Upwards and Onwards
Akela focused on making giant leaps forward
“If there is no path to your destination, create one.”
This is Akela Jones’ philosophy and one that has brought her out of obscurity and adversity to stand on some of the athletic world’s most coveted podiums.
Before she began breaking records Akela, the daughter of the late Albertha Jones, grew up in a children’s home in Barbados. It wasn’t always an easy life but the former Springer Memorial School student found her escape in sports at an early age.
“Growing up, I played cricket, football . . . basically anything involving running and playing with a ball. I also took part in track and field. I made my first NAPSAC (National Primary School Athletic Championships) team in Infants “A” for the Hilda Skeene Primary School and never looked back from there. My NAPSAC days were great and it’s amazing [that] I still hold a relay record with my team,” said Akela, who is currently on an athletic scholarship at Kansas State University in the United States.
Her athletic performance at Springer Memorial was defined by one victory after another. However, she admitted that secondary school life was somewhat of a “roller coaster ride”.
“I got into trouble and I was also a good student. I had a taste of both sides of life when I was going to school,” she confessed.
Akela credits the athlete she is today to a number of people, particularly her coaches, teachers, aunties (at the children’s home), her psychologist “and just random people who helped me along my path. I’m just thankful to all of them”.
She has amassed some impressive titles and accomplishments during her relatively short but fledgling athletic career. She was the Long Jump champion at the 2014 IAAF World Junior Championships, which earned her the distinction of being the first Barbadian female athlete to medal at the World Junior Championships. Akela was also a triple gold winner at the 2014 CARIFTA Games and winner of the coveted Austin Sealy Award. She is also Barbados’ Junior National Long Jump Record holder.
More recently, she was named the Caribbean Sports Journalists Association’s “Rising Star”.
At the moment, Akela is not only trying to stay on top of her game but on top of her grades as well. However, she readily admits that education is her back-up plan – a necessary path to her future as a professional athlete.
“My school work does not come upfront in my life. I do it because it’s expected of me and I also do it because that’s my back-up plan. Isn’t that what everyone keeps telling us? Always have a backup plan? Sports is where my heart lies. I love sports with a passion and I see it as my elevator up.
“University life is hectic; I have to wake up super early to train then head straight to class. I don’t mind though, I understand this is what it takes to reach my dream; so [I] sacrifice for a dream.
“At the moment I’m just trying to finish school and stay on top of my grades so I will be eligible to run and compete. I’m taking life easy at the moment because I know the next two years will be hectic. I should be graduating in two years and, hopefully, make it to my first Olympics in 2016,” shared Akela, who also has her eyes fixed on NCAA nationals, more World Championships, the Diamond Leagues and setting world records in the process.
There isn’t much time for a social life in her busy schedule but when she does get a chance to relax, she enjoys partying and listening to music. After college, Akela plans to work with troubled kids and volunteer with various charities.
Perhaps even better than winning a medal is the feeling she gets when she stands on that centre podium at international events and hears the Barbados national anthem being played.
“Representing Barbados is amazing, especially when you go to meets [as a virtual unknown] and come out with everyone knowing your country and who you are. It’s great to see my flag raised and our anthem [blaring on the sound system]. It’s hard to explain but amazing to feel!” she explained.
Akela’s athletic career has only just begun but her goal isn’t just to amass medals, it is to inspire people and, hopefully, in the process “become a better me”.
“I’m driven because I want to become influential and make a change in the lives of others. Track is just a platform to change this world,” she stated.