Olympian Akela Jones continues to cement her place as the best female long jumper Barbados has ever produced and is confident of possibly qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics in Japan.
Jones is happy about this latest achievement which for her is a step in the right direction. Last weekend she registered a new national record of 6.80m (+0.2) at the 2021 Chula Vista Field Festival in California and eclipsed her old mark of 6.75m set in 2016.
“For me, this is my ending results for months of hard work. So, it is just the belief that I had in my mind and my coach has seen throughout all the months of training. It has finally manifested now as there is still more to go. So, yes I am glad to break the national record, always glad. But I know our national record is going to be broken several more times again. I would hope that it would be me but if it is anybody else I would be glad to have someone on this journey as well.
“I am pretty confident that I would keep progressing. I can’t tell the future and I don’t want to jump before myself. But I just want to go out there and keep progressing each meet whatever the result is will reflect the work I am doing behind the scene. Six persons have qualified so far for the Olympics and obviously, I am not one of those persons as yet but I hope to be added to the list as soon as possible with high hopes that everything keeps going and progress smoothly,” Jones told Barbados TODAY.
This has been seven months now since Jones travelled to Atlanta, Georgia, under the care of United States of America four-time world champion and Olympic gold medallist Dwight Phillips. So far she is happy with the results she has been able to produce. In fact, Jones is just two meters shy of the Olympic qualifying standard of 6.82m.
For her, it has been a journey of significant strides having worked on a few changes to her technique particularly the hitch-kick in an effort to continuously develop and get better.
“I came in when it was getting cold so I was obviously not in the shape that I am right now. Getting into shape was a bit tough but just showing up every day and continuing to put in the work obviously has given me a better jump than I have ever jumped before. So, given where we started and where we are now it would demonstrate that we have taken major leaps and bounds to become the best jumper Barbados has ever had.
“I have been learning how to do the hitch-kick (technique) instead of just the sail. In recent years I was using a different technique and this year I have been using a new technique that I am still learning even though I am using it in competition. So, as that new technique progresses even more that is where the distances are likely to happen in the future,” she explained.
The multitalented Jones who currently holds four records for Barbados in the women’s heptathlon, pentathlon, long jump and high jump thanked all those who played a part including Minister of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment Dwight Sutherland.
“It has not been an easy transition, it has not been easy per se in training; definitely a lot of days of sweat and hard work and a lot of resilience had to be shown forth. I would say that between my team, the winning circle, and my coach Dwight Phillips and Dr Marco Belizaire (sports chiropractor), the Barbados government and the sports administrations in Barbados have all worked as a team to get me where I am today,” Jones stressed.
As a proud Barbadian and one of the most outstanding athletes to have attended the Springer Memorial School, Jones is extremely proud of the six athletes who have qualified so far for the Olympics this summer, Mario Burke, Jonathan Jones, Sade Williams, Shane Brathwaite, Alex Sobers and especially her former Springer Memorial schoolmate Tristan Evelyn.
“I would like to encourage them to keep working at their crafts. It has not been an easy two years, the last two years have been very hard within the sports world I would say dealing with mental health and everything. I am very proud of everyone sticking to it and still going after the Olympics and I wish them the absolute best. I am sure that they would not go out there and leave anything on the table to spare.
“So, I encourage all of them to unite as a team, encourage one another as we always do and just go out there and do their absolute best. I know from experience and seeing my teammates out there, I know they don’t leave anything to spare. What they give is everything they have for themselves and their country,” Jones said.
She expressed joy for Evelyn. “It is absolutely special coming from a fellow Springer girl. The work that she has put in behind the scene, the sacrifices and everything. It is now manifesting, so I am sure it is no surprise to her.
“It is just a testament that she has been putting in the work for many years through NAPSAC, BSSAC, Collegiate years and now she is going to be shown with her national flag on one of the most prestigious stages. It is going to be amazing for every Springer girl, every former one, every future one. It is just going to cement that we belong on the global scene and we can reap global success.”