Over 30 athletes and coaches showed up to the Hasely Crawford Stadium on Tuesday to participate in the “Learn By Doing” Hurdles Clinic. The one-day session, the country’s first in three years, was led by Mikel Thomas, a three-time Olympian and national 110m record-holder, along with clinicians Shayne Cooper and Antonia Burton.

The mixed group of experienced and novice athletes in the technical discipline were eager and receptive to the variety of drills delivered by the coaches. For Thomas, the clinic was a chance for him to utilise his time at home, where he is spending the holidays for the first time in 15 years.

“The clinic is an opportunity to give back, plant and water some seeds to hopefully lay down a foundation for future athletes to do bigger and greater things,” Thomas said.

Given the turnout at such short notice, the 2015 Pan Am silver medallist was encouraged and hopes to build on the success of the clinic by making it an annual activity and by inviting some of his international competitors in the event to add depth and prestige.

Thomas confessed that to be a hurdler, “you need to have a loose screw because it’s risky…you’re talking about an event where you go at an object ten times at full speed, so you do need a little bravery; but for athletes that have good speed but aren’t fast enough for the 100m or 200m, it’s a good event to transition into”.

Despite the regional and world medals Trinidad and Tobago has earned in the long and short versions of the event, Thomas laments that athletes aren’t being introduced to it locally. This point was echoed by Shayne Cooper, a former national athlete, who agreed that coaches have a difficult time introducing hurdling because the athletes themselves are attracted more to the “glitz and glamour of a 100m, rather than being involved in a sport that could help them improve their lives”. Cooper believes that coaches must stand firm and be honest with their athletes about their potential. But he was impressed with the talent pool at the clinic, calling them a “green group” that is ready for grooming and development over the next few years.

On his own plans for 2017, Thomas admitted to having endured a rough 2016 season, with the pressure of the Olympics being the hurdle he couldn’t overcome. Although he says he “lost the fun of it” in 2016, Thomas is energised by the enthusiasm of the young athletes he interacted with at the clinic and is confident of making the national team for the World Championships.

“I would love to see the World final with me in it and it being an all sub-13 race…may the best chest win!”