Barbados’ first ever IAAF Female World Junior Championships gold medallist, Akela Jones, returned home from Eugene, Oregon, to a warm reception at the Grantley Adams International Airport last night.
Jones was greeted by Minister of Sports Stephen Lashley, chairman of the National Sports Council Michael Power, students from her alma mater Springer Memorial, the media and other well-wishers.
In an interview with the media, Jones said that it is not a matter of just thinking that she could do it, but going out there and achieving what she thought she could. This earned her the long jump gold medal with a jump of 6.34 metros in the final. The 19-year-old took everyone present back to her very proud moment in Oregon.
“I was so focused I did not even realize I was just like on a flow kind of movement. I just wanted that gold medal and I said Barbados has to get this medal and my coaches helped me, my school, my psychologist, my mum and a lot of people have to be thanked for this victory,” the tall, talented athlete said.
When asked whether her accomplishment came as a surprise to her, Jones said it didn’t and she knew that she could achieve her goal. She noted that she was even looking for a longer jump than the one that got her the gold medal. Jones also explained why she failed to compete in the final of the high jump for which she had qualified.
“In the high jump I was feeling very tired, my knees were aching for the whole season so I told myself a minor setback for a major comeback. It does not make any sense going out there and hurting yourself and you have all these major meets to do next year and the following year so I had to look at the bigger picture.”
Now that she has returned home Jones said she wanted to enjoy Crop Over, get some rest and then pursue her studies at Kansas State University which she would be attending for the first time.
The former two-time CARIFTA gold medallist had some advice for young and upcoming athletes who may look up to her as a role model.
“I would just say keep on training hard, you have to be mentally strong for the competition and do not let anybody say you can’t or you are from little island Barbados and you can’t do it. Anything is possible once you put your mind to it. Hard work, mental preparation and you can do it. The dream can become a reality,” Jones said.
During his brief remarks Lashley told Jones that he was very proud of her and the Government and the whole of Barbados were proud of her achievement.
“I want to covey to Akela that not only myself but the Government and the people of Barbados in general are proud of your achievement. We are going to support you as you continue along the path that I know you will as you go forward to that ultimate goal which will be an Olympic champion gold medalist. I think that is something you certainly can achieve and I certainly admire your progress and you have shown determination,” the minister said.