Omission spurred Forde
Four decades ago, Elvis Forde was controversially not selected on the Barbados team for the CARIFTA Games in the Bahamas despite being one of the leading quarter-milers in the country.
Forty years later, the two-time Olympian and Barbados’ long-standing 400 metres record holder said he used that omission in 1978 as a motivation to prove himself and succeed.
“I am one of those who never went to the CARIFTA Games, and not being selected was a hard, learning lesson for me but it was the driving force behind me all the time,” Forde told NATION SPORT in a wide-ranging interview during the 47th Flow CARIFTA Games, which were ironically held in The Bahamas.
Forde, who set the Barbados 400 metres record of 45.32 seconds in the semi-finals of the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, said he believed some of the local athletes, who missed out on selection this year, can also prosper.
“I know there are always those that get left behind and didn’t get on the CARIFTA team that can eventually go on and do some special things as I always believe that I had to work hard to get wherever I wanted to go,” he said.
“Just because there is a disappointment in your way at times, it should not be the end all. Your goals don’t always happen right off the bat. It is just a matter of making sure that you continue to climb that ladder every day,” Forde said.
Looking back at the 1978 National Junior Championships, the 58-year-old Forde said he met the CARIFTA selection criteria at the time by winning the 400 metres.
“I won the Junior Championship. That’s how the qualifying standards were established. You win, you go. I won and was running quite fast. I think I ran 46.99 in the 400 at that Championships and I didn’t get to go.
“But you know what, I always believed that disappointment gave me motivation . . . . They took people that ran the 400 and here’s a guy that won the 400 that was still left in Barbados, and they ran a 4×4 team and I didn’t get to go, so I always felt that I had to prove something,” said Forde.
After leaving Federal High School and Lynch Secondary, Forde earned an athletics scholarship to Southern Illinois University where he excelled on the United States collegiate circuit.
“There are a lot of things that I am proud of in terms of my career, even on the US college system when we set the collegiate record, three-flat (minutes) at Southern Illinois back in 1984.
“And then to go to the 1984 Olympic Games with Clyde Edwards, Richard Louis and David Peltier and to be in the final of the 4×400 relay team. I don’t know if anybody really understood what that meant at that time because we didn’t have a whole lot going for Barbados’ athletics, and to see that we made it there,” Forde noted.
But Forde said some people didn’t have faith or confidence in the quartet, which not only created history by becoming the first Barbados relay team to reach the final of an Olympic event but finished sixth in a new national record of 3:01.60 minutes which is still standing today.
“The part that had really bothered me about that. We were doing well but there were people in our contingent who were like these will go in the next round and get knocked out. I always say that the people you surround yourself with have to be just as optimistic and positive as you are,” he pointed out.
“I knew we had lifted up the country and people were excited about what was happening, so I always think about that and every once in a while, I still get the cold chills, knowing that we had gone to the Olympics and reached the finals.
“If my memory serves me correctly, we were probably the first individual or group that made it that far for Barbados in the Olympics. I know Obadele [Thompson], Andrea [Blackett] and Ryan Brathwaite have come and done well since then but we were almost like pioneers,” recalled Forde, who is a product of Haggetts Hill, St Simon’s in St Andrew.
Forde, who won a gold medal in the 400 metres at the 1987 Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games after capturing bronze in the two previous years, said he is proud to have coached Barbadian athletes such as Sheena Gooding, Ayesha Maycock, Lauren Maul, Lian Lucas and Lyn-Marie Cox during his stint as coach at Illinois State University and now head of the women’s track and cross-country programme at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
“I’ve had a good career. I was always proud of representing Barbados. I will always continue to do that and from my vantage point as a head coach now, I am just trying to help the kids to come over to Temple, get a good education and then try to develop their skills as well.” (EZS)