- Posted February 21, 2013 by
Smikle Thrives For Titles
Explosiveness, toughness, conditioning, discipline and focus. All of these represent the intangibles that are required to be a competitor in the world of professional sports. The clanging and banging of weights, sweat, blood and sometimes tears – the tangible. Such is the sacrifice for success paid by 20 year old Jamaican discus thrower Travis Smikle. Standing at a burly 6-feet tall, weighing 190 pounds, Travis displays a demeanor and attitude that belies his youth.
Far removed from the euphoria of competing at the London 2012 Olympic Games, Smikle is back in the gym putting in the work to qualify for this year’s World Athletic Championships in Moscow, Russia.
In a country that has produced a myriad of athletic stars over the past 60 years who shine brightly in the world of track and beyond, sometimes the effort and hard work behind the scenes is ignored. This reality would seem even harsher in the face of a demanding public who have been spoiled in the last couple of years with showers of World and Olympic gold medals.
One wonders why then that young Smikle would ignore the running spikes and take up the discus, as Jamaicans are not well renowned for their efforts in field events.
“Well to be honest I can’t sprint,” said Smikle with an accompanying chuckle.
“Apart from that I have developed a love for the throws. I remember starting out I just wanted to go to Boys Champs to medal and because of hard work and determination I’m right here. I didn’t know I would reach this far in throwing but everything happened for a reason,” Smikle shared.
“I wasn’t doing any sports for my school and I wanted to represent my school in some way. I wanted to earn my own medals whether it was educationally or sports-wise and throwing provided the opportunity for me to do so,” shared the Calabar High School old boy.
Despite the obscure start in the discus event Smikle went on to win gold for Calabar at Boys and Girls Champs in 2008, despite not being one of the favorites. In 2009, Smikle would add to that feat by becoming the first junior athlete to earn a medal for Jamaica in any throwing event, finishing third at the IAAF Word Youth Championships in Bressanone, Italy.
“That was a real journey for me. Going to Italy, I wasn’t even among the top ten. My personal record at the time was 56m and I needed a personal best of 57m to qualify for the finals. My coach wasn’t able to be there so he left some instructions for me to follow in order for me to make it to the finals and possibly medal,” said Smikle.
Along with his struggles to make it in his event, Smikle has also had to deal with being the odd man out in camps for major championships at times.
“Being on the world youth team I learnt a lot. The discus not being a traditional event has its…effects. People on the team – the sprinters and the distance runners wouldn’t lime with me but after time they gradually accepted me throughout the whole team,” Smikle recalled.
An underdog in almost every event he has ever competed in, the bulky thrower has had a colorful and rewarding career thus far winning at almost every level in the discus event.
“I had to work hard. I had to remain focus. I had to believe in my abilities and my coach’s program.”
Smikles’ coach and physiotherapist, Kerri-lee Ricketts also believes in his abilities and thinks Travis has a bright future ahead of him.
“Travis Smikle has amazing talent. Just coming out of high school, making the National team not with a ‘B’ standard but with an ‘A’ standard; qualifying for the Olympics; that was very good. He went to London and he didn’t choke in the presence of those big guys from America and Europe. He went out there, held his own, and he did a great job. It can only get better for him,” Ricketts expressed.
Support for field events in the island is miniscule in comparison to the support garnered by the glitz and glamour of the track. Athletes who run track in Jamaica are well taken care of in contrast to field athletes, who struggle in the face of poor facilities to practice their craft.
“I think field events are put at the bottom of the table. Even at track meets and trials; long jump will be going on and their playing loud music and people are walking across the track to do presentations which I think is disrespectful,” Ricketts bemoaned.
“Jamaica has been doing well in field events over the years without much acknowledgement from most people so I think it’s about time that people spent time and invested in field events,” he added.
There have been small strides made by the nation and its governing track and field body, the Jamaica Athletics Administration Association (JAAA) however in getting behind field event athletes in recent years.
“Seeing that field events are not generally a traditional event in Jamaica there would be reluctance at first but over time I’ve seen where the JAAA have made a lot of effort in exposing the young field event athletes. I can say so far the JAAA is doing enough to at least give us exposure,” Smikle said.
“I remember the CAC team carried about 8 throwers for the under 17s and under 20s categories and out of the 8 I think about 7 medaled which was very commendable. So I think the JAAA is doing a pretty good job,” he added.
The price of glory is not cheap but Travis takes it all in his stride and keeps optimistic through it all despite the difficulties that face him, ultimately striving to make his mark on the world stage and to make his country proud.
“I’m a firm believer in God and in the bible it states that whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. If you put in hard work, you get the results that you desire and deserve.”