Give only your best

Lewis offers advice to barbadian athletes

Describing himself as a late bloomer, legendary track and field superstar Carl Lewis today encouraged hundreds of Barbadian youngsters to be patient in reaching their goals.

The 54-year-old American brought his brief but busy three-day visit to the island to an end this morning, with a motivational speech at the Garfield Sobers Sports Complex before a crowd estimated to be around 400, comprising mainly of young children.

A section of the audience which attended today’s event at the Garfield Sobers Gymnasium. 
A section of the audience which attended today’s event at the Garfield Sobers Gymnasium.

Also attending the historic event were Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth Stephen Lashley; Minister of Education Ronald Jones; interim CEO of the National Sports Council Jerry Blenman and Associate head coach at the University of Houston Will Blackburn.

From left , interim CEO of the National Sports Council Jerry Blenman; Associate head coach at the University of Houston Will Blackburn; Principal of Springer Memorial Pauline Benjamin; Minister of Sport Stephen Lashley; Carl Lewis and Minister of Education Ronald Jones. 
From left , interim CEO of the National Sports Council Jerry Blenman; Associate head coach at the University of Houston Will Blackburn; Principal of Springer Memorial Pauline Benjamin; Minister of Sport Stephen Lashley; Carl Lewis and Minister of Education Ronald Jones.

Despite his numerous accolades, which include 10 Olympic and 10 World Championship medals, as well as being voted the World Athlete of the Century by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), Lewis told those gathered in the Gymnasium that he was not a good runner when he was young.

He revealed that even though all of his siblings were much better runners than he was, he always strived to do his best.

“When we began to run my sister had tremendous success. In the beginning my sister ran and she won every race, but I was kind of the small kid. I was a late bloomer and I was always the small kid . . . the runt in the family so to speak . . . the one who didn’t get first,” he explained.

“But my parents kept saying to me when I was a little kid to keep trying to be my best. So I focused on honing my talent and being the best athlete I could be, listening, running and working hard and just trying to be the best that I could be.”

He said that even though he continued to finish last in his races, he was committed to putting his best foot forward.

“But I was honing my talent and I was getting better and I never thought about winning. I just thought about being the best that I could be, because I didn’t think that I would have been that great,” Lewis said.

The current coach at the University of Houston explained it was only when he got a little older, and began to grow taller that he started to reap success.

He recalled when he was 18-years-old and a freshman at the University of Houston, how he told his coach Tom Tellez he wanted to jump 8.90 metres in the long jump.

It was a feat that would take him 12 years to achieve.

“It takes time and it takes focus and it takes listening and it takes trust, just like everything else. There are people in your life who are going to ask you to be successful and do things, and they want to give you their support, but you have to trust them,” Lewis advised.

“When I came out of high school at 17 years old I jumped 8.13 metres and I was ranked fifth in the world . . . and the first thing my coach said was that he had to fix things to make me jump farther and I trusted him.”

The former United Nations Ambassador also had a word of advice for parents. He said while he understood that watching and supporting their children was a nerve racking experience, he encouraged them to always be there for them.

Carl Lewis presenting Springer Memorial student Kierre Weekes with an award for good academic performance. 
Carl Lewis presenting Springer Memorial student Kierre Weekes with an award for good academic performance.

“I understand how nerve racking it is, but to all you parents I just want to say stay behind your children,” Lewis said.

randybennett@barbadostoday.bb

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