With International Women’s Day being marked today, Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis has committed his organisation to ensuring that a Team TO woman mounts an Olympic podium in upcoming editions of the Summer Games.
To date all 19 medals - three gold, five silver, 11 bronze - won over the 18 Summer Olympics TTO have participated in since the country’s debut in 1948, have been won by men.
The imbalance in medals is also reflected in the gender representation amongst those teams that represented Team TTO, with the first woman representing TTO at the 1972 Munich Olympics, Laura Pierre in track and field, being the only one out of a team of 19.
The most even distribution in terms of gender came with the Athens 2004 team that featured nine women and ten men.
Of the 174 TTO Summer Olympians, only 36 have been women. Lewis thinks it is time to start moving aggressively to even the score.
“I remain particularly focused at addressing the imbalance in Team TTO‘s Olympic team and the lack of gender balance in terms of those who have qualified. I think that it is no source of comfort to anyone, nor should it be at this particular point in time in our history,” Lewis said. “As we (TTOC) are celebrating our 75th birthday so to speak,...that we have never had a female athlete or female relay team mount the Olympic podium, it is something we at the TTOC have focused on in context of how do we improve, facilitate, recruit and retain and prepare our female athletes, players, sportswomen to go against the grain that is inherent in the male-oriented...patriarchy that is sports and that has an impact here in T&T.”
Lewis added that in the main, when he talks to the several male sports administrators, they still remain dismissive of the opportunity to qualify females to the highest levels with a notable exception to that rule being the National Administration of Athletic Associations (NAAA).
“But I think it is important a time and necessary - especially as we support and celebrate and acknowledge another International Women’s Day - (that we acknowledge) that failure of Team TTO in that regard,” the president of the Caribbean Association of National Olympic Committees (CANOC) said. “It is something that the TTOC ought not to take any comfort with as we continue to focus on providing specific assistance to our female aspirants for Team TTO and in particular the Olympic Games.”
Lewis said the aim would be to narrow that gender difference across the next few Olympic Games - Tokyo 2020, Paris 2024 and Los Angeles 2028 and beyond.
“The objective would be to have a gender-balanced Team TTO at an Olympic Games and to get Team TTO females on the Olympic podium, so in that regard, we continue to focus, champion and advocate for a change in attitude and mindset as it pertains to women and girls at sport generally and sport at the highest level.”
Currently, Team TTO athletes who have officially booked their spots to the July 23-August 8 Tokyo Games include swimmer Dylan Carter, cyclists Teniel Campbell, Kwesi Browne and Nicholas Paul, sailor Andrew Lewis, and rower Dr Felice Chow, who punched her Japan ticket Friday.
“Congratulations go out to Dr Felice Aisha Chow. She finished an incredible effort even with all the circumstances including the Covid-19 pandemic and for her to accept the challenge, to be determined and travel to the qualifiers in Brazil’s Rio De Janeiro and qualifying for Tokyo 2020 is an incredible achievement and a credit to her indomitable will and unwavering commitment and dedication to achieving her goals,” said Lewis.
”She has qualified for her second Olympics and again in rowing, continuing to be a history-maker in Team T&T. Congratulations to her and her team, her coaches etc. I’m incredibly proud of her and her effort.”
Lewis said judoka Gabriella Wood is on the cusp of attaining the qualification criteria, while table tennis and the TTO boxers - one of whom is Michael Alexander, recently-discharged from hospital following a motor bike accident - still have their qualifiers to sort out.
Lewis added the NAAAs will clarify their track and field qualifications shortly, taking into consideration all the changing circumstances presented by the pandemic.
Lewis also said he is waiting for swimming world body FINA to indicate whether Cherelle Thompson’s B standard is enough to get her into Tokyo.
“But it is important for Thompson to continue her efforts at improving her time and the TTOC will do its best to assist in so far as that is possible. So that aside, at this particular point in time (this) will be the realistic make-up of the Team TTO contingent for the Tokyo 2020 Games.”