Saturday, March 17, 2018

Gold again!

Power of prayer at AIPS America Games

TOP THROWER: Trinidad and Tobago's Kwame Laurence puts in a big effort, en route to ball throw gold at the 2018 AIPS America Games in Manaus, Brazil, yesterday. The One Caribbean Media (OCM) sports journalist threw 51.10 metres. -Photo: JULIO CESAR LARA (Mexico)

I asked for prayers ahead of my AIPS America Games ball throw title defence, here in Manaus, Brazil, yesterday. They worked!

Thank you God for my second gold medal on the trot. Thanks to all who joined me in prayer as I petitioned the Almighty for success. And thanks to One Caribbean Media (OCM) for the opportunity to represent the group and Trinidad and Tobago in the hemispheric games for sports journalists.

At the 2015 Games, also in Manaus, I jumped into the ball throw event after finishing second in the table tennis competition. Unexpectedly, I struck gold in the 35-50 age-group. This time, an open event was staged with no age restrictions, and it was a much closer contest than three years ago.

My young rivals included Oscar Arango, a goalkeeper from Colombia. I have a penchant for over-analysing. So, there I was thinking about goalkeepers and how well some of them can throw a ball. It turned out that my analysis was spot on. But, at the end of the day, I can only control what I do, so being right in this instance was of no value to me.

What is of significance is that I believe God answers prayers. There was some doubt coming into the equation at times, especially since my 2015 success earned me the “favourite” label. I much preferred the 2015 scenario--having nothing to lose in an event for which I had no real expectations. In 2018, all eyes were on me, and there was a target on my back.

The pressure was indeed on. But throwing is something I have enjoyed since the 1980s. I achieved success at Queen’s Royal College, especially in the shot put. Victory at QRC Sports Day and also at the now defunct Quadrangular Meet against throwers from Fatima, St Mary’s and Trinity planted the seed.

Previously, in this space, I mentioned that I had beaten a Carifta champion from Fatima named Hercules during my Royalian days. Yesterday, Arango presented a herculean challenge that forced me to dig very deep in my bid to repeat as AIPS America Games throwing champion.

I opened with a 49.75 metres effort--more than six metres better than my 43.18 golden throw in 2015. It seems as though I’m getting stronger with age.

Having taken the lead with my 49-plus throw, I was relaxed in round two, and went for a big one. There’s nothing like taking the pressure off of yourself. I improved, landing the softball 51.10m to consolidate my lead. Arango, however, responded like the fierce competitor that he is, throwing 49.80m.

I’m so grateful that I did not rest on my first throw laurels, for Arango had actually gone past my 49.75m. The Colombian, though, could not get up to the 50-metre mark, my 51.10m second round throw turning out to be the best on the day.

With the throwing order changed in the third and final round, I enjoyed the luxury of having the final throw and knowing I could not be beaten. I closed off my 2018 campaign at 47.40m.

The final result: 1. Kwame Laurence (Trinidad and Tobago) 51.10m; 2. Oscar Arango (Colombia) 49.80m; 3. Hernando Suarez (Colombia) 47.20m.

Suarez is the two-time AIPS America Games table tennis champion, and will open the defence of his title today. Twice, I finished second in the table tennis tournament, and will bid to turn silver into gold over the next two days.

More prayers are being offered up as I continue on this interesting AIPS America journey, one that allows me the unique opportunity to be athlete and journalist at the same time.