“If this injury prevents me from achieving what I’ve set out to, another T&T jumper will do it for me. I’ve learnt a lot in Germany, and have a vision for passing it on.”
These were the words of Wendell Williams in a February 2001 Trinidad Express interview as he stood at the crossroads of his track and field career. Injury, then surgery and finally an embolism in one of his lungs had sidelined the Germany-based long jumper, and he was hoping for a successful comeback. As it turned out, Williams never again competed at a high level.
Eighteen years later, however, Andwuelle Wright is living out the 2001 prophecy. Williams remembers the pain of retiring without hitting two major career targets, but is buoyed by the prospect of achieving them in a different way—as Wright’s coach.
“My incomplete goals,” Williams tells the Express, “were to go out and get an Olympic medal and get a Pan Am medal. I don’t want to sound like I want to live something through an athlete but I believe I’ve learnt so much as an athlete and I am learning more as a coach. Andwuelle is helping me to learn a lot more.
“The ultimate goal for any coach is to have an Olympian, a gold medallist, a world champion, a record holder. I think Andwuelle could be one of those athletes who could reach to that level once he puts his mind to it and puts in a little more training.”
Wright agrees with his coach.
“Confidence is something an athlete must have. Once I stay focused, continue working and continue developing my skills, most definitely I could see myself being an Olympic champion, a world champion and a record holder. I know I have it in my package to be the first-ever 9-metre jumper. It’s just to open that package and let it flow into the world.”
In 2018, Wright became national record holder in the men’s long jump, disturbing the sand at 8.23 metres at the NAAA Open Championships. The big leap bettered the old 8.14m standard, established by Williams back in 1999. Going past his coach and mentor was an important career milestone for the young jumper.
“It was long overdue. I know I had it in me for a while now, and it was just waiting for the right moment. So, as God said to grab it, I just went out and grabbed it and delivered on that day.
“It’s always good,” Wright continues, “to have a coach who has experienced track and field at the highest level, the World Championships, the Olympics. The Olympics is the highest stage in track and field. So, Wendell knowing how the Olympics is, and knowing the kind of competition it will bring, he will just talk to me and let me know everything will be fine, and we’ll work to suit from there.”
For Wright, a major stop en route to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics is the 2019 Pan American Games here in Lima, Peru. Today (Wednesday), the 21-year-old Tobago athlete squares off against American Jeffery Henderson, 20-year-old Cuban star Juan Miguel Echevarria and Jamaican Tajay Gayle for men’s long jump honours.
“Andwuelle will stand on the podium,” Williams declares. “The colour of the medal would be his choice. Once he stays focused, he could stand on top. Definitely. I have that faith in him. He’s a competitor. That’s one of his strong points. He showed us that at the North American, Central American and Caribbean (NACAC) Under-23 Championships. Once he stays healthy, I know he will do well.”
Wright captured NACAC Under-23 gold in Mexico, last month, improving on his national record with an 8.25m leap. He followed up with a successful defence of his national title, and was later named Daily Express Star of the Month for July.
The rising star was just three when Williams had spoken to the Express from his Berlin base about a vision for passing on all that he had learnt in Germany. But the former national record holder is convinced the big picture was already being painted.
“Fate. Fate. When I took up the article, and read what I said, it was like ‘wow’. Look at what I am doing now with Andwuelle. It’s something I wanted to do but didn’t know it would have come so fast, so it was heart-warming to read. I know God has a great plan.”