High jumper targets World
When the world’s elite athletes gather in Daegu, South Korea, for the IAAF World Championships from August 27 to September 4, Barbadian high jumper Thorrold Murray intends to be there with them.
That is the goal he has set himself for this year, but at 21 years old, Murray is beginning to realize and experience what others have before him.
It is a long, hard and often lonely road trying to break into the big leagues, especially if you haven’t earned an athletics scholarship and are exposed to high-level competition on a weekly basis.
This is not the United States of America. This is not Jamaica. This is Barbados, which, in comparison with the other Caribbean countries, has one of the lowest conversion rates from the junior to professional status.
Murray is determined to debunk that trend.
More than a hint of frustration was evident in his voice last Saturday at the National Stadium. While the budding juveniles and juniors were competing at World Athletics Day, Murray watched from the stands. Speaking with quiet conviction, he told the story of a man driven to succeed, determined to overcome the hurdles in his path.
In his last major competition in Colombia, he won the men’s high jump at 2.18 metres. The national record of 2.25 metres was in his sights, but then the rain came down really hard and he couldn’t continue.
He was also sixth in the long jump with 7.29m on his first attempt. The second was a foul and he abandoned that event to switch to the high jump. It was only Murray’s third competition for the year.
He did a personal best 2.20 metres here at the Louis Lynch Championships back in February and followed that up with 2.15m on grass at a meet in Trinidad.
“Training is going great,” said the Pacers Track Club member. “But only to the extent that I am not working and I am not taking any supplements at all.
It is hard on my parents. It is just natural ability and the will because I am looking to make the World Championships,” he said.
Previously a long-distance runner, Murray began jumping when he was already in the Under-20 division. At Ellerslie School he saw younger boys high jumping, and he believed he could do it, so he tried.
“I cleared the CARIFTA qualifying height of 1.85m on grass and I told ‘Palance’ [coach Anthony Williams] to enter me for Inter-School Sports,” Murray recalled.
At Inter-School he finished down the pack, but schoolmate Ronson Small introduced him to present coach Neil Crichlow. After training for a whole year, he won the competition the following season at 1.91m, but missed the CARIFTA qualifying height.
Not deterred, he went to the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Junior Championships later that year (2006) where he was third overall with 2.08m in Trinidad and Tobago. The following year he was third at the CARIFTA Games.
After missing the whole of the 2009 season, Murray returned last year where he was fourth at the North America Central American and Caribbean Under-23 Championships and was fifth at the CAC Games.
“When I went to CAC last year, people wanted to know why I performed under par. It wasn’t because I wasn’t competition-ready, but I hurt my back. If they got me competition throughout the year, I would do better.
“At home, it is only Kemar [Jones] and me. I don’t have the push or the drive to go further, so I am stuck at one height, but I believe I can go higher and longer.”
Last year the Amateur Athletic Association sent him on a training stint in The Bahamas, but there haven’t been any training opportunities to date this year. Still, Murray keeps going.
“I train every day. I am doing weights. I have to take two buses to get here and to get back home. I still have to find money for things like drinks and water and I still have to eat right,” said the Boscobel, St Peter resident.
While he is concerned that the lack of supplements may be hindering his development, he remains confident that he will reach his goal and have a successful summer. The 2.20m effort has qualified him to compete at the CAC Senior Championships and the Pan Am Seniors.
To get to the World Championships, he will need a personal best performance of at least 2.28m.
“With the way I am feeling, with the competition I have at CAC, I know I can get a medal because I will be competing against some of the same guys from Colombia and I can get a medal,” Murray said with quiet confidence.