So, I’m looking through the splits of the men’s 4x400m relay at the NCAA East Regional meet, and I see, “43.94 FR Kirani James.” To provide more context: A 17-year old freshman at the University of Alabama ran a lap around the track in 43.94 seconds! That’s the type of performance that keeps me perusing track results looking for the next track and field star. This guy is from Grenada. He won the 400m dash at the World Youth Championships last year in a time of 45.24. That’s .01 secs. faster than what Lashawn Merritt ran when he won the World Junior Championships back in 2004. Lashawn went on to win the 400m at the Beijing Olympics a full second ahead of the second place athlete – Jeremy Wariner, another athlete who stamped his mark as a star at a very young age. His sophomore year at Baylor University, Jeremy won the 400m dash at both the NCAA indoor and outdoor championships, the US Championships, and the Athens Olympics.
I owe you an apology for taking so long to update the blog. Life had been really busy leading up to my wedding on May 1. My wife and I are settling well into married life. I’m really grateful to have her as my teammate. She’s been gently nudging me to honor my commitment to maintain this blog. The amazing performances athletes have posted have also nudged me to keep my readers up-to-date on what is going on in the world of track and field. Late in the spring, 20-year old Teddy Tamgho broke the indoor world record in the triple jump. Today, Chaunte Lowe set the American record in the high jump. University of Oregon senior Ashton Eaton set the indoor world record in the decathlon. This has been a happening year in athletics!
My favorite performance to date is Tyson Gay breaking a record held by an icon in both the athletics world and Civil Rights Movement. Tommie Smith is best known for raising his gloved right fist into the air after winning the 200m dash at the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games. A few weeks ago, Tyson Gay ran 19.41 in the straightline 200m dash. Back in 1966, Tommie Smith ran the straightline 200m dash in 19.5 secs a world record. Since this event is no longer in official competition, Tommie Smith still holds the official record. Notice the speed suit Tyson is wearing. The suit Jesse Owens wore when he mastered the 1936 Berlin Olympics is the inspiration for this design.
Tyson Gay is in great form, and will continue to run some amazing times as the summer progresses. He left me wide-eyed with his 44.89 in the 400m dash at a meet back in April: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=os2Q0QSAqNM. He is the first athlete to run under all three significant time barriers: 10 secs in the 100m dash, 20 secs in the 200m dash, and now 45 secs in the 400m dash. Moreover his 9.69 sec 100m and 19.58 sec 200m make him the second fastest human ever in each of those events. I believe he is in better shape than Usain Bolt at the moment, and may threaten Bolt’s current dominance of the 100m and 200m dash. Look forward to my updates.
In elementary school, I grew ashamed of the African heritage that sprung from my father’s Ghanaian homeland. Every day seemed to bring with it a new snide remark from fellow classmates. Either, I lifted rocks for exercise, had too big of a nose, or was an “African booty scratcher.” As I absorbed these remarks with smiles and giggles, I came to despise my heritage more each day. All the while, my father shared story after story of Ghanaian heroes such as Jerry John Rawlings who overthrew two corrupt governments before solidifying Ghana as a democratic state. Why couldn’t I muster up even a little of Rawlings’s courage to stand up for my own heritage? Instead, I did everything I could to fit in. I pulled down my pants as soon as I boarded the school bus. I tried to pierce my ear. I incorporated as many curses as possible into my vocabulary. My nickname during those years embodies my efforts to reverse my heritage. I went by Emawk–Kwame spelled backwards.
I continued to suppress my heritage throughout middle school, but as a freshman away at boarding school, I finally began to embrace the very culture I had tried so hard to reject. Surrounded by boys from privileged backgrounds and WASP society, I spent hours in the weight room, on the basketball court, and on the track trying to harness my physical prowess in order to prove I belonged. Thankfully, my teachers took a sincere interest in my cultural roots, and it was through their eyes that I began to see my own heritage anew. Conversations with my teachers challenged me to engage my heritage and read about these heroes my father had spoken of during my youth. Kwame Nkrumah’s passion for uniting the countries of Africa sparked my interest in the African Union and its goal of creating a United States of Africa. J.J. Rawlings’ pursuit of justice in overthrowing corrupt governments in Ghana led me to investigate corruption levels within his own administrations.
In college, coursework studying African politics, American foreign policy, and African cultural continuum in the United States helped answer some questions and guide me in framing more. Follow-up on past research confirmed that African émigrés to the United States needed to be more involved in US foreign policy concerning Africa. Work with African-American elementary school-age students convinced me of the need for a connection between African-American youth and their peers on the African continent.
Now, I find myself in graduate school studying Public Administration as I bring more shape to my ideas regarding African émigré involvement in US foreign policy and connecting African and African-American youth. My postings will let you in on the development of these ideas. I will look at a wide range of issues, including the following: private equity investments, incursions by Chinese companies, political elections, governance, US foreign policy, and the development of African and African-American youth. Feel free to comment on my posts. I want this to be an interactive process as I plan to learn an incredible amount in this process, and pray that you do as well.
My first track meet ever, I lined up for the 100m dash next to a guy wearing Air Force 1s, jean shorts, and an NFL jersey. All eight of us in the race had no idea how to get into the right stance, and were jumping around trying to get a jump on the starter’s gun. When the gun did go off, my man in the Air Forces did not waste any time getting to the finish line. While I was not the fastest guy, I had so much fun—just running.
After winning the county championship in the 200m dash in the eighth grade, I had the opportunity to run with a track club during the summer. Humility is something I learned quickly as I ran against the likes of Michael Grant, one of the fastest 13-year olds in the country. I also learned what it was to have good form, and to develop my own by studying other athletes. In high school I became a perfectionist, studying video after video of athletes like Justin Gatlin, Dwain Chambers, Aziz Zakari, and Maurice Greene. I dreamed of dominance while watching Jesse Owens run and Bob Beamon jump. I scoured professional athlete progressions on http://www.iaaf.org. I began following other high school athletes on Dyestat and Milestat. I raved about Kelly Willie and Jeremy Wariner facing off at the 2002 Golden West Invitational, both running sub-46 in the 400m dash. Brendan Christian ran 10.20 in the same meet! I wanted that kind of speed.
I was fortunate that my football coaches in college allowed me to continue running track. Both sports taught me extremely valuable lessons. I developed a mental toughness on the track that enabled me to push through a sophomore season in which I fouled out of meets for both the indoor and outdoor seasons in the triple jump, until I set a huge personal record in the Southern Conference Championship. I developed a physical toughness on the football field that created a craving for contact.
My obsession with track and field statistics bordered ridiculous. After track meets, I would spend hours studying results from meets across the country. I kept a mental log of the progression of a number of athletes and offered my predictions for the NCAA Championships, US Championships, and World Championships whenever anyone showed interest. I am itching for the indoor track and field season to begin. I did spend some time this fall expanding my knowledge of cross country running and road racing. Look forward to comprehensive commentary on track and field at the high school, collegiate, and professional levels.