work with in terms of experience and talent, plus the live in camp ran smoothly and everyone was just peaking and ready to go. We would have done well.”
But even before yesterday’s announcement, Forde said, the COVID-19 pandemic had already caused devastation to the Olympic qualifying programme.
“The virus has brought everything to a screeching halt. All our programmes, events, fundraisers have been postponed,” he said. “The camp took all our funding and having to stop everything suddenly, there are one or two bills we have to address.” Most disappointing for Forde was that with limited funding, the TTBA had been able to put together a better than average training camp before the onset of the virus ended everything. The camp contained nine elite T&T boxers including Nigel Paul, Michael Alexander, Tyrone Thomas and Aaron Prince.
Forde said: “The Cubans worked with us and I wish to thank them. Also, our technical team, and it was the first time we had the services of a doctor (Ms Marisha Nimrod), a physio (Orlando Griffith), a videographer (A Marcano), plus our coaches. The programme was good.”The writing was on the wall when, on Monday, Canada and Australia both announced their unwillingness to take the risk of sending athletes to Tokyo.
“Once the countries started to postpone the qualifiers I knew the games would be in problems,” Forde said. “Worldwide, the virus is creating havoc and we must take the right precautions. We cannot carry on the camp right now; it’s against the Government directive.”
For the T&T boxers, Olympic postponement means having to start over again, since they would have approached peak form in getting ready for qualifiers. With the COVID-19 outbreak the qualifiers in Argentina, scheduled for this month, and Europe were postponed. The team remained in camp until Government measures to battle COVID-19 put an end to that.
“A year is a long time. Don’t forget the athlete must enter the competition at his peak,” Forde said. “A proper programme must be put in place to ensure this.
“As it is now, nothing is certain as things keep changing from day to day. The team cannot train together; all the gyms are closed,” he added. “Our technical staff is working from home, a lot of discipline is required of our athletes right now. Their physical conditioning is most important and the coaches have to make sure they are keeping fit.”
Forde added that funding issues will also have to be addressed.
“Funding has always been a ticklish issue for boxing as we are not considered one of the major sports in T&T. Cricket, football, athletics are the front runners. Boxing has to keep on producing, something that we have been doing for the past 10 years, so they have to pay some attention to us. We still have to keep on reminding them we are here. We have to keep on winning medals.”