Inspiration is a beautiful thing and for Barbados’ outstanding 400m hurdler Allan Ince it is what helped make his Olympic dream a reality.
It all started when the quartet of Elvis Forde, Clyde Edwards, David Peltier and Richard Louis did Barbados proud by competing in the 4x400m relay final at the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics. Little did they know that such a commendable performance would motivate a then 16-year-old Ince to carry on the torch.
In 1988 Ince boarded a flight to compete at the Olympics Games in Seoul, South Korea, where he ran the 400m hurdles and 4x400m. That relay team included Ince of course, Elvis Forde and Richard Louis from the 1984 team that he so much admired along with Seibert Straughn. Unfortunately, this particular quartet did not make the final as the previous Barbados Olympic 4x400m team in 1984 but they did well enough to secure a semifinal spot.
The Seoul 1988 Olympics began late in September because of its location but Ince noted that the wait was well worth it.
Sharing what it was like featuring at the 1988 Olympics wearing the ultramarine, gold and black, the 52-year-old said: “Representing your team at the Olympics is an unbelievable honour. It is not something that you can explain in words. Just being there, being part of the atmosphere, things like the opening ceremony in the Stadium, it is a whole different experience. If you have never been in a Stadium with possibly 50 thousand people or more, it is an awesome experience.”
The son of Mr and Mrs Alfred Ince described what it meant to feature in the Barbados Olympic 4x400m relay team on such a prestigious sporting stage. He explained: “I ran on the third leg and it was truly an amazing experience. We were there and going as fast as we can go and going all out from the start. It was a great effort.”
Coached by one of Barbados’ sprint champions, the late St. Clair Cox at Dover Athletic Club, Ince who had a personal best of 50.95 in the 400m hurdles recalled that one of the most defining moments of his Olympic journey was getting that opportunity to compete against some of the world’s best, including American Edward Moses, one of the greatest 400m hurdles champions of all time.
“An honour for me along with competing in that 4x400m team which was my main goal was in my preliminary round when I ran the 400m hurdle. I competed with Edward Moses, he had the lane inside of me and he at that time was the top 400m hurdler in the world. And that for me was an honour that I got to compete with the best of the best and for me that was great,” Ince proudly recalled.
A Christ Church Foundation Secondary School alumni and past student of Erdiston Primary, Ince attended the University of Mississippi where he spent four years and graduated with a Bachelors degree in Business Administration. He currently works as an insurance administrator in the post of supervisor at one of the major insurance companies in the island.
Ironically working at an insurance company was not Ince’s intended career choice because he never envisioned himself doing desk work. In his own words, he always wanted to study microelectronic engineering. But balancing track while studying engineering in his first year at Mississippi did not work out. It was such a heartbreaking moment that forced him to switch his major, hence his reason for pursuing business administration.
Like any proud parent, Ince is happy to see his children Allana and Ajani Ince follow in his footsteps and carry on the athletics tradition.
Both of his offspring attended Queen’s College with daughter Allana recently graduating from Indiana State University and was the indoor conference champion in the 60m hurdles. Once all goes well, Ajani, a former Barbados Under-15 cricketer will embark on a scholarship opportunity very soon having received several offers.
“I can’t complain. Athletics has done me and my family well so it’s been good,” Ince expressed while encouraging this generation of young athletes to aim always for excellence.
Treasurer of Olympians Barbados, Ince expressed his happiness with the performances of Barbadian hurdles over the years, especially the ever consistent Central America and Caribbean 110m gold medallist Shane Brathwaite, former 110m World Champion Ryan Brathwaite and 400m hurdler Tia-Adana Belle to name a few.
He encouraged those athletes whose intention is to one day represent Barbados at the Olympics not to get too comfortable in the local status quo. In fact, Ince strongly suggested that if Barbadian athletes want to take on the world’s best they must first set their sights higher.
“Sometimes we get really comfortable with the status quo here in Barbados. But I want the athletes to think more globally, think more reasonably in terms of their performance and a lot of that comes from the spectators. They come to the Stadium and see a performance that is ordinary but they think that is the best or a good performance and our athletes get settled in that way of thinking. That their performance is good enough because it is pleasing to the local audience. But if you really want to compete and make a difference in track and field you really got to set your sights higher to really shine.
“Aim for excellence. All of it depends on how much the athletes really want it. As I was saying you can’t really settle at what is accepted locally or even regionally. You have to set your sights on what is accepted as best internationally. And have that go-getter attitude because it is going to cost a lot when you decide you want to compete at the world level or be the best in the world,” Ince said.
Born and raised in Kendal Hill, Christ Church, when Ince competed in races like the 400m, he did not fancy it. His then school teacher, the late Frank Blackman, suggested he try the hurdles and it was a decision that paid off.
In 1982 Ince had his first real taste of competition for Barbados at the Central American and Caribbean Junior Championships when he won bronze at the 110m hurdles held on home soil. In 1983 he won two CARIFTA bronze in the 110m hurdles and 4x400m relay in the Bahamas. He also attended the Pan American Games and World Junior Championships both in 1986.
Like any true patriotic Barbadian, Ince gives of his time coaching athletes that are willing to learn because his desire is to see the continued development of the sport locally.
In an effort to ensure track and field remains on the radar of young athletes, Ince has called for more incentives. He explained: “One of the things we need to start doing is having some more incentives for higher performance one way or the other. And I say that to say we can compete well at our level and think that it is ok. But we got to find a way to motivate our athletes to go to the next level.
“Yes, I know the association (Athletics Association of Barbados) has standards that are set for athletes to aim towards in terms of making CARIFTA teams and stuff like that. But beyond that, we need further motivation for the athletes to really want to reach that goal. I know they are some limitations in terms of what we can do, in terms of rewarding our athletes, but I think from my perspective we need some sort of reward system,” Ince urged.
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