With the Rio Games just weeks away, athletes around the world are gearing up for what will be one of the biggest events of their athletic careers. Thousands of people will gather to watch the world’s best represent their respective countries, taking with them the pride of nations, with the hopes and dreams of generations on their shoulders. They will demonstrate what hard work and perseverance means. As many of these athletes step on the international stage they bring with them untold stories of inspiration. What many of us as spectators will see, is for many reasons a finished product. We will see athletes deliver in sports for which they have worked years to perfect their skills and aim to take home a medal. As a Jamaican, I have always been interested in the Olympics, particularly in the track events. One of the main reasons for such an interest is because I have grown up seeing what a difference the sport makes in the life of not just the athletes, but a nation. Over the course of several weeks we will see how time and time again persons will help to lift the spirt of a nation as they race to the finish line. The olympics in many ways represents more than sports. The olympic represents dreams, hopes, and a determination that will forever remain as a testament to future generations of what hard work and success can bring.
Of the myriad of stories that this olympics will bring one that will stand out is the story of Jordin Andrade who will be representing Cape Verde, a relatively small island located off the shores of Western Africa. It is a story of resilience; one of inspiration which tells the tale of how an athlete went from playing baseball to running the 400-meter hurdle at the 2016 Olympic Games.
Growing up Jordin’s favorite sport was baseball, however his passion for sports encapsulated a broad spectrum of activities. In high school he tried out for the school’s basketball team but didn’t make the cut. As a result his confidence dwindled and he questioned his readiness for sports in high school, as he feared being cut from a sport he was passionate about. Jordin’s family had always been and continues to be passionate about athleticism. Such enthusiasm made Jordin fearful of what sport he would venture into because he never wanted to disappoint those who believed in him the most.
While facing the tough decision of choosing a sport in high school, Jordin decided to give the track team a try after one of his friends urged him to. The recommendation to join the track team became even more attractive when Jordin learned that the team did not have cuts. However the decision to try out for the track team was done in secrecy as Jordin did not want his family aware of his decision. He felt pressured by the expectations of his family, as well as the history of athleticism that two of its members had established. His dad, Joe Andrade was a California state champ multiple times and his uncle, Henry Andrade was an Olympian at the 1996 Atlanta games.
Jordin’s fear and apprehension turned to utter joy when at his first meet he ran and won the Junior Varsity level 100-meter race in 12.5 seconds. In high spirits after winning the JV 100, Jordin decided to invite his dad to a dual track meet that was being held the following week. At this point his dad was still unaware that he had joined the track team. Jordin took to the track in what he deemed would be his grand revelation to his dad that would also earn him praise in what he presumed would be a good race. The race was 400-meters and it would be Jordin’s first time running that distance. The shots fired and he ran the best he could with pride, joy and anguish fueling him all at the same time. Jordin crossed the finish line with a time of 59 seconds, which earned him a second to last place finish. In an instant, Jordin felt that his grand debut to his dad was a disappointment; he was wrong. Jordin’s dad was extremely proud of his son and lauded his performance. With the support of his dad, Jordin was now fully set on improving his track performance and spent the next year doing just that. As he matured as a track athlete he consistently posted better times in the 100 meter sprints, but discovered that he did not have the sheer speed to beat his opponents. It was that realization that lead Jordin to eventually switch to the hurdles. Throughout his high school career he continued to improve, though not at a rate at which he felt comfortable. The fastest personal time he posted was a 39.02 in the 300-meter hurdles of which he remained proud, realizing his humble beginnings within the sport.
Following the completion of his high school career, Jordin’s uncle wanted him to train with him in California, and got him acquainted with the coaches of Mt. San Antonio College, a Junior College in Walnut, California. It was at Mt. San Antonio College that Jordin really excelled in the hurdles, and it was there that he began to center his life around athletics. He had the mantra “If it wasn’t going to help me perform better; I am not going to do it.” The passion with which he pursued the sport lead him to achieve in areas he never thought possible. In 2011 Jordin won the USA Junior National Championship and earned the silver medal at the Junior Pan Am Games, where he represented the United States. In 2012 he finished first in the 400-meter hurdles at the California Community College Track and Field Championships.
Jordin never dreamed that he would be an NCAA athlete, or an All American, but he did. He achieved beyond his own expectations. After becoming an athlete for Boise State, Jordin began to set his sights on becoming the best. His small achievements along the way began to shape a dream within him. In 2015, although he didn’t win the title, Jordin placed second in the 400-meter hurdles at the NCAA Division 1 Outdoor Track and Field Championships. A feat which Jordin describes as one of his biggest accomplishments to date. In a few years, a guy who failed to make the high school varsity team until his senior year, and one who took up track as an alternative sport, was transformed into an internationally acclaimed track athlete.
In 2016 Jordin will achieve another milestone; another testament to greatness as he dawns the colors of the Cape Verde Islands. After years of running and making internationally recognizable times, Jordin decided that he wanted his career in track to be a representation of something greater. A representation of something other than himself. Therefore, after much thought, Jordin decided to switch affiliation from the United States to the Cape Verde Islands in order to help support and inspire Cape Verdeans around the world.
He beams with pride as he embarks upon this journey because he realizes that as he gets ready for Rio he will be running along a path paved by those before him. Each hurdle will uniquely represent obstacles he had to overcome in his own journey to get to where he is today. As he heads to the finish line he knows he will carry with him the pride of the Cape Verde Islands, and the spirit of its people. Crossing the finish line at the olympics Jordin wants to ensure that he gives his best as he seeks to not only win the race, but also to shine a spotlight on the nation he represents. Jordin is the epitome of what the olympics represents, and I have no doubt that he will do great.
Like Jordin, many of us have a dream to one day do something that is bigger than ourselves. It means finding the strength to persevere even in the midst of failure, because each occurrence of failure will become a stepping stone to get us to where we want to be. Jordin’s pursuit started in failure when he failed to make the basketball team in high school, and it was that failure that lead him to the sport in which he would excel. Allow his experience to make you realize that some of our biggest success will be birthed by failure. Failing doesn’t diminish who we are, it creates who we were meant to be. With each set back, with each no we have ever received in life, we develop a greater sense of purpose to go beyond our comfort zone and to achieve the impossible.
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