Akeem Stewart competes in the discus event at an NAAA Development Meet at the Dwight Yorke Stadium in Bacolet. – DAVID REID
NATIONAL athlete Akeem Stewart described 2021 as the toughest year of his track and field career as a lack of sporting events meant he had to dig deep to stay motivated.
Stewart, a Paralympic champion, opted not to compete at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Japan as he did not get enough preparation time to represent TT at his best.
At the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games, Stewart claimed gold in the men’s F44 javelin event and captured silver in the men’s F44 discus event.
A year later he won gold in both the javelin and shot put events at the 2017 World Para Athletics Championships in London, England.
Stewart, reflecting on the past year, said, “2021 I think was the toughest year in my whole sporting career because of a lack of competition, no funding and the whole (covid19) pandemic situation. We did not get to train properly (because of the) lockdown (and) restrictions.”
The Tobagonian Stewart is anticipating a more fruitful 2022.
“Definitely going into 2022 (I’m) looking forward to getting back out to the international circuit and compete, and put back TT on the map.”
In 2022, he is targeting the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England and the World Para Athletics Championships in Kobe, Japan.
This year, Stewart will focus on the discus and shot put events. After a shoulder injury he suffered in 2019 Stewart has decided to take a break from the javelin.
Discussing his recent training regime, Stewart said, “I just started back training and so far, so good…getting back general fitness and strength.”
Stewart is training at the Dwight Yorke Stadium in Bacolet, but does not have proper access to gym equipment.
“I am trying to work on getting funding and come to Trinidad to train for at least a month or two before I head out to the US to train so I would not be too far back when I am in the US.”
Stewart wants to return to New Mexico in the US where he has trained in the past with other athletes.
Most sports in TT are still at a standstill because of the pandemic and Stewart is hoping for a busy year for local sport in 2022.
“What I am looking forward to for sport in TT is for the athletes to have a full season and to have some sort of incentive for sportsmen to come back out and be motivated to compete.
“Anything you do and you don’t have any kind of incentive you tend to lose interest really fast.”
Stewart admitted that he lost enthusiasm to train with no meets on the horizon.
“I am telling you personally when I came back from the US (in March 2020) I lost motivation because I came back from the US as a whole new athlete (with) a different perspective about training and everything.”
In March 2020, the pandemic started to affect TT.
Stewart said in the US there are more living camps and more meets.
TT did not earn any medals at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics which was postponed to 2021 because of the pandemic.
It was the first time TT did not win a medal at the Olympics since the 1992 Barcelona Games.
Stewart said the public expected too much of the TT athletes at the Tokyo Olympics after not being afforded the opportunities to train and compete regularly.
“You cannot call off a local season for local-based athletes. You going through all of that and yet they have to go out and compete against persons who have been training and competing whole season.”
Track and field meets have been held locally since March 2020, but not regularly.