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‘Bet on yourself, always’: Kelowna’s Jerome Blake reflects on Olympic bronze

Blake walked away from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games with a bronze medal for the men’s 4x100m relay
Kelowna’s Jerome Blake won two gold and one silver at the Canada Summer Games in Winnipeg. (Contributed/Canada Games)

When he was 15-years-old, Jerome Blake told himself he was going to compete in the Olympic Games someday.

The dream began in his home country of Jamaica when he was tasked with researching different athletes for a school project. He stumbled across Jamaican-Canadian sprinter Donovan Bailey, who recorded a time of 9.84 seconds to win the gold medal for the 100-metre dash at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games.

“When I read that he was actually from Jamaica, I was like ‘Man, I wanna do that one day,’” said Blake. “Move to Canada or something like that and go run for Canada.”

Nearly 10 years later, Blake did just that. Representing Team Canada, he walked away from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games with a bronze medal for the men’s 4x100m relay, alongside Andre De Grasse, Aaron Brown and Brendon Rodney.

“Just to see that come to fruition — I feel like I’ve come full circle. It’s been quite the journey so far,” said Blake.

Born in the Buff Bay settlement of Portland, Jamaica, Blake was a 400-metre hurdler, high and long jumper before he was a sprinter. In 2013, when he was 16, he relocated to Kelowna with his mother and brother. Upon moving to Canada, he switched to sprinting after coaches recognized his potential in the sport.

READ MORE: Okanagan athletes, coach headed to Tokyo Olympics

He competed in 2017’s RBC Training Ground in Kamloops and was chosen as one of 30 young athletes to be funded by the program. In 2018, Blake received his Canadian citizenship and made his international debut for Canada that same year at the NACAC Championships in Toronto, winning gold in the 4x100m relay.

But for Blake, to have had the opportunity to represent Canada on the international stage at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics was a feeling like none other.

“You get lots of love, lots of support from the country,” he said. “It’s amazing to see all the support you get from Canada and everyone who watches track and field. It was pretty amazing for me.”

Winning an Olympic bronze medal on Aug. 6, he said, “didn’t feel real.”

“But once I got it, I was just looking at it. Like I’m finally an Olympic medalist,” he said.

Despite competing in the midst of a global pandemic, he said that the experience was everything he expected and more. Having to take extra precautionary measures to avoid contracting COVID-19 allowed him to zero in on his performance.

“You’re so focused on just sports, and that’s it. That’s where all your focus was,” he said.

While some athletes filled the stadium’s seats, competing in a venue without spectators felt like training for Blake, which helped ease the pressure.

“Because at training, there’s nobody there watching you. It’s just you, your coach and maybe your teammates,” he said.

Three days after winning bronze, Blake was on a plane out of Tokyo. But there are no days off for the 26-year-old — he went straight back to work, this time in Clermont, Fla., where he’s training for some track meets in Switzerland.

In terms of how he plans to celebrate his Olympic victory, he said he hasn’t thought that far ahead.

“But I feel like I’m gonna do something cool,” he said.

Setting a goal and achieving his dream is how he said he’ll remember his experience in Tokyo. His advice for young athletes aspiring to compete in the Olympics someday? “Bet on yourself, always,” he said.

“No dream is too far-fetched. No goal is never too big,” he said. “Keep dreaming, stay positive and just keep working. You can achieve anything you set your mind to.”

READ MORE: Recapping Tokyo 2020: Canada’s medal count hits 24


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