Trinidadian Olympian swimmer Cherelle Thompson encourages athletes to seize the moment

By Sports Desk December 31, 2022

Olympic swimmer Cherelle Thompson on Thursday encouraged Trinidadian athletes to seize the moment, as she spoke candidly about her struggles with injury, adapting to college life and trying to stay positive during the Covid19 pandemic during her feature address at the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee Annual Awards.

Thompson, 30, represented Trinidad and Tobago in the women’s 50-metre freestyle event at the 2020 Olympics, which was held last year because of the pandemic. She is the national record holder in the women’s 50m freestyle for both the long course (50m) and short course (25m).

Reflecting on her challenges, Thompson, a former student of the University of Tennessee, said “We all know the pursuit did not come without threat to the life of my dream. It was many years before I could make it onto the Olympic stage and time would not permit me to share the details of the chapters from that defining moment to the point where I would make it to the blocks in Tokyo.

Faith also got her through dark times. “What I could say though is that it was a long, long road with many defining moments and it was only through reflection that these experiences, by the grace of God, I was able to find reasons to be grateful and wonder amidst the ashes of disappointment and difficulty.”

Thompson said her first "last straw” was a shoulder injury which a surgeon said was “one of the worst they had ever seen.”

On her experience studying in the USA while advancing her swimming career, Thompson said it was not a bed of roses. “I cried buckets of tears being homesick and (not) finding a way to adapt to the new demand of academics and athletics.”

The adversity did not end there for Thompson. “The second shoulder injury came sometime after, then major disappointment and retirement (temporarily), sitting out for some time after missing out on Rio (Olympics) 2016."

Covid19 had put the careers of athletes on pause and Thompson was no different.

“Let’s fast forward to March 2020 to that time in history. Imagine what it would have felt like when the announcement came for the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Games. I was set to begin medical school later that year and the world was in a state uncertainty with a glimmer of hope that things would improve for the games to be held 12 months later (in July/August 2021).”

Thompson saw her dreams fading. “At this point I was convinced that I had no more straws. All I had was a dream in my heart and a passion for sport, and I placed that into God’s hands. The rest is history.”

Thompson made her Olympic debut competing in her strongest event – the 50m freestyle – placing 41st overall with a time of 26.19 seconds.

She urged all athletes to cherish every moment. “The question that none of us could answer is whether this would be our last competition, our last season, our last breath. All things considered, we know not what the future holds…take each opportunity to compete and engage in this thing called sport as a gift.”

Looking ahead to 2023, Thompson said, “No matter the stage of our journey, may we all transition into 2023 with our minds fixed and fortified, our bodies prepared to fight, and in our hearts a posture of gratitude and wonder to seize each moment as it were our last.”

Thompson also thanked retired two-time TT Olympic swimmer Sharntelle McLean for inspiring her.

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    Trinidad and Tobago's young Soca Warriors were among those that opened their Concacaf Men’s Under-20 Championship qualifying campaign on a winning note, as they downed St Vincent and the Grenadines 3-2 at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, on Friday.

    With the twin island republic playing host to Group D, the anticipation was high that the Brian Haynes-coached young Soca Warriors would put on a show for spectators, but they didn't have things entirely their way, and had to come from two goals down to edge St Vincent and the Grenadines.

    Goals from Cody Cooper (36th), Larry Noel (64th) and a last-gasp goal from Michael Chaves (90+5), was enough to give the host victory, after Kirtney Franklyn (3rd) and Steven Pierre (28th) gave Vincy Heat a 2-0 lead.

    The other Group D contest was a stroll for group favourites Canada, who hammered Dominica 8-0.

    A hat-trick from Myles Morgan (8th, 36th, 47th), as well as braces from Santiago Lopez (26th, 65th) and Sergei Kozlovskiy (86th, 90+4) and one from Kevaughn Tavernier (27th), gave the North Americans the expected start, which propelled them to the top of the standings on goal difference ahead of Trinidad and Tobago.

    Meanwhile in other group games:

    Group A

    Cuba started off Group A with a 13-0 beating of Anguilla at the Estadio Nacional in Managua, Nicaragua,

    Marcos Campos (3rd, 25th, 30th) and David Perez (40th, 47th, 71st) each had hat tricks, Maikol Vega (77th, 90+6) bagged a brace, while Leandro Mena (13th), Michael Camejo (15th), Karel Perez (27th), Cristian Mendoza (41st) and Samuel Rodriguez (62nd) also had goals.

    Host Nicaragua also thrilled home fans with an 8-0 victory against British Virgin Islands.

    Joab Gutierrez (6th), Francis Castillo (12th, 39th), Kenler Cayasso (25th), Andres Martinez (47th, 61st), Fredy Ortiz (56th) and Izamuel Martinez (81st), got the job done.

    Group B

    El Salvador got things going in Group B with a 7-0 win over Turks and Caicos Islands at the ABFA Technical Centre in Piggots, Antigua and Barbuda.

    Christopher Argueta (26th), Daniel Espana (37th), Walter Menjivar (41st), Wilber Diaz (67th, 80th), Darwin Lopez (90+1) and Nelson Diaz (90+3), got the job done for El Salvador.

    Meanwhile, hosts Antigua and Barbuda blanked Guyana 4-0 in the feature contest.

    The goals came from Javauhn Parker (2nd), Aiden Jarvis (16th), Christopher Douglas (18th) and Javaughn Jarvis (84th).

    Group C

    An all-important strike from Daminthly Bernardina (90+3), gifted Curacao a 1-0 win over St Martin at the Estadio Doroteo Guamuch Flores in Guatemala.

    Guatemala also started positively with a 3-1 win over Barbados in the nightcap.

