LAVENTILLE, Trinidad-Tobago, September 6. GEORGE Bovell III is a role model. Charles Barkley’s shoe commercials aside, Bovell has taken seriously the responsibility that comes with being a champion.
Bovell was already an NCAA Champion at Auburn University and world record holder for the short-course 200 Meters Individual Medley, but the response to him when he returned home to Trinidad-Tobago after winning a bronze medal in his primary event in Athens showed to power of the Olympic Games. The response was electric everywhere he went according to recent reports from Rosemarie Sant in the Trinidad-Tobago Express.
He was mobbed when he paid a surprise visit to the Success/Laventille Secondary School. The holder of the Chaconia (gold) medal insisted on a visit to the school where he spoke to the pupils of the importance of discipline and education. Bovell wanted to tell the children there that if he can do it they can too, and that was the message he brought to them. "If I could reach this level you could too," he told them.
Bovell also stressed the importance of education to them. "Academics is very important. I know I will get old and will not be able to win at swimming anymore but I want to have an education to fall back on".
Students mobbed him as he was leaving, wanting just a touch, a glimpse and an autograph of the man who has energized their country. Many of the students at the school said Bovell had become an inspiration for them to do better.
Later, Bovell visited the Youth Training Centre where he presented the school with a computer and a printer and preached a message of positive thinking.
Bovell had earlier met with the country's Prime Minister, Patrick Manning, who asked about the Olympic experience. Bovell told him of the pressures and also suggested a change in how their country is recognized in the Olympic code. Expressing an idea from his grandfather, George asked if the Prime Minister would help try to change the international symbol for this country at the Olympics T-R-I be changed to T&T so that Tobago would be recognized in the symbol. Manning apparently approved and told Bovell he would direct Sports Minister Roger Boynes to initiate discussions on the change.
Apparently trying to strike while the iron was hot in terms of any clout from his ascending star, Bovell told television news of the need in the country for sporting facilities so that youngsters could have the chance to train for international competition.
He urged that they “get cracking “on the Olympic sized swimming pools promised at Marabella, Port of Spain and Bacolet, Tobago. Boynes said meetings were expected this week to consider construction of the facilities.
Bovell received a noisy, electric and joyful reception at Queen's Royal College, with hundreds of students screaming, "Bovell, Bovell!" He again took the chance to give valuable encouragement for both athletics and life. He told the boys in the school it was possible and important to balance athletics with academics, largely by discipline and focus.
Next he visited the girls at Bishop Anstey High School, where he said the screaming girls made him feel like the Backstreet Boys. The young hero also gave advice to stay on top of homework stressing the importance of time management and discipline. Bovell told them: "I always laugh at students who say school is hard. They don't have to be up at five swimming and juggling that with school".