In awe of Ben and Flo-Jo
ALLAN?INCE?had already picked his winner in this contest.
Canadian Ben Johnson or American Carl Lewis for the men’s 100 metres gold medal at the 1988 Summer Olympic Games in Seoul, and Ince, who was there representing Barbados in the 400 metres hurdles, was going with the former.
“Prior to that, there was lots of talk going on between the two of them [about] who was better. It was a very exciting place to be in 1988. The stadium was packed. I remember struggling just to see the race because there were so many people in the stadium at that point in time,” Ince said.
“Ben was my favourite going into that race. To see him win that race was really fulfilling for me, but unfortunately, he was disqualified for using performance enhancing drugs. Other than that, the race itself was a glory to watch. It was an awesome race.”
Equally impressive was the dominant Florence Griffith-Joyner, who won both the women’s 100 and 200 metres with record times.
“Seeing all of that live was just awesome,” he added.
Of his own race, the memories are not so good.
“My race was a little anti-climactic. We had been home for about three months – July, August, September – without any major competition. Nationals was our last major competition.
“Three months without any competition and then going to the Olympics, you weren’t really sure about how you would perform,” Ince recalled.
“That was one of the major concerns I remember having. I can’t remember what my time was. For me it wasn’t a very smooth race. It was far from one of the better races I have competed in.”
The memories are more vivid for the 4×400 metres relay where he teamed up with Seibert Straughn, Richard Louis and Elvis Forde.
“You’re going all out and you’re not closing anybody and you have to maintain that speed to the end. After that race I was so tight, I remember going to the tent and having a full-body massage because I was one big knot from going that hard, that long,” he said with fists clenched.
“And then you had to do it again, you got into the next round and you had to do it again. This time it was a bit easier, but the same thing, you run at your fastest and hope to just hold on to the end and not lose position.”
Barbados did a time of 3:06.03 in the heats, but with 3:06.93, finished fifth in their semi-final race and missed a return trip to the finals.
Ironically, it was seeing the same Elvis Forde, Richard Louis and the other members of the Barbados team in Los Angeles that awakened the desire to be an Olympian.
“It was really inspiring to me and it was at that point that I decided ‘You know what, this is something that I want to achieve’ and over the space of the next four years, that’s what happened. I went from stage to stage in my athletic development and ‘88 saw me there at the next Olympics,” Ince said.
Ince got involved in athletics after going to Foundation School and training with the late St Clair Cox. He was a founding member of Dover Athletic Club, but as a quarter-miler. The hurdles came almost as a dare.
He took up the challenge and won the trials for the 1982 Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Junior Championships which were held at home. The rookie won a bronze medal in his first international outing.
Ince represented Barbados at the CARIFTA Games in 1984, winning bronze in the 110 metres hurdles and senior boys’ 4×400 metres relay.
In 1985, he was second in the 400 metres hurdles and won the following year with 53.67. Later that year, he lowered the time in 52.36 seconds, a new junior national record that would stand until 2005 before it was broken by Terry Marshall.
“‘86 was a kind of an important year. I spent about two months on tour. I was on the CARIFTA team, on the CAC team, the World Juniors team that summer and also the Commonwealth team. Unfortunately, we didn’t attend those games. That cut down my summer short and I returned to Barbados to start a scholarship at Ole Miss.”
While at the University of Mississippi, he set school and national records and achieved his goal of reaching the Olympic Games.
“The Olympics was an awesome experience. There is nothing to compare with it. It is the pinnacle of athletics. It is what you train for what you dream about. Making it to the Olympics was kind of a dream come through for me,” Ince said.
“My personal goal is to produce home-grown Olympians from right here in Barbados. A lot of our Olympians qualify overseas because that is where they are based. If we have all of the stuff in place to make that work, I don’t know, but from a training perspective, I think it is something that is achievable.”