At just 25 years old, Tyra Gittens has already etched her name in the annals of collegiate track and field as an 18-time NCAA Division 1 All-American and a three-time NCAA Champion. Her journey to the pinnacle of American collegiate sports was marked by triumphs in the heptathlon, long jump and high jump which showcased her versatility and athleticism.

However, Gittens' path has not been without its challenges. Following her successful collegiate career, which culminated in gold in the heptathlon despite an ankle injury, Gittens faced a setback in 2023 with a retroactive drug suspension due to an expired Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) certificate. This suspension not only affected her competitive results but also tested her resolve and commitment to the sport she loves.

In an exclusive interview with Sportsmax.TV, Gittens opened up about the hurdles she faced in recent years and her journey towards redemption as she prepares for the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris.

“It has been a process, I will tell you,” Gittens shared when asked about her preparation. “I feel like this year has been a year of rebuilding. I’m in a new body and a new mindset. I’ve never been in this mindset, never been in this body, so I am excited to see what my limits are. I think something big is going to happen this year.”

Transitioning from the demanding heptathlon to specializing in the long jump has required adjustments in Gittens' training regimen. "My training has been different because I am no longer doing the heptathlon," she explained. "I've been learning different techniques in the long jump and also on the track, finally learning how to sprint. I feel like I’ve fallen into a very professional body, not just college."

Gittens’ post-collegiate journey was not without bumps in the road. The year 2023 began well enough with the USA-based Trinidadian signing a professional contract with Puma but barely a month later, things took a downward turn.

World Athletics’ Athletics Integrity United (AIU) ruled that she was ineligible to compete for six months after a sample she provided in June 2022 was found to contain methylphenidate/ritalinic acid, a prohibited substance that is an ingredient of the medication she takes for ADHD. At the time the sample was taken, Gittens’ TUE had expired.

 However, the AIU said it accepted that she had not realized that her previous TUE had expired by the time that the first sample was taken at the national Trinidad and Tobago championships on June 26, 2022.

“She was not advised that the TTO Sample was positive for methylphenidate, or that her TUE had expired for this purpose, until November 2022, after the sample collected from her at the World Championships on July 23, 2022,” the AIU said adding that they also accepted that Gittens had no information at the time of her second World Athletics sample that her TUE application was incomplete.

“The AIU also accepts that the medication was used for legitimate medical reasons and the athlete did not intend to cheat. Accordingly, the AIU accepts that the violation was not ‘intentional’.”

It was a blot on her resume that she could have done without and one that was hard for her to take.

Reflecting on the challenges of her suspension and the mental toll it took, Gittens likened it to one of the toughest periods of her life. "It was probably the hardest thing I ever had to deal with," she admitted. "I always compare it to the year I lost my brother. This period of my life, these last two years, that was definitely second."

"After college, I was burnt out physically and mentally. I don’t know how I went on to Tokyo (Olympics) because my body was completely done. Tokyo was sheer will," Gittens continued. "But after that, I crashed. I didn’t have the motivation for track anymore because I gave it my all that year. It was challenging, but in that challenge, I found some serious guidance. I found my system for success and have been using it religiously to push myself to new heights."

As she soars towards those new heights, 2024 has largely been good to her so far. With leaps of 6.56, 6.68 and a windy 6.72m, Gittens’ progress has been trending along an upward trajectory as she nears competing at her national championships next month.

She attributed her renewed focus and resilience to adopting a growth mindset. "The growth mindset is just a theory that all things can be achieved with hard work and effort," she explained. "It’s about how you handle failure, how you view fear. Instead of seeing failure as the end, I view it as a new opportunity to try a new way. With a growth mindset, I believe that everything I put my mind to and apply effort towards, I can improve."

Looking ahead to the Olympic Games, Tyra Gittens is determined to exceed her expectations and make her mark in the world of track and field. With a newfound perspective and a relentless work ethic, she is poised to inspire both on and off the track as she chases Olympic glory.

 

 

 

 

Jamaican athletes Lamara Distin, Brianna Lyston, and Ackelia Smith continue to make waves on the NCAA track and field scene, securing their spots on the prestigious 2024 Bowerman Watch List. The latest edition of the list was unveiled on Wednesday, following the conclusion of the regional conference championships this past weekend.

The Bowerman Award, named after Oregon track and field and cross country coach Bill Bowerman, stands as the highest honor bestowed upon the year's best student-athlete in American collegiate track and field. Administered by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA), the list showcases the most outstanding talents in the sport.

 Distin, hailing from Hanover, Jamaica, showcased her dominance at the SEC Indoor Championships by setting a collegiate record in the high jump, clearing an impressive 2.00m, which is also a national indoor record. This performance marked the first-ever two-metre jump indoors or outdoors in collegiate history. Undefeated in three meets this winter, Distin also notched a pair of clearances at 1.97m, solidifying her position with four of the top-11 collegiate indoor performances of all time. With nine career Watch List appearances, she stands as the active leader among women, eyeing a third-straight NCAA DI Indoor title.