    Hector Prillwitz (17th), Olger Escobar (32nd) and Justin Racancoj (80th) scored for the Chapines, while Rovaldo Massiah (28th), pulled one back for Barbados.

    Group E

    In Group E, Haiti secured a 4-1 win over Cayman Islands at the SKNFA Technical Center in Basseterre, St Kitts and Nevis.

    A hat trick from Bryan Destin (56th, 80th, 90+5) and a goal from Schneilorens Lebrun (12th) was enough for Haiti to see off Cayman Islands, who got their goal from Joshwa Campbell (61st).

    The action in the group wrapped up with Puerto Rico blanking St Kitts and Nevis 5-0.

    Adrian Biaggi (5th), Sebastian Otero (24th), Daniel Cruz (85th), Luis Medina (88th) and a 47th-minute own goal, saw Puerto Rico to victory.

    Group F

    Action in Group F gets under way on Saturday, with Bermuda facing Grenada in just their second ever meeting in this tournament, while Jamaica, who were quarterfinalists in Honduras two years ago, will square off against Martinique, both at the SKNFA Technical Center in Basseterre, St Kitts and Nevis.

     

  • Haynes high on confidence as young Soca Warriors ready to kick off U-20 Champs against St Vincent and the Grenadines Haynes high on confidence as young Soca Warriors ready to kick off U-20 Champs against St Vincent and the Grenadines

    Trinidad and Tobago Head coach Brian Haynes is exuding confidence that his young Soca Warriors should open their Concacaf under-20 Championship qualifiers account with victory over St Vincent and the Grenadines at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo on Friday.

    The young Soca Warriors, which recently wrapped up their preparation phase, now has the much-anticipated opportunity to impress both their coach and fans on home soil. They lock horns with St Vincent and the Grenadines in the Group D feature game at 6:00pm, after group favourites Canada meet Dominica in the 3:00pm curtain-raiser.

    With only the group winner to progress to the Championship round where they will join the confederation's top-six ranked teams, United States, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica and Dominican Republic, Haynes is well aware that his team has no room for mistakes throughout the campaign.

    "We are preparing for the first game. That is it. Nothing means anything unless we play that first game and do what we have to do to win that game," Haynes told T&T Football Association (TTFA) media.

    "No disrespect to St Vincent or whoever we are going to play, but that is our focus – winning that first game," he added.

    After their opening game against St Vincent and the Grenadines, the young Soca Warriors play Dominica on Sunday, before ending the group assignment against Canada on February 27. All games will be played at the Mucurapo venue.

    Haynes, who included seven overseas-based players in his 21-member squad, admitted to knowing little about their opponents.

    "(We have not been able to get much information on other teams), which is fine. It is really quiet out there. It made me more determined to prepare my team the way we have to play, the tactician shared.

    With 11 of the players being those that represented the twin island republic at last year's Concacaf under-17 championship, there is some cohesion and intensity in Haynes's side, which he believes the overseas-based players have strengthened. The overseas-based players are goalkeeper Ailan Panton, striker Larry Noel, attacking midfielder Derrel Garcia and English-born flanker Rio Cardines, a Crystal Palace youth player.

    "The level of professionalism is one thing, and the level of play is another thing. The body of work these guys bring to the group is awesome," Haynes said.

    "They are not here to be casual. They are here working hard and giving their best. What it has done is lift the level of all the players," he noted.

    Haynes promised possession-oriented football with a purpose, as he underlined the significance of keeping clean sheets in the qualifiers, especially given the quality of his defensive group.

    "(The fans) are going to meet a bunch of players who are very hard-working. Second of all, they are going to meet a bunch of players who play for each other. Thirdly and most importantly, (the fans will see) a team that wants to win and entertain T&T," Haynes ended.

  • All set: Seven overseas-based players in Haynes's final squad for Concacaf U-20 Champs All set: Seven overseas-based players in Haynes's final squad for Concacaf U-20 Champs

    Trinidad and Tobago's Head coach Brian Haynes has named the trio of Rio Cardines, Derrel Garcia and Larry Noel among seven overseas players in his young Soca Warriors squad for their upcoming Concacaf Men's Under-20 Championship assignment.

    The twin island republic will host Group D, which includes Canada, Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines, at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo. They will open against St Vincent and the Grenadines next Friday, before tackling Dominica on February 25, and Canada on February 27.

    Haynes's side is now in the final phase of their preparations following two warm-up fixtures against Jamaica, and one against their senior Soca Warriors counterparts. They first defeated Jamaica 3-2, but lost the second contest 1-3, and that was followed by a 1-2 defeat to Angus Eve's senior outfit.

    Despite those results, Haynes in a recent interview, expressed pleasure with his team's display for the most part.

    “We need to have some consistency. We have to work on being much more effective on offence. I think we do a good job getting the ball from the back to the midfield and to the top of the 18-yard (box), but the final product has to become better,” Haynes reasoned.

    “All we have to do is keep working hard no matter what happens. We concentrated for the most part...I am thankful it is happening now and not in the tournament. While we didn’t win the game, the experience they got here is something you cannot get in practice,” he added.

    The inclusion of the seven overseas-based players meant the tactician was impressed by their rendition, as he initially declared that their selection would be dependent on the quality they could add to his team.

    “This (local) group here has made me proud, and I am saying I love it. We have good players coming from overseas, but we have good soccer players here in Trinidad, and if the guys that are coming in are not challenging these guys, this is what I am going with,” Haynes said prior to finalizing his squad.

    Only the group winners will progress to the next phase of the Concacaf Under-20 tournament to join the top teams –United States, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic –ranked in that order.

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