National sprinter Mario Burke believes he has what it takes to give a really good account of himself at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics in Japan.
An ambassador for Red Bull and Nike, the 24-year-old Burke said he isn’t going to the Olympics just to say “I have attended”. Rather he intends to go all the way in the 100m final at his first-ever Olympic Games for Barbados.
“From the time I started track and field, it has always been a goal of mine to represent Barbados at the Olympics. To finally be able to do it this year in these challenging times, I am extremely proud of myself and just ready to go out there and put my best foot forward. I don’t just want to go there to take part, I want to go there to compete in the Olympics
“So, I am just thankful to be able to qualify and just ready to go out there and make the country proud, make myself proud and do as good as I can. I believe that I am one of the best sprinters out there and I believe that I can go there and compete and do well against the world’s best. So, I am confident in my abilities to make the final and possibly medal,” Burke told Barbados TODAY.
As someone who represented Barbados at every possible junior and senior international championship, Burke has a personal best of 9.98 seconds in the 100m. He said 2021 has been perhaps the most challenging year for him.
The transition from being coached at the collegiate level, to switching coaches midseason and joining the Allan Powell camp based in Houston and also the challenge of recovering from a couple of nagging injuries has been a challenge, Burke noted.
“This year was perhaps the most challenging year that I had on the track. I have been dealing with a lot of physical issues, a couple of nagging injuries that were hampering my preparation. The preparation was not ideal and I was really looking forward to having a really big year and I am now finally getting myself back to full fitness at just the right time. So, I am excited to get ready for the Olympics,” Burke said.
He added: “It has been different, it has been challenging also, because the coaches at Houston are a collegiate program which is the same program I went through in college. Now coming here in a professional setup, the training is more intense and caters more towards professional athletes. So, it has been a tough adjustment period at first but now I am finally getting accustomed to it and things are finally looking up for me right now.”
A former student of Wilkie Cumberbatch Primary and Harrison College, Burke, a 2016 World Junior Championships bronze medallist in the 100m, described his track and field journey as a rollercoaster. The speedster however thanked his parents, family, friends and coaches for keeping him grounded.
“It has been a rollercoaster of a journey because I started this sport from a very young age at six years old. I always used to look up to the fastest guys on the island like Ramon Gittens, Obadele Thompson, Andrew Hinds and those guys coming through the system. So, to be one of the main guys now and the fastest guy on the island is an amazing feeling I can’t describe. I will always do my best for Barbados and also try to be there for the younger athletes coming up as well. I was in their position too, always looking up to the guys that came before me and it is a very good feeling.
“I have always been blessed to have a really good support team around me from my parents, my family and coaches who have always looked out for my best interest. From the time I started in BC Track Club with Ms Wendy Barrow-Smith, Nikisha Maynard, Mr. Ramon Rudder and then transitioning to the Harrison College program with Mr. Adrian Thorne and then in college with Mr. Carl Lewis and Mr. Leroy Burrell.
“So, I have always had coaches that were always there for me and I was always a very dedicated athlete. Even when I slacken off, I have always had people around to keep me grounded and help keep me focused. I have been very blessed along this journey,” he explained.
On Saturday night, Burke featured in the men’s 100m final at nationals and while the 2017 champion did not manage to pull off the win, he was pleased with his performance and spoke about what it means to compete on home soil.
“It was a good experience. As I was mentioning earlier, I was coming off of a little injury so this is my first competition in like over a month. At first, I just wanted to make sure that I came home with a chance to prove fitness, to show that I was still able to run. I put on a really good performance considering the circumstances.
“I didn’t win, unfortunately, I came second, I wanted to win but it was still a pleasing performance because the guy that won ran a really good race and I feel like I had a decent race as well. It just shows that I am training in the right direction, I have over a month to prepare and get myself ready. The way my training has been going shows that I am training in the right direction. But nationals was fun for me, I always love competing in Barbados and every chance I get to come home and compete I will always take the opportunity,” Burke said.