Former Olympic medallist Ato Boldon signs autographs for St Josephs Convent, San Fernando, students during a Guardian in Education visit on Tuesday. Also with Boldon was principal Dinnara Bainey. The tour is endorsed and supported by the Ministry of Education and sponsored by the National Gas Company, RBTT, BG T&T, Guardian Holdings Ltd and YARA.
Photo: Sookdeo Baney
By Yvonne Webb
Principal of St Josephs Convent, San Fernando, Dinnara Bainey, blushed as she took the hand of former Olympic medallist Ato Boldon to finally meet him in the flesh, and welcome him to her school on Tuesday.
As she led him into the auditorium, where close to 100 teenage girls sat anxiously awaiting his motivational talk, made possible through the Guardian in Education tour series, the initial reception was lukewarm.
But when the girls were told about his track and field achievement, the applause echoed in the room.
The applause accompanied screams as it was revealed he was the holder of a pilots licence and the screams transformed into shrieks upon hearing that he is soon to make his acting debut opposite Hollywood mega star Bruce Willis.
The introduction of his multiplicity of talents, including his role as a sportscaster, served to communicate to his audience the opportunities that abound and the ability to achieve greatness, regardless of the obstacles one may encounter.
If you have a goal, dont allow anyone to affect your desire to achieve it. Feel the fear, and do it anyway, Boldon told the gathering.
He said this is what had defined him, national cyclist Michael Phillips, former Miss Universe Wendy Fitzwilliam, Olympic bronze medal swimmer George Bovell III and cricket star Brian Lara, who are also part of the tour.
Those moments, when you are totally terrified, when you cant sleep, when you cant eat, when you feel those butterflies, those moments are the most important moments, but also your biggest chance to shine, he said.
He drew a parallel with his own preparation for an Olympic final and the sheer terror that often pervades his body, mind and spirit.
When other people become tense and freeze up, thats when I exhale. I dont focus on what will happen next. I focus on the moment.
Boldon said the most asked question on his web site was his method of dealing with overcoming his anxiety before a big event.
I have one answer, and that is, your body and your mind have a built-in mechanism for when you have to perform. When you have to perform at your best, your body starts to shut down other things that you dont need, he said.
When that feeling overtakes you, whether it is an exam or whatever, that is the moment your focus is at the best. That is the moment that is going to define you.
He told the students to embrace that feeling of nervousness, advocating that the adrenaline rush they experienced by so doing, will save your life.
Saying most people were afraid to face their fears and put up barriers and mountains that deter them from achieving their goals, Boldon told the young girls, Life is hard, get over it. People who succeed are strong-willed.
Faced with such a situation, he urged the students to Find a way to use your God-given talent to get over that mountain. When you get past it you will look back and say that was not difficult. Bring on the next mountain.
That is what determines success; that is how you will grow from young girls to women.
Telling the girls they were a special bunch, Boldon said many of them were gifted and blessed with a multitude of talent, but chose to focus only on one.
I was fortunate to grow up in a society that advocated people being well rounded and had so many more options available.
I had the freedom to do anything because of my mother, my role model, he explained in response to his choice of career.
He said there were many who drummed it into his head, day and night, that because of his short stature he could never be a sprinter, but he persevered. He encouraged the students to do the same.
Admitting he has no sense of direction, he noted that in spite of this, he earned his pilots licence.
Similarly, about his movie debut, he admitted, I dont know if I can act but I am reading the script.
Encouraging the students to do their part to improve the country and help their fellow man, Boldon told them the blessings they received were not just for themselves but to share with others.
For some of you it is so easy to pass an exam. You know everything, but you know a friend who is dunce, help her, nah.
He clarified this, saying, Dont go home and tell your parents I said the girls in this school are dunce.
Some of you are more gifted than others in applying themselves, but your friends are not as focused; help them.
Admitting that women are smarter than men, Boldon urged them, not to let any stupid man with quarter of your IQ to negatively influence you or deter you from achieving your goals.
Later on, Boldon presented the school with a Spalding basketball for its physical education department and a career handbook for the library, on behalf of the Trinidad Guardian.