Lyston, a talent from Portmore, Jamaica, has remained undefeated in three 60-metre finals this winter, delivering the year's two fastest performances. Running a swift 7.07 in January at the Razorback Invitational, she secured the No. 4 all-time collegiately spot. Lyston continued her stellar form with a 7.08 victory at the SEC Indoor on the same track. Additionally, she clocked an impressive 23.16 in her sole 200m event this year, earning her second appearance on the Watch List.

Smith, representing Clarendon, Jamaica, asserted her dominance in the long jump with ownership of the year's four best collegiate leaps. Her leading jump of 6.85m this winter showcases her undefeated streak in three meets. Holding a personal record of 6.88m from last year, Smith is a force to be reckoned with, securing her fifth career Watch List appearance. In the triple jump, where she ranks No. 3 all-time outdoors and No. 5 indoors, Smith continued her excellence with a fourth-place finish in the Big 12 Indoor at 13.37m. Her versatility extends to the 60m, where she boasts a personal record of 7.21, and she contributed a swift 53.25 leadoff split on the Longhorns' top 4×400 squad.

Joining these Jamaican sensations on the Bowerman Watch List are other outstanding athletes, including JaMeesia Ford – South Carolina, Jasmine Jones – Southern Carolina, Olivia Markezich – Notre Dame, Hannah Moll – Washington, Maia Ramsden – Harvard, Michaela Rose – LSU, and Parker Valby – Florida.

The anticipation for these remarkable athletes continues to grow, with the next women's Watch List scheduled for March 20. The Jamaican trio's stellar performances signal an exciting journey ahead in the world of collegiate track and field.

In a monumental decision for her burgeoning athletic and academic career, 16-year-old sprint sensation Naomi London, a two-time Carifta Games silver medalist, has disclosed the compelling reasons behind her choice to attend the University of Texas in Austin next fall.

London, who clinched silver in both the 100m and 200m at the 2023 Carifta Games in the Bahamas, expresses her eagerness to follow in the footsteps of NCAA triple gold medalist Julien Alfred, drawing inspiration from the Commonwealth Games silver medalist and World Championships finalists’ success.

"The main reason why I was committed to Texas was because of the environment and Julien. I was inspired to, and I think that I'll be very comfortable and safe up there. The environment was just what I need," London shared in an exclusive interview with Sportsmax.TV.

Amidst other offers, Texas stood out as the ideal fit for the talented sprinter. "I did get other offers, but I declined them. So I was just mainly focused on Texas. The athletes are very fun to be around. It makes me want to push more because they're very supportive, and I came from a club that always wants to see you grow up. So having a mimic of that in Texas makes me feel at home, and the coach as well, in that he only wants the best for you."

Expressing her desire for a challenging yet supportive environment, London emphasizes the importance of pushing herself to the limits. "I want somebody to push me to my limits, and I think that's the best and right option that I should go for right now."

 

When questioned about her academic aspirations, London mentions she's still exploring options. "I have not decided what I'm going to study, but I'm working on ideas into what course I want to take."

London's commitment to Texas, however, extends beyond education, as she is driven by the ambition to become an Olympian and a World Champion. "I'm actually looking forward to being an Olympian and a World Champion as well. It's not only about the education. I mean, it is about the education, but there's a balance."

In her final season as a Longhorn, Alfred had one of the best NCAA Division 1 championships ever. She won the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay which prompted her coach Eldrick Floreal to characterize her as the greatest sprinter in NCAA history.

Alfred's success at Texas has left an indelible mark on young St. Lucian sprinters, including London, and played a significant part in the teen’s decision to become a Longhorn. "It has influenced us a lot, especially me very much because Julien is a hard-looking individual that I really admire, which makes me want to push,” London said.

“She is the kindest person you could ever meet. I swear she's the kindest person you could ever meet if you actually meet her. She is dedicated. She is down to her work. She goes and gets what she wants."

With her own history in tow having been the first St Lucian to win a sprint medal at the Carifta Games, and inspired by her rising star compatriot in Alfred, London looks set to create her own legacy at the University of Texas and beyond.

“Having that and having seen that (Alfred’s success), just makes you want to look at, you know, do I actually want to do I really want to go through what she's gone through? Everybody has a different path.

“So it's not like I'm going to go through the same thing as her, but I know that there's something different out there for me. She has influenced me very much and I really appreciate that. I mean, I love Julian. We all do. She's been remarkable and watching her success over the years has inspired a lot of people.”

 

Following in the footsteps of her more celebrated compatriot Julien Alfred, rising St Lucian sprinter Naomi London, has signed a letter of intent to attend the University of Texas at Austin in the fall of 2024. The Longhorns made the announcement on Instagram and has been independently confirmed by Sportsmax.TV.

London, who is from Vieux-Fort in St Lucia, ran 11.72 to win the silver in the 100m at the 2023 Carifta Games in the Bahamas in April to become her country’s first ever sprint medalist at the Caribbean junior showcase.

She then followed up by running 23.72 in the 200m for her second silver medal of the games.

