Financial crunch threatened to crush Jereem Richards' dreams
Trinidad and Tobago athlete Jereem Richards had a stellar 2017, ending the year with a gold and bronze medal at the World Championships in London – but he almost never got there.
A year earlier, Richards competed at the Hampton Games just ahead of making his sojourn to the University of Alabama. The results left Richards almost broken.
“I stepped off the track heartbroken. I had just recorded 50.61 for the 400m – which was the first time I had record a 50-second time for three or four years,” said Richards, who at the time had a personal best of 45.91 over the distance.
Richards would then compete in the 200 at the same meet, to even more devastatingly disappointing results, finishing in 21.80.
The Olympic trials were a month away and Richards felt he didn’t have it in him.
Richards’ progress as an athlete, up to that point, had been retarded significantly because of work obligations.
The T&T sprinter had graduated junior college in 2015 but could not take his place with the University of Alabama because he didn’t have the money.
“I had to sit out a semester. This was very frustrating, so I decided to head back to Trinidad to continue training,” said Richards.
The 200-star took up a job working in the afternoons as a personal fitness trainer, a job that would take him up until 9 pm at night.
Richards found the gruel of the job and training too much.
“It was hard to get up early, train, head back for lunch, work and then repeat the cycle the next day,” said Richards.
“I was juggling too many things and I wasn’t getting insufficient rest. This is what was contributing to my poor form.”
Fifteen months later, Richards had earned a bronze in the 200 metres in London and marvelled at his progress.
“After the difficulties, I’d endured in the first half of 2016, it is hard to believe some 15 months later I stood on the podium celebrating a bronze medal in the 200m at the 2017 World Championships,” he said.
Richards’ improvement was rapid under new coach, Blaine Wylie, who the athlete calls a ‘father figure’.
The rest, as they say, is history.