TT Paralympian Akeem Stewart has been making progress during his training stint in the US and is eagerly anticipating his return after the coronavirus pandemic comes to an end.
Stewart, the para world record holder in the F43 discus, javelin and shot put events, is currently back home in Tobago after a two-month training camp with coach Tony Dougherty and fellow field athlete Eldred Henry.
Stewart, who returned to TT on March 18 after travel restrictions were being put in place globally due to coronavirus, has been in self quarantine.
Stewart, 27, has also been affected by the cancellation and postponement of sporting events because of the virus. He was anticipating the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games from August 25 to September 6, but will now have to wait until 2021 when the games are held. International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach and prime minister of Japan Shinzo Abe agreed that the Olympics and Paralympics will take place no later than summer 2021.
On the decision to postpone the games, Stewart said, “It is kind of a bitter-sweet moment because we have been preparing for this for the past four years. It is a pandemic so we have to respect what the heads above say, but it also gives us an extra year to prepare for the Paralympic Games so I am still happy.”
Stewart was not only aiming to compete at the Paralympics, but was putting in the hours to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics which was originally scheduled to be held from July 24 to August 9.
“Definitely I was expecting to make the regular Olympics. I have been working hard towards making it. I actually moved to the US this year and have been training over there for the past two months. Everything was going very good.”
Stewart was based in New Mexico with Dougherty and Henry, an athlete from the British Virgin Islands who specialises in the shot put and discus events. Henry, 25, represented his country at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
On his training Stewart said, “I felt a lot more comfortable in the ring. I have been working on technical stuff.”
Stewart has been focusing on the shot put event for the Olympics and concentrating on discus for the Paralympics. The Tobagonian has taken a break from javelin because he is still recovering from a shoulder injury he suffered last year, but he says he is “95 per cent.”
Track and field athletes have been lacking competitive action over the past weeks due to the virus and will continue to do so as several meets have been postponed or cancelled. Athletes are hoping to have a full season in 2021, which should lead to a high quality Olympic and Paralympic Games.
“I think it is going to be a good games (next year) because persons have more time to rest and recuperate from major world champs (meets) last year, so I think the performances next year are going to be great,” Stewart said.
Stewart is enjoying the professional set up in the US with Dougherty and Henry and is hoping to meet up with the pair in Arizona. “When I go back to the US I will be training in Arizona hopefully when this thing kind of dies down and everything opens up.
“The way how things were going before I left TT things were tough for me…we did not have access to much training venues and since I have been in the US we had our personal space.”
Stewart, who won the Hummingbird Gold Medal in 2017, has been frustrated with the lack of sporting facilities available in Tobago.
In the past, the Dwight Yorke Stadium was closed and the gym at Shaw Park was in a poor state preventing Stewart from training at a high level.