Queen Cleopatra

Queen Cleopatra

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About a month ago, I had a tourist moment, right here, in my own country, on Independence Square.

I looked up, and staring down at me, was Cleopatra Borel-Brown, perched upon the Excellence City Centre building, being bathed in the light from the mega screen atop KFC on the opposite side.

It was breathtaking – for me at least.

Here was this woman given a throne. It could have been any of T&T’s male athletes or even Kelly-Ann Baptiste, who has been having a stellar 2012 season.

But instead, it was Cleopatra – shot put in hand, about to deliver.

“It’s really difficult to explain how the poster makes me feel,” she said of it. “It makes my family, especially my mom happy, it make me feel a sense of duty to the people of T&T.  I feel so much support and love.”

And why not Cleopatra? She has made three Olympic appearances and is one of the most successful field athletes in the Caribbean.

It must be her year you would think and as the old saying goes; ‘the third time’s the charm’.  2012 was been a spectacular one for the Mayaro resident; she threw a year best 19.42 metres in Paris just last month and followed it up with a 19m throw which earner her a gold medal at the Central American and Caribbean Track and Field Championships in Jamaica, just before heading to London.

In Athens she finished 10th and was 17th in Beijing. In London she will be looking to better those accomplishments as it could very well be her last Olympics at 31-years-of-age and with 10 years of competition under her belt.

She has no firm plans of retirement though.

“I feel as if I’ve done the best that I could have possibly done to prepare for these Games. My prep did not start this year, but I’ve been working very hard for a very long time to get to this point,“ she says.

And by ‘very hard for a very long time’, she means just that.

Shot put is not one of the glorious track events like the 100 metres or 200 metres races. It’s a low-key sport that has not really gotten much attention in T&T save for Cleopatra’s accomplishments.

So back when she started track and field in Mayaro, with her older sister Nathalie, it was definitely not the direction one would go in, expecting to make a living from it.

She started off running, and her father Raymond Borel, encouraged her in the throwing events, but it was not until she moved to the US in 1998 that she really got serious about becoming a professional athlete.

The little girl from the fishing village on the North Coast of Trinidad has not changed much except in size though, and the passion and zeal she first had when she took up the sport has remained with her throughout.

That perhaps is what has made the difference for the Virginia Tech coach – she just loves throwing.

It’s her ‘bread and butter’ and thus her motivation to succeed at times, “At this stage in the game throwing is my job, so if I don’t do well I don’t eat! Luckily, I love throwing so I really love my job,” she explained.

“I feel like I’ve been successful because I really enjoy throw and representing T&T! Hopefully, I’ve done my small part to positively influence the perception of our Country, especially the women.”

It still hasn’t been easy according to her though, as shot put is not as well financed as other track events and so as throwers, you don’t get paid as much. But she remains motivated thanks to the support she gets from her fans and simply being able to represent her country.

“There are a lot of die hard fans of the throwing events; we get each other. I’m also encouraged by a lot of people in T&T who try to understand what I do, and those who appreciate my efforts regardless of their knowledge.”

To young women trying to follow in her footsteps, she simply advises them to take advantage of any opportunities they are presented with, whether it’s abroad or right here in T&T.

“The most important thing is to learn, grow and have fun,” says Cleopatra.

“I try to be a good role model for the youngsters, I encourage them to work hard and have fun.  I let them know that you can find a way to get to your goal. I always tell the kids to set BIG goals and then come up with a plan to get there – set smaller goals that will get u there.  You have to do something Everyday to get where you want to be.”

As for her, she doesn’t look up to any Cleopatra Borel-Browns herself, just “ordinary people who do extra ordinary things – I look up to people like my parents and siblings, teachers who love their kids and coaches that stand in the rain with their athletes.”