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Rainbow Cup pioneer Jason Gooding briefing mountain bikers in the 2019 event.

In a world before COVID-19, last week Saturday Jason Gooding and hundreds of local and international triathlon athletes would have set off swimming from Tobago’s Turtle Beach, cycled along Shirvan Road, and run the route in the annual Rainbow Cub event.

Last Saturday, however–the planned date of the 2021 Rainbow Cup–event pioneer Gooding was on a plane to New York, bound later this month for the UK to join his family. And he is mulling plans to settle in Grenada.

It’s been a sad, difficult parting with his homeland–particularly Tobago.

But the Goodings have left T&T for economic survival. And he is trying desperately to ensure the future of the event which spotlighted Trinidad and Tobago particularly, on global sporting calendars since 2004.

“I’m hoping to. All week people from T&T and overseas were messaging, reminiscing about previous events. Migrating was never a plan. But since March 2020 my job, my passion–my income source was deemed non-essential. My family has to survive,” said Gooding on Tuesday.

The Rainbow Cup has been a sporting legend since 2004 when Gooding’s dad, the late former T&T Triathlon Federation president Ian Gooding–journalist/photographer–launched it.

Gooding senior, an alumnus of multiple newsrooms including the Guardian, played a major role in T&T’s triathlon development. Family investment in the Rainbow Cup placed it among the Western Hemisphere’s top multi-sport events.

Jason entered the field in 1994, emerging as nine-time national triathlon champion–going on to stage the Rainbow Cup. Athletes from Europe, UK, North America, Australia, Israel, Luxembourg, South America visited T&T to compete. It became one of the fastest-growing sports events, attracting 500 to 600 athletes annually.

The sports tourism event was an economic booster for Tobago, “Not only international athletes came but also local athletes’ families. There were vendors along the route, water, bene balls–the works! It was in June when tourism dipped so it boosted that period.”

That was until COVID descended.

Now preparing for his role as a World Triathlon Technical Official in next month’s Tokyo Olympics, Gooding will be unable to tell international colleagues when the next Rainbow Cup will be held. Or that he will be in T&T.

Stuck when COVID hit, Gooding’s situation was worsened by the fact that his wife–a British citizen–was waiting over five years for T&T residency application to be processed. Lodged in 2015 it straddled two administrations.

Sporting discipline made it hard for him to overlook delay issues encountered

“She was unable to participate fully in T&T without it. I’m not expecting a call because I’ve been told it’s ‘on someone’s desk.’ Plus when T&T shut down, everything became doubly difficult.

“I’ve organised one race in 15 months. That apart–no income. We have two kids and a third on the way. Hardware stores are closed. I can’t occupy myself with home repairs. Construction stopped. Can’t even exercise to stay healthy and rooted. Citizens are living this way because of government policy plus lack of discipline by some–I feel like I’m doing time for a crime I didn’t commit!

“Time now to seek a colony offering better opportunity for survival…I’m seeking somewhere that puts people’s well-being first in proper frameworks…somewhere proactive, not reactive. Where sport is high priority.

“My country’s always held top place in my heart. However, I would be of little use to my country unless my family is secured. We treaded water financially but in January, examined the bills and decided–time.”

Spending ten days in NY outside of a red-listed country like T&T–with COVID resurgence–he will be allowed home quarantine once he enters UK with a negative PCR test result.

Gooding is considering staging Rainbow Cup in tourism-based Grenada where T&T athletes will likely attend. But he still plans to be back and forth to T&T and really wants Cup events here.

“Many look forward to it…I’ve projected November 6 as the next date for the event. That is, hopefully, if allowed to return, sponsorship comes and T&T reopens. If not–June 2022.

“If things don’t improve and sponsorships fail, I don’t know what the future of the event in T&T will be. I don’t want to give up on T&T, especially Tobago, but much depends on how quickly the economy recovers.

“I’m Trini to the bone but leaving is necessary now…hoping the Rainbow will come again for T&T.”