At Texas, London, who turned 16 in March, will be hoping to emulate the successes achieved by Alfred, who Coach Eldrick Floreal characterized as “the greatest sprinter in NCAA history” after she won the 100m and 200m and leading the Longhorns to an impressive victory in the 4x100m relay to lead Texas to the 2023 NCAA Division 1 Outdoor Championships title for the first time in 18 years.

 St Lucia’s trailblazing sprinter Julien Alfred has won yet another award for her exploits during the recently concluded USA collegiate season. The recent graduate of the University of Texas was on Wednesday named the Big 12 Women's Track and Field Scholar-Athlete of the Year, a testament to her dedication and excellence.

Alfred's track record is nothing short of astounding. With her electrifying speed, she clinched the NCAA Indoor 60m title and went on to secure the Outdoor 100m and 200m titles.

Her dominance was underscored by an undefeated streak in the 100m throughout the season, culminating in a dazzling performance that concluded in June. In addition, Alfred etched her name in history by recording the second fastest time ever over 200m indoors, clocking an astonishing 22.01 seconds, trailing only behind Merlene Ottey's legendary 21.87 set in 1993.

Her remarkable achievements have not gone unnoticed, as Alfred recently transitioned to the professional ranks, signing with Puma. The stage is set for her to compete in the 100m and 200m at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest from August 19-27, where she aims to continue her meteoric rise.

Beyond her prowess on the track, Alfred's commitment to academic excellence shines brightly. The graduate student in youth and community studies at the University of Texas boasts an impressive 3.34 GPA and a notable 71 per cent participation rate. Her dedication to both her athletic and academic pursuits culminated in her being named the Big 12 Female Athlete of the Year, a well-deserved honor after her triumph in clinching five national titles and aiding UT in securing the outdoor NCAA Championship. Her achievements have also been acknowledged by the USTFCCA, which bestowed upon her the prestigious National Scholar-Athlete of the Year accolade.

In July, Alfred's exceptional accomplishments were further highlighted as she was crowned the 2023 USTFCCCA's Division I Outdoor Track and Field Women's Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Her legacy as a four-time Big 12 Performer of the Year and a 12-time Big 12 individual champion underscores her consistent excellence and unwavering commitment to her sport.

The Big 12 Conference's Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award, established in 2012-13, serves as a testament to the intersection of athletic achievement and academic excellence. The honor recognizes individuals who embody exceptional commitment both on the field and in the classroom. Alfred's achievement underscores her remarkable journey, as she met the criteria of a junior or senior in athletic and academic standing, with a cumulative GPA of 3.20 or higher, active participation in at least 20% of the team's scheduled contests, and a minimum of one year in residence at the institution.

 

NCAA National Indoor 60m and 200m champion Julien Alfred has set her sights on the 60m world record after becoming the second fastest woman all time over the distance. She is also keen to test herself against the best female sprinters in the world.

The 21-year-old Alfred, in her final indoor season for the University of Texas ran 6.94 to win the 60m dash and took 200m gold in 22.01 at the NCAA Division 1 National Indoor Championships in Albuquerque, Texas on March 11.

Both times are the second fastest all-time behind Irina Privalova’s 6.92 and Merlene Ottey’s 21.87, respectively set 30 years ago.

The only woman to break seven seconds at the collegiate level, Alfred’s accomplished that feat three times during the season and even as her collegiate career comes to a close, she plans to continue competing indoors because she wants the 60m world record.

“I do want to go after that world record and I know some day I will get it,” she said while speaking with FloTrack, even while revealing that she did not think about the world record much prior to the NCAA finals because it induces her anxiety.

Setting two world-leading times and the second-fastest times in the indoor sprints on the same day, she said, has boosted her confidence, especially the 200m, an event that she really dislikes.

“I hate it. I am never going to like the 200m but this has really opened up my eyes as to what I can really do. This builds my confidence a bit more and I am looking forward to seeing what I can do at the international level. This is my last indoor competing for Texas so I am actually looking forward to going against the pros, competing at the professional level and see what I can do.”

 

 

 

 

St Lucia’s Julien Alfred capped off an incredible season at the NCAA Division I Indoor Championships on Saturday when she clocked the second fastest time in history to win gold in the 200m.

It was her second individual gold medal of the season-ending meet held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, after winning the 60m dash on Friday.

The 21-year-old Longhorn senior clocked 22.01 while holding off the challenge of favourite LSU’s Favour Ofili, who finished in 22.20. Autum Wilson was third in 22.45.

Aldred’s time was a personal best, national record, championship record, meet and facility record as well as a world lead. Only Merlene Ottey, who ran 21.87 in Italy 30 years ago, has run faster.

The time also shattered the 22.09 run by Kentucky’s Abby Steiner just last year.

It was the perfect ending for Alfred, who ran unbeaten over 60m and clocked three times under seven seconds during the season. She lost only once over 200m.

On Friday, Alfred won the 60m dash in 6.94, a new collegiate, meet and championship record as well as a national record.

 It was the third time this season she covered the distance in under seven seconds and is now the fastest woman over the distance from the Caribbean surpassing Ottey’s 6.96.

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