Story by Simone Delochan
The first thing that you notice about Andrew Lewis is his very calm manner….
Well, truth be told, you actually initially observe the startling blue of his eyes and think immediately of pristine oceanic waters, then you become aware of the calm energy of the young man. His speech is direct, measured, frank; a thoughtful pause before answering, and maintained eye contact: a thoroughly unpretentious whole.
Andrew Lewis, 29, has had a long and determined journey for one so young. You would think that being an Olympian would be the summit of his life’s ambitions—and in one way it is—but it is also the platform for a life lived with bigger goals of motivating and making a positive impact on his country. It begins, though, with sailing.
His love for the ocean and sailing began from early at a camp in which his parents had put him at the age of six or seven years old in Chaguaramas. Half the day was sailing, and every single day there was a different activity: “archery, kayaking, painting, carpentry, building things, rope tying”.
School and academic life had its difficulties given his dyslexia with which he was diagnosed at around 11 or 12 years of age. Before that while at primary school, the learning challenges were ameliorated by his excelling at sports. He remembers “giving trouble”.
“I was a troublemaker in the classroom, a distraction, getting people to do my homework for me, so that I’ll pick them on the next sports team, just being clever around getting through school, just to pass. I was always a very clever young boy, all the way to high school.”
He describes himself as feeling an outsider, part of a one per cent who did not learn in the way other members of his class or family did. Lewis knew he had to work hard to achieve whatever he wanted to be and “focus super-hard” on whatever it was.
Despite the other sports, sailing remained at base: “When I was in school, I would think about when next I was in the ocean.” He made it onto the Junior National team, entering competitions up the Caribbean, and at 15 or 16, his coach at the time told him he had Olympic potential.
His first attempt to qualify, Beijing 2008, was not successful and deflated his dream. He put it aside, finished school, entered university but knew ultimately this was not the road for him. He left university and made a three-year plan for the London Olympics.
Fast forward after two Olympics and aspiring to a third, he speaks about the impact of making it to London 2012. Being average, he says was never an option and he held onto “the vision of doing big things”.
“It made me realise that everybody needs to have that kind of point in time in their life where they have all these struggles for so many years, but it’s more mental struggle you are fighting with where you want to achieve something…. I think that was what the Olympics did for me.…. Creating a whole vision, a success point, was the breakthrough for me.”
This pivotal moment of achievement translated into understanding the many options now available to him—he would take “the whole movement of Andrew Lewis going to the Olympics and do something for my country”.
Many Olympians, he says, are content with just making it to the Olympics. He, however wanted to do more. “I wanted to go to the Olympics, do the best I can, once, twice, God willing three times next year, to create this movement of making a living for myself, and giving back to my country, and the planet.” His sponsors facilitated bringing this dream to fruition.
Andrew hosted a series of sailing camps for young people, has gone to schools for motivational talks with the students, and most recently in April of this year, held the second instalment of the seminar ‘Succeeding with Dyslexia’ with Archbishop Jason Gordon.
He credits his charitable works to his Catholic faith which his parents engendered while he was growing up. Receiving the Eucharist, is the first act of sharing, Christ sharing His Body and Blood with His people and the example set.
“Sailing has allowed me to reach the island of Trinidad and Tobago and help all these people because I believe if I were to just keep what I have learnt, and keep all of my resources to myself, it’s not going to help me as a person grow and it’s not going to help my country grow. I would not make a positive impact. I want to do this for the rest of my life.”
Sailing has also taught him the valuable lesson of giving. Many times, he said, people entered his life offering help in ways that he could not repay. He instead opts to pay it forward.
Lewis has maintained a strong faith over the course of his travels, and sees morning prayer as beginning the day with “positive energy”. Each individual he believes has to have a higher power, and consequently have boundaries set through religion.
Of Trinidad & Tobago, the country he loves, he says to the people: “We live in a country where we have the most religions per capita it feels like. I think it is really beautiful that we have such a small area, so many religions, so much culture …. But we are in a situation that is sad and we have to stay strong in religion, in culture, in sport, in family, in friends, and do the best we can.”