BIRMINGHAM, England — Roxroy Cato could hardly contain his wide grin when he was told that his exploits in making the Jamaican Olympic team has inspired student/athletes at his alma mater Green Island High in Hanover to aim for the same heights.
Cato, who is from Sheffield in Westmoreland, is one of three Jamaicans who will contest the first round of the men's 400m hurdles at the XXX Olympiad that started with women's football yesterday. Cato says he is happy he is able to motivate young athletes to do well.
"I feel great," he said. "Any chance you get to motivate youngsters to work hard in track and field is a good thing and I hope they make the best of it. I am trying my best to make sure they have something to aim at."
Cato, who suffered a big letdown last year when he was told he was on the team to the IAAF World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, only to be replaced at the last moment, said after that he made sure this year there would be no slipups.
"Coming off last year's upset, it was a different focus this year, I was not prepared to leave anything to chance just make every race count," he said.
Presently, Cato, who ran his personal best time 49.03 seconds at a meet in Trinidad on May 19 to clinch the Olympic A qualifying standard, said he is in the best shape of his career and is aiming to go as far as he can go. The pre-Olympic camp at the University of Birmingham here, he said, worked