by Evan Oscherwitz
With about three months since the conclusion of the Rio Summer Olympics and another six remaining until the start of the Diamond League, international athletics sits in a bit of a dead period.
However, the Olympics featured a breadth of intriguing young prospects with a chance to really make their mark in the coming years.
One of these athletes is Barbados’ Akela Jones, who recently wrapped up a stellar career with the Kansas State Wildcats. I sat down with Akela to discuss her experience in Rio and what lies ahead, as she begins competing on the professional circuit.
Q: What prompted you to take up heptathlon?
A: I was prompted by a high school coach back home in Barbados but I knew that I wanted to start it only if I knew I would be good enough to participate in it at the highest level.
Q: Having lived in Barbados your whole life, Oklahoma must have seemed like a completely different planet. Was the adjustment tough?
A: The adjustment was tough at first, having to re-adjust to a quieter environment was the hardest part. Embracing a new culture and lifestyle were also a tough adjustment for me. Overall, though, the adjustment went smoothly.
Q: What was your reaction when you finally got to KSU after the long wait? Was there a victory dance?
A: It was a sign that my plans and dreams were finally becoming a reality. No, I did not dance because I knew the real work would now begin. The dances came way later.
Q: How did it feel to become World Junior Champion in the long jump? It must have been a very emotional experience.
A: Winning the world junior medal for my country was a thrilling moment. Being the first person (from Barbados) to win a medal at these games was a very historic moment. I felt contentment knowing I had trained for the last two years for that moment.
Q: Where does making the Olympic team rank among your greatest achievements?
A: The Olympics ranks among the top five achievements in my life. Even though it hasn’t sunk in yet I know that only few are chosen to do such a task and it is an honor to have represented my island with such pride and dignity.
Q: What was going through your head when you came into the stadium on the morning of the first day of the heptathlon?
A: The first morning honestly I just didn’t want to fall in the hurdles. I was really focused on what my coach had told me before I left the warm up area. He said keep your toes up and shuffle fast between the hurdles. I felt no pressure while entering. It was a moment I had waited for, so I was prepared.
Q: What was your plan going into the competition?
A: I wanted to focus on each event as they came, and only that particular event in each
circumstance. When it was time for the hurdles, that is what I focused only on. When the high jump came, the high jump had my full attention.
Q: In Rio, you competed in the high jump as well as the heptathlon. Would you compete in
multiple events again, or were you not as rested as you would have liked?
A: I enjoy competing in different events. It’s nice to show off my skills and be diverse with my talents. I was well rested before each event and I did my best in the high jump.
Q: The closing ceremony was breathtaking even from my living room. What was it like to be carrying the flag inside the stadium during the event?
A: The closing ceremony was definitely enjoyable. I did not get to see the opening ceremony so the closing ceremony was the highlight of the games for me. It was colorful and being the flag bearer for my island made it even better.
Q: Do you feel like the best is yet to come for you? What can we expect from Akela Jones in the next four years?
A: I can’t predict the future but I can definitely assure you that better things are to come in the future for Akela Jones. There is significant training still to be done and learning of the sport (heptathlon). It has only been two years since I’ve taken up the heptathlon, so I have a lot of experience still to attain.
Q: What drives you to give 100% day in and day out against the toughest competition the world has to offer?
A: My dreams, personality and mindset keep me going. I try to make giving 100 percent a habit. So that even when I don’t feel 100 percent, giving 100 percent is habitual, almost like auto-pilot.
Q: Do Bajans still remember Obadele Thompson’s bronze medal performance in Sydney well?
A: Barbadians definitely remember the moment we won our first individual Olympic medal. They still celebrate his performance from time to time and many athletes in Barbados strive very much to achieve his success.
Q: Are you optimistic about the future of Barbadian athletics?
A: With the support of our sports sector, athletics in Barbados can definitely reach the standard of some of our neighboring islands. Our youth have some brilliant potential, and with the help of specialized coaching and programs, we too can produce world class athletes.