Olympic medallist Ato Boldon gives the thumbs-up to a student after autographing a poster for him during the Making a Difference Tour Guardian in Education Project visit to Rio Claro College on Wednesday.
Photo: Tony Howell
By Leah Mathura-Dookhoo
Retired Olympic medallist Ato Boldon has said he is on a mission to help anyone who has the passion and drive to excel in the field of athletics.
Boldon was addressing students of the Rio Claro College on Wednesday, during the Making a Difference Tour Guardian in Education Project, which has been taking the former Olympic athlete, national cyclist and painter Michael Phillips and Miss Universe 1998 Wendy Fitzwilliam to schools throughout the country.
West Indies cricket captain Brian Lara and Olympic swimmer George Bovell will join the other three celebrities soon, to share their life experiences and how they overcame challenges throughout their careers.
Students will then be asked to submit essays on the motivational talks for a chance to win prizes.
Boldon said it might have taken him a while, but in the last ten years, he realised there were two types of people in the world, those who were front-liners and others who were side-liners.
He also told the eager students the most important thing they would ever do in their life was to help another person.
He said this was what a front-liner did, while those who stood on the sidelines were the ones criticising the good work of others.
Boldon said it was for this simple reason he was willing to coach, advise and develop future Olympic stars.
Ive always said that I was going to run as long as it took for the next generation to be establishedDarrel Brown, Marc Burns and these other guys are well on their wayI thought I was not needed any more, he said.
You know what? I thought I couldnt deal with the madness. To be honest, I thought it was a big break for me...They always had a problem with me. Ato talk too much, Ato this, Ato that.
But what does that make me? A side-liner.
Boldon said he had gained too much experience in his sprinting career to turn his back on the people who needed him the most.
There are things in track and field that many people dont know.
Boldon admitted to the student body that he had another topic planned for them, but when he saw the courage of a group of students who performed to Gloria Estefans hit song Reach, at the beginning of the proceedings, he was touched.
He said that was what he meant by being a front-liner.
Boldon, whose athletic ability was spotted while he was playing football in the United States, told students whatever they might choose as a career, they should not make it a singular endeavour.
He said when success was achieved, many might face criticism by side-liners. He said it was Lara who told him to brush off the criticism and keep going.
Success is the best revenge, Boldon said.
Phillips had earlier told students they had to conquer their fears while dreaming. He said he would cringe once the lights came on at the stadium before every race he took part in.
Even before talking to you here today I got nervous...but the more I do it the better I feel, Phillips said.
I want you to understand that you have to build character. I want you to have confidence in yourself. There are many opportunities around you, but it is for you to open those windows.
Phillips also advised them that once they were faced with negativity, they had to seize that opportunity and rethink their plan into a positive one.
Whatever talent you have...you can turn it into a business.
Principal of the college Reynold Sibaran congratulated Boldon and Phillips for their contribution to the society, saying the country was very fortunate to have not just one, but two male role models.
He made reference to a conference held earlier this week by the Caribbean Union College, where a retired school principal claimed schools were breeding grounds which cultivated criminals, and there was a serious absence of male role models in the nation.