‘Keep dreaming and aim pretty high’: B.C. Olympic sprinter Jerome Blake’s road to success

Canadian sprinter Jerome Blake will be among the 56 athletes representing the country in this week’s World Athletics Championships, a biennial sports event second only to the Olympic Games as a prominent international track and field athletic contest.

Blake from Kelowna, B.C., is scheduled to compete in the 100-metre and 200-metre sprints and the 4×100-metre relay at the championships held in Eugene, Ore., from July 15–24. He will also represent Canada in a 4×100 relay at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, from July 28 to Aug. 8.

Born in Jamaica, the 26-year-old moved with his mother and brother to the Okanagan in 2013. A hurdler back in his country of origin, he switched to sprinting after a coach in Kelowna spotted him testing his speed on a track while supervising his brother on a soccer field.

Blake made his Olympic debut at the 2020 summer games in Tokyo, where he ran the second leg with the 4×100 relay team that won silver. He made his international debut for Canada at the 2018 NACAC Championships in Toronto, where he raced with the gold-winning 4×100 relay team.

Jerome Blake, second from left, and his teammates bite their bronze medals from the 4x100m relay at the summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan on Aug. 7, 2021. (The Canadian Press)

Blake spoke to Brady Strachan, guest host of CBC’s Daybreak South, about his preparation for the World Athletics Championships and his advice for young athletes.

The following transcript has been edited for clarity and length.

How do you prepare for these world championships? 

The work is already done — we’re just fine-tuning stuff and trying to stay healthy and working on the little technical things we can work on, such as the mindset and how to approach each round.

The little things add up to big things, so that’s how we’re trying to approach it with our team right now.

You mentioned mindset. Do you have any rituals that you do mentally to prepare yourself for a 100-metre or a 200-metre sprint?

Just try to stay calm as much as possible because if I get too excited, I get anxious, and I just forget to get my cues because, as a sprinter, in each phase of the race, you go through the cues for that.

The more focus you have on yourself, the easier it is for you to execute your race as best as possible.

What has the last year been like for you?

It has been pretty fun and nice to see all the support I’ve been getting because I’ve been doing this for quite a while, and for me to reach out onto the international scene and run on the world stage now, especially coming from Kelowna where not a lot of people really know about track and field up there.

That’s one of the big things to see that I’ve done.  I’ve paved the way for somebody else to do it as well, showing them that from the little small town of Kelowna, you can dream big and anything’s possible for sure. 

Jerome Blake, left, nears the finish line at the men’s 200-metre race at the Canadian Track and Field Olympic trials in Montreal on June 26, 2021. Blake says his success shows that even someone from a small town like Kelowna can make it to the international stage. (The Canadian Press)

What’s it like when you meet young athletes here in the Okanagan, and you’re able to share your success with them?

It’s a great opportunity for you to travel the world, gain experience and knowledge about different parts of the world and see different things and, most definitely, represent your country at the highest level. 

It’s always one of the biggest things I would say: you gain lots of friendships and make friends from all over the world. When it becomes a job, it gets hard, but it’s a lot of fun.

How do you credit your recent success?

My coaches, my teammates and my extended family — they help you in so many different ways, whether it’s off-track or on-track, because everything off-track affects what you do on the track. Having a very good, stable environment for sure contributes to everything you do on the track. 

I have a team of people who have motivated me and told me I can do anything, and I’m starting to believe that. And when you start to believe what you know, what you’ve been told and when you see the success, you start to realize that actually works. 

Now, I’ve actually pretty much dedicated my entire life to the sport — I train, live and breathe in track and field every day.

Jerome Blake, second from left, competes in the 200-metre race during the NACAC Championships in Toronto on Aug. 12, 2018. Blake thanks his coaches and family for providing the stable environment that allowed him to flourish. (The Canadian Press)

Another two years until the next Olympics, what do you need to do to make sure that you’ll be ready to make Team Canada again? 

It’s just trying to stay consistent — consistency breeds success. 

I’m very good at what I do, but there’s still a lot more potential to get better. For me, it’s a plan just to keep working, keep progressing this year, progressing to next year.

What can you say to young athletes in any sport about following their athletic dreams?

One of the big things I’ll say: keep dreaming.

People always say dreams don’t come true, but that’s not true. 

Keep dreaming and aim pretty high because even if you aim for the moon and you land in the clouds, that’s still pretty high up. That’s what my coach told me, and I use that to motivate me.

Jerome Blake, left, and Bismark Boateng walk off the track after winning gold in the 4×100-metre relay during the NACAC Championships in Toronto on Aug. 12, 2018. Blake’s message to young athletes: ‘keep dreaming and aim pretty high.’ (The Canadian Press)

Daybreak South7:21Olympic sprinter Jerome Blake will compete in the World Athletics Championships that get underway this Friday

Kelowna B.C.’s Jerome Blake speaks to Brady Strachan about the reasons for his success and his advice for young athletes.

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