Aug. 8, 2016
By Brad Muller | More Features
Kierre Beckles is proud of her nation's culture of celebrations. The former South Carolina hurdler hopes to give her homeland of Barbados yet another reason for joy as she competes in the 100 meter hurdles at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, and she is dedicating her effort to members of her family she lost in the last year.
"It means a lot to me," Beckles said. "In 2012, I was .01 seconds off the time I needed to be able to go (to the Olympics). I was heartbroken about it, so being able to make it this year means a lot. I have dedicated this year to the death of my grandmother and my uncle. Being able to go to Rio this year to do what I've been working on for all these years, I'm just ecstatic about it."
Barbados earned its lone Olympic medal in the history of the summer games in 2000 when Obadele Thompson took home the bronze in the men's 100 meter hurdles. Now Beckles hopes it's her time to shine.
"To see that and how our country celebrated that medal was awesome," Beckles said. "It would mean a lot to be the first female to medal at the Olympics for Barbados. It would be creating history for my country. That's the goal of the Olympics; to keep writing history in the books for Barbados track and field."
The small Caribbean island is home to less than 300,000 people, and there will be 12 athletes competing for Barbados in this year's Olympics. Even with those small numbers, the people of Barbados have a rich tradition of celebrating their culture and their citizen's accomplishments.
"This year is a big year," Beckles said. "We are celebrating 50 years of our independence this year, and we have been celebrating all year leading up to November 30 (actual anniversary of independence). That's the best thing about Barbados. We are always celebrating something. Every month we celebrate something that has to do with our culture. It could be fruit. It could be our national heroes. We're always doing something on the island. There is so much history and culture on the island."
Coming to South Carolina, I didn't only grow as an athlete. I grew as a person.
Needless to say, Beckles would love for her name to be a reason for month-long, or longer, celebration.
"If I get a medal, I think they will celebrate that all the way to November 30 when we celebrate our independence," Beckles laughed. "To create history in the same year of the 50th anniversary of our independence would be so great."
Beckles was a three-time All-American at South Carolina before graduating in 2012, and she is thankful to head coach Curtis Frye and the track and field staff for helping prepare her to chase her Olympic dreams.
"Coming to South Carolina, I didn't only grow as an athlete," Beckles said. "I grew as a person. Being around Coach Frye, Coach D (assistant head coach Delethea Quarles) and (assistant) Coach (Kevin) Brown helped me be a better person so I could become a better athlete. I learned about track and field. I learned about people, and I learned how to be a team player and how to be focused."
Before she can make her run at history, Beckles is looking forward at enjoying all the Olympic experience has to offer.
"I'm looking forward to the opening ceremony," Beckles said. "It's the celebration before anything starts. It really shines a light on how exciting the games will be. I'm looking forward to supporting my teammates in their sports, and just relaxing before my competition day.
"I want to watch swimming and gymnastics. I really want to go and watch shooting up close. If my schedule allows, I'd like to watch water polo and the diving."
Beckles joins a strong contingent of South Carolina track and field stars from past and present competing in the Olympics this summer along with alumnae Natasha Hastings (USA) and Jeannelle Scheper (St. Lucia), as well as rising sophomore Aliyah Abrams (Guyana).
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