The emotion associated with representing one’s country at the Olympic Games can inspire many superlatives. For Alvin Haynes, a Barbadian Olympian who still holds the national triple jump record after 28 years, that opportunity made him feel like royalty.
Born in England but raised by his now-deceased parents in Christ Church, Haynes competed at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. It was also in that year he recorded a measurement of 16.70m which stands today as the Barbados’ triple jump record.
Now 52-years of age, Haynes explained how as a young boy coming up the triple jump was not his preferred choice as he absolutely enjoyed running. While at St. Matthias Boys Primary School, Haynes was unstoppable in all his races and at the time believed he was one of Barbados’ best.
Well, that was until he sat the Common Entrance Examination and passed for Christ Church Foundation School where he got a taste of real competition. The likes of Sheldon Spencer, Gregstone Waterman and Michael Matthews, also a former Barbados cricketer, tore the proverbial bark off Haynes quite easily.
Sharing his experience of what it was like at age 24 representing his country at the Olympics and the journey of where it all started, Haynes said: “Being selected to represent Barbados at the highest level, that was overwhelming, it was something else. You know you’re one of the top athletes in the world but still being selected and being on that stage. Seeing other top athletes from around the world there with you, the spectators make you feel like royalty.
“It was interesting because a lot of guys that I admired coming up, Carl Lewis and Michael Conley Sr., I was in the same village as they were at the 1992 Olympics. So it was kind of intimidating at first but I put that one side and focused on the job at hand. It was a really good experience meeting all the celebrities, the dream team. I was also treated like a celebrity because in the village people asked for my autograph, so that was a really good experience and one that I will never forget.”
He added: “When I was at St. Matthias Primary School, I was a top sprinter. Beating up everyone in the 80m, 100m and 150m and as far as I was concerned I was one of the best in Barbados. Then I went to Foundation School and started racing guys that were beating me quite easily.
“So, I decided to move from the sprints to long jump and got success there. Then from long jump to high jump and got more success. But because I was Under-13, 15 levels, the triple jump wasn’t available at that level. So I started triple jump when I got into Under-17 and just started breaking records.”
Like his brothers Dr John Haynes who also attended Christ Church Foundation School and Jimmy Haynes, Barbados’ first Grammy Award winner who produced Steel Pulse’s album – Babylon the Bandit – the younger Haynes ensured that he too made his mark in the annals of local track and field.
Jokingly, Haynes explained he had no idea where his athletic ability came from but was glad he had it.
A member of the century old Empire Club, Haynes earned a full athletics scholarship to the University of Mississippi nicknamed Ole Miss where he completed a Bachelor’s in Business Administration.
But his first love was truly engineering which he did a bit of at the now called Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology before leaving Barbados on a full athletics scholarship.
However, the electronic and engineer classes were so time-consuming that Haynes was unable to manage that along with his training. What is also interesting, Haynes’ roommate at that time was fellow Barbadian Olympian Allan Ince who also wanted to pursue a degree in engineering but ended up studying Business Administration as well.
“By the time I finished my classes in the daytime, I had to go straight to athletics practice and it was taking a toll on my body. So the coach suggested I take a less demanding course, so I quit engineering and did business administration. And that afforded me more time to my athletics and still be able to do my studies in time. The guys who were there studying engineering were full-time students with very little time to themselves. So when you try to combine electronics and engineering with track and field it is very difficult,” Haynes added.
Up to June 1, Haynes was a manager of 20-years service at Virgin Atlantic but because of the coronavirus pandemic, staff were sent home and sadly Haynes was one.
But he has no regrets with how his career path turned out considering he had the opportunity to travel all over the world, discover several places and meet new people through his job with Virgin Atlantic. As they say, it was the dream job.
Initially, when he began working at the Grantley Adams International Airport, it was with British West Indies Airways – currently known as Delta Caribbean Airlines – for two years. From there he went to Caribbean Aircraft Handling with Air Jamaica and then Virgin Atlantic.
Haynes sang the praises of Virgin Atlantic which he described as a very nice entity having worked as a service coordinator all the way up to duty manager level.
Now that he is home, Haynes intends to relax while spending time with his daughter Kayla Haynes who is currently studying nursing at Barbados Community College. Haynes said he tried steering Kayla into doing track and field but that did not work out too well.
As a student of St. Matthias Primary, Haynes passed through the care of late coach Anthony ‘Tony’ Lovell. He went on to receive coaching from some of the island’s best including Frank ‘Blackie’ Blackman at Christ Church Foundation and the late St. Clair Cox who was in charge at Dover Athletics Club.
While Haynes was training for the triple jump, Henry Inniss who was one of Barbados’ best jumpers, helped to coach him. Ironically, it was Inniss’ 16.27m triple jump record for Barbados that Haynes broke in 1992.
In 1992 some members of the Barbados Olympic team for athletics were head coach Jerston Clarke, long-distance runner Leo Garnes, Stevon Roberts, Seibert Straughn, Henrico Atkins, Edsel Chase and Roger Jordan.
A force to reckon with, Haynes won gold in the triple jump at CARIFTA 1984 held in the Bahamas. Also that year he brought home gold again in the triple jump at the Central American and Caribbean Championships held in Puerto Rico.
Offering advice to Barbadian athletes, Haynes encouraged them to find a blend. He explained: “You must find a blend to combine your athletic ability along with your education. You can’t be focusing on the athletic part of it and neglect your study, you have to focus on both of them. If you are fortunate you will get a scholarship and that would be your gateway to a better life going forward. It worked for me and it could work for you as well.”
Haynes also wants to see Barbadian athletes being given more facilities to train. He added that’s the only way they will be able to improve and keep up with the world’s best. Yes, he believes that Barbadian coaches are good and have the capabilities to train the athletes but without the proper training facilities, he said, there was only so much they could do.
“First and foremost the facility has to be improved because even in the average University overseas, their training room facility is much better than ours. And that is just the average University in the USA. So, we really have to improve the facilities first of all.
“I think the coaches here are of a high standard but they could only do so much with the facilities that we have. So, money needs to be injected into the sport. If we are serious about athletics and the other sports as well, the Government really or someone needs to inject some money into the sport. Improve the facilities so we have a better chance of competing on an even playing field with the other countries,” Haynes said.