As the months are counted down to the Games in Rio de Janeiro, the Tobago-born, 29-yearold Florida-based sprinter is sparing no effort in the drive to be at her best for the most prestigious event in the greatest global competiton in the world.
“I’ve been with my coach previously for five years, and we won world championship bronze, we were in the Olympic final; so I’ve had some level of success,” she told Newsday at the recent TTOC Sports Awards for 2015. “For me, I realise that I’m not getting any younger and an Olympic medal has eluded me and that’s something I want to achieve; and so I felt that right now was the best time to make a change in order to go forth in that direction.” That change has been a move to Ato Boldon’s training camp, where she hopes to develop the consistency necessary to be a contender over the shortest event (by distance) in a Summer Games.
Until the dominance of Usain Bolt, Boldon, with one silver and three bronze medals, was the Caribbean’s most successful Olympic sprinter. Now, he is training all his experience and know-how on developing the careers of others; and Baptiste is among those who have turned to the savvy commentator/coach to raise their performance levels.
“Training has been going well,” Kelly-Ann said, when asked about the experience of a coach and camp. “It’s different, and I think that’s probably the biggest hurdle- in adjusting.” A seasoned campaigner and the natural leader of the TT women’s sprint relay squad that took 4x100m bronze at last year’s World Championships in Beijing, Baptiste was always likely to adapt easily, even though she did admit there were some differences.
“I wouldn’t say that we did that much different than my past training environment and regime,” she said. “It’s probably more so in terms of the size- it’s only myself and Richard (Thompson) that train together.
Khalifa (St Fort) and other athletes train separately. So the attention is different, the one-onone attention is just different.” Being home for Christmas was probably the only break the 2011 World Championship bronze medallist would enjoy before Rio.
“Right now we’re doing off-season training, which involves a lot of running and heavy lifting,” she continued. “We haven’t even started sprinting yet, and when I go back in January, because we plan on running a couple indoor races, we’re gonna start to put on spikes and do block work and sprinting and stuff.” Apart from the 100 metres, Kelly-Ann is also looking forward to reuniting with her sprint relay teammates and bidding for another podium place in the women’s 4x100 in Rio. In Beijing, Baptiste, Michelle Lee Ahye, Reyare Thomas and Semoy Hackett finished behind Jamaica and the United States; their prospects for Rio, once they stay healthy, are considered excellent.
Baptiste has twice achieved her fastest 100m clocking of 10.84 seconds; she was sixth in the London 2012 final in 10.94 and she ran 10.98 when snatching World Championship bronze in Daegu, South Korea. Those stats support the concept that more than running fastest, what earns a track athlete success at a major championship is being able to produce fast times through every round, all the way to and including the final. In track and field, eight months can be an eternity; still, TT will be praying that the name Kelly-Ann Baptiste is on the scoreboard and in the starting blocks when the world’s fastest women line up in the final in Brazil later this year.