Braff bounces back
Ryan Brathwaite is no stranger to success. And he is definitely no stranger to Barbados’ top sporting award.
For the second time in four years, Brathwaite, the island’s most acclaimed hurdler, has been named the National Sport Council’s Sports Personality of the Year.
In doing so, he turned back a strong challenge from West Indies fast bowler Kemar Roach to win by the narrowest of margins after the final votes were tallied.
He also copped the award in 2009, the same year in which he won Barbados’ first ever World Athletics Championships gold medal.
Brathwaite, who is currently in Florida doing offseason training with his coach Dennis Mitchell, was ecstatic after being informed of his accomplishment.
“I feel very proud and satisfied of being named the Sports Personality of the Year,” he told SUNSPORT in a telephone interview yesterday.
“It feels good to see that despite all the hiccups and setbacks, people have still recognized my performances to be good enough to win the award.
“From here on, I just want to keep pushing on and I am really looking forward to 2013 where my main focus will be on the World Championships and the Diamond League meets.”
Brathwaite’s capture of the highly coveted award comes on the heels of a fifth-place performance in the final of the 110-metre hurdles at the 2012 London Olympics.
It was an impressive showing from the 24-year-old, with many not expecting the former world champion to even make it out of the opening rounds following a disappointing year laced with sub-par performances.
But the poor early season form didn’t discourage Brathwaite, who battled tendinitis in his Achilles to post a time of 13.40 seconds in the final which saw American Aries Merritt take gold in a time of 12.92.
He credited his re-emergence to hard work, dedication and self-belief.
“Leading up to the Olympics was a really tough time for me, as I wasn’t in the sort of form that I would have liked to be in,” the former CARIFTA and Central American and Caribbean Championship gold medal winner admitted.
“But a new training location, a new coach and a new running technique helped to bring back my confidence.
“Coming into the Olympics I was really focused. My coach also did a very good job helping me prepare both mentally and physically.
“I knew people weren’t expecting me to make it to the finals, but I always believed in myself and I always knew that I would be in the finals when that time came.”
Brathwaite said that he had already begun working with his coach to ensure that when 2013 rolls in, he will be in as good a shape as possible.
Training has been very intense, he added, and for the first time in three years, he is feeling 100 per cent healthy.
For now, his sights are firmly fixed on the stage where he made his name, the World Championships, which are scheduled to be held in Moscow from August 10 to 18.
“It is all about being healthy and staying healthy, and for the first time since 2009, my body is feeling very good and I am feeling very fit with no injury worries,” Brathwaite said.
“I’m aiming for a top three finish at the World Championships, and as the year goes on, and as the season runs on, my coach also expects me to run under 13 seconds.
“But that will be later down in the year,” he added.
And with the 2016 Olympics which will be held in Brazil, some four years away, Brathwaite contends that despite the fact that he will be 28 at the time, he sees no reason why he will not still be able to compete at the highest level.
According to Brathwaite, after whom the athletics track at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus is named, once he is fit and healthy, he will once more be proudly carrying Barbados’ hopes of an Olympic medal.
“I don’t see it as me being too old at all. Once I am healthy and can still compete at the highest level, I will run,” he said.
“With age comes experience, and sometimes experience is what carries you through those tough times.
“For me, it’s not about being old or young. Everyone’s body goes through a cycle and people deal with it differently.
“But if you look at it, some of the world’s best athletes hit their prime when they were around that age, not when they were 20 or 21.”