CHENNAI: The last few months have witnessed a number of athletes, especially in the US, backing the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Machel Cedenio, an athlete from Trinidad & Tobago who has made Florida his training base, is no different. His Twitter posts, since the death of George Floyd, offers a prism into his mind and he is forthcoming with his views.
"I understand why people feel so strongly about racial inequality in America," Cedenio told The New Indian Express. "I cheer them on for finally taking the quality of their lives and living conditions with such seriousness."
The 24-year-old, part of T&T's 4x400 relay team that won gold at the World Championship in 2017, has also played a small part in helping the local community back home during the COVID-19 pandemic. He discontinued his training sessions and took to supplying groceries.
"For me, the last three months was sobering," he says. "I was able to spend a lot of time doing things that I would not normally have the time for, such as spending time, doing chores in the backyard.
"This was the first time that something like this has happened in my lifetime and I know that because a lot of people could not go to work. Their economic situation changed overnight, so I wanted to do my part to assist in some way with the help of my coach and my parents."
He is also thankful that T&T's cases haven't exploded (they have had only 117 confirmed cases).
"In Trinidad and Tobago, we were fortunate because of quick action by the government and effective quarantine rules. The situation was managed effectively, so the pandemic was not severe at all."
It's in sharp contrast to Florida, the state where Cedenio is based (85,926 confirmed cases). Even though they haven't yet managed to flatten the curve, the athlete says the state never truly shut down. "Florida is one of those states that never completely shut down. Although the gyms were closed, you were to exercise outside for short periods but not in large groups. Even though the training was not as intense, we were still able to get some work done."
With the world of athletes looking to get competition underway sometime in the next 3-4 months, the debate has shifted to whether it will be safe to compete without a vaccine in mass production. The 2012 Olympic bronze medallist (he was in the squad but didn't run) says he would be willing to compromise. "I would exercise caution but I am willing to compromise and compete before a vaccine is available."
After the conversation shifts to next year's rearranged Olympics, the 400m specialist turns philosophical when talking about his goals.
"Personally, I am disappointed that the Olympics was postponed. But I do understand that it is impossible to hold an event of that scale in this atmosphere. As far as 2021 is concernd, once there is life, there is always hope so we (the 4x400 relay squad) are all hoping to achieve a medal at the Olympics next year."