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posted 23 Feb 2021, 11:43 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 23 Feb 2021, 12:08 ]


We learnt recently of the passing of one of our most celebrated sporting heroines. Lynette ''Granny'' Luces, 93, crossed her last finish line. She came into long distance simply as a senior athlete but she was to transcend long distance running. She became an icon, cultural hero, an inspiration and a metaphor for excellence and in her own way a sporting star…and a nemesis for male athletes. When you are immortalised in calypso in Trinidad and Tobago yuh reach. 

As with any phenomenon, Granny did not fall from the sky; but rather emerged at a particular point in athletics/track and field. She appeared when local long distance running took off, primarily under the leadership of Raffique "Raf' Shah...ex rebel soldier, progressive politician, journalist, leader of a cane farmers' association and former secretary of the local athletic federation. Raf founded the Central Athletics Club and was race director for what was for a long time the CLICO MARATHON, then our premier road race. Only the BUTLER CLASSICS rivalled it for longevity

Long distance running was more or less confined to the National Amateur Athletic Association calendar. I remember taking part in a national marathon from Manzanilla to Arima with 5 runners. In 1977 local track and field underwent a major crisis with internal disputes in the Executive led by Rawle Raphael. Texaco oil company, sponsor of our major track and field and cycling event, used this as an excuse to cancel Southern Games. Leaving our shores was already their agenda anyway.

These games were internationally renowned. Trinidad and Tobago sportsmen could compete against the best from the United States, France, Italy, England, India, our Caribbean, Africa, Venezuela. It did wonders for the development of our local performers who often rose to the challenge and would later on excel at international level, even before leaving here on university scholarships. Spectators saw the world's best for a relatively small fee. Shell, B.P/Tesoro and Caroni also sponsored major games.

With their departure, track and field fell into a slump and road running took off. Granny would have been a novelty, given her age, but soon proved she was a genuine athlete. True, there were other
outstanding female athletes: Sharon Alleyne, Movina Parris and Ms. Westmaas, but Granny was making a statement for her gender and her generation.

At that time too, races were being held all over the country from 5K's to full marathons. There were the CLICO MARATHON from Freeport to Port of Spain; a 20k from Princes Town to San Fernando called the HOSPITAL RACE; Eastern Credit Union sponsored half marathon from Port of Spain to Curepe and the LABOUR DAY/BUTLER CLASSICS HALF MARATHON. There was an event from Port of Spain through Santa Cruz, over the Saddle and back

Raf, while on the Board at Caroni, also made another important contribution in organising and sponsoring the CARONI CROSS COUNTRY. Held in the rainy season, it was a 5k slog in mud up and down the hills at Sevilla in rain. This too, alas no longer occurs. In all of this people came out to see Granny, a slight grey haired figure, all in white, eating up the miles

Male athletes paid a heavy price for her success. Any male runner preferred the fatigue of a 1000 road races to the 'fatigue' heckling of finishing after Granny. Even if in the process you set a personal best, topped your age category, set a world record for your age, it did not matter the heckling was consistent and eternal.

Many a male athlete, less prepared than she was, fell into the chauvinist trap. No woman could beat me, he would muse. When she did appear, he would change pace, throw off his race plan and burn out. The closer she came the more the athlete would panic, aided and abetted by hecklers from the crowd. “Run boy. Granny comin' to pass yuh” Taking the bait, he would literally run himself into the ground. And God help you if you were known and Raf was doing commentary. Did this writer ever suffer this fate? Careful research and selective memory strongly suggest otherwise.

There is an expression organisers and promoters use that 'someone is good for a sport’; meaning they attract revenue and spectators. We in the Butler Classics can attest to this. Many persons would 
have lined the route and ended up in Fyzabad for Labour Day to see her participate and stayed on for the day. Then co- chair of our organising committee, Sister Comrade, Donna Coombs Montrose and our technical director the late Winston Lewis said Granny never paid an entrance fee. Winston would say we should take it out her prize money but we never did. Granny was ''good for our event''. I should point out that the prize money helped out a lot of athletes at the time, some of whom would run in 2 races a day, contrary to coaching advice

Track and field made a comeback in later years. The Senior/Master games programme developed where local seniors and master compete locally, regionally and internationally. There was less participation in the major events. The Fun and Fitness races, where hundreds, maybe thousands, would participate for health benefits, are now the order of the day. Time exacted its price, as it does on all, and Granny competed less, though she remained immensely popular
Will there be another Granny? 

Other female senior athletes will and have emerged but they would not have played the pioneering role of Granny. And male chauvinism is not as much a problem now as it was then. Female athletes can, do and will excel over their male rivals. We are glad she achieved recognition, a Humming Bird medal, in her lifetime. May she rest in peace!