The Ministry of Sport (MoS) announced a major new sports programme called ‘Podium Push’, which officials say is designed to supplement the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee’s (TTOC) drive to 10 golds by the 2024 Olympics goal. But officials failed to disclose the amount budgeted for the initiative.

At an Achievers’ Luncheon hosted by the MoS at the grand ballroom of the Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre, yesterday, MoS director of sport Gabre Mc Tair, speaking on behalf of the absent Minister of Sport Brent Sancho, said the Ministry had created this initiative called ‘Podium Push’ to further enhance top local athletes’ chances of securing podium performances at the Rio 2016 Olympics next year.

“Our Elite Athlete Assistant Programme needed some refocusing to ensure that our sporting elite received proper funding, I recognised that even more was needed to help Brian Lewis and his team at the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee achieve their aim of ten gold medals by the year 2024. Providing funding to take our top athletes to the Olympics is not enough. I realise that getting there is not the challenge but finishing in the top three requires additional commitment and effort from the athletes, coaches support teams and the Ministry of Sport,” Mc Tair said, without disclosing any budgeted figures for the initiative.

Mc Tair said the various national sporting bodies will have to recommend to the Ministry of Sport the athletes who they feel are podium ready, not athletes who would just compete but those who are in the top 20 in the world in their discipline.

“These are the athletes who we feel have a real chance of finishing in the gold, silver or bronze positions,” Mc Tair added. Mc Tair said that medals are separated by fractions of a second, metre or kilogramme.

Mc Tair vowed that T&T Olympic athletes will receive the best possible preparation for the Rio Olympics so that Lewis and TTOC can have a realistic chance of achieving the 10 golds by 2024 objective. Mc Tair added the expenses to be covered include travel to competitions, overseas training camps, sessions with a nutritionist, sports psychologist or specialist trainer.

Earlier, members of the Special Olympics Trinidad and Tobago team received plaques for their 48-medal haul (15 gold, 9 silver and 24 bronze) at the Special Olympics World Games that concluded in Los Angeles, California, USA, earlier this month.

Also receiving plaques were medallists of the Pan Am Junior Championship athletics team and medallist at the Pan American Games in Toronto that concluded on July 27. None of the Pan AM Games medallists was present because they were either outside the country or on their way to the IAAF World Track and Field Championships in Beijing that commences from August 22. Other members of the Pan Am Games team including swimmer Dylan Carter, T&T men’s hockey captain Darren Cowie, and shooter Roger Daniel, were also present.

Also recognised were members of the Red Steel team who won the Caribbean Premier League championship title last month and members of the Trinidad and Tobago Blind and Visually Impaired cricket team, which clinched the T-20 and 40-overs Caribbean titles in St Lucia over the weekend.