With fewer than 100 days to go (91 at the time of writing) until the beginning of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saint Lucia has confirmed two qualifiers, both in athletics, both in women’s High Jump – Levern Spencer, and Jeannelle Scheper.
Now, a third athlete might join them.
Jahvid Best is 27 years old, born in California, USA. Best known as a four-year running back with the Detroit Lions in the National Football League, Jahvid won the California high school 100m title in 10.35 seconds. Since retiring from the NFL in 2014, he has taken up training in Phoenix, Arizona, at the ALTIS facility. You might be familiar with ALTIS if you have been following another Saint Lucian athlete, Makeba Alcide, who is hoping to make that Rio team as well, in women’s Heptathlon.
Whilst training for his Olympic bid, Jahvid has also been working to register as a Saint Lucian citizen, a status for which he is eligible through his father – David – who was born and raised on the island. In order to qualify for Rio, the young man must not only confirm his citizenship, and get a passport, but run the qualifying time of 10.16, and compete at local meet, more than likely National Championships on the 25th and 26th of June. But he is well ahead of the curve.
On 2 April, at the Arnie Robinson Invitational in San Diego, California, with a wind of 1.9 metres per second, Jahvid ran exactly 10.16 seconds to win Heat 1 of the men’s 100m. He is hopeful of replicating or improving on that mark in the coming weeks. It represents a huge personal best for him, and would improve on Ronald Promesse’s Saint Lucia National Record of 10.17 seconds. Jahvid is in the process of obtaining his passport, and making plans to compete in Saint Lucia.
Now, surely, many will accuse the young man of being a Jahvid-come-lately. But in fact the young man keeps Saint Lucia close to his heart at all times. When he entered the NFL in 2010, he proudly showed off the tattoo of the island map on his left arm, along with the names of his parents and sister, and the words NEVER SATISFIED. And don’t think he doesn’t know about Saint Lucia, either, that all of this is just an abstract, opportunistic notion. Hear what he says about his island home.
“My father grew up in the La Clery area. I have a lot of family currently living on the island – my father had six siblings! Growing up, I heard countless stories of the island’s beauty, but mostly stories about cricket and soccer (my father and his brothers played). I visited as a very young child, with my parents, but don’t have much memory, just pictures. I most recently visited the island in 2012 during my offseason in the NFL That 2012 summer I ran the beach every morning as part of my workout.
“I just want to bring pride to Saint Lucia, to the Olympic team, to the sport of athletics. I want to carry the flag around the track and make my family and country proud. I will be seeking a place on the team, representing my country would mean a lot to me, and to my family.”
Jahvid has been credited as a quick learner, and he says his short term goal is “to master the technique of sprinting” whereas his long term aim is to make a career in athletics. He’s forming a solid base, but he knows that in order to be competitive at the highest level, he needs to get down into the 10-second region. Or faster. But he cools that talk, preferring instead to talk about the work he needs to do today, in order to become a better sprinter than he was yesterday.
“I never look too far into the future. So as far as sub-10 talk or expectations I can’t say. I’m just focused on getting better every single day. I’m a hard worker and I know there’s room for improvement. How much room is to be determined, but whatever room there is I will find it.”
There is still some work to be done, and criteria to be fulfilled before Jahvid can pull on a cerulean blue singlet, but for now, he’s just enjoying the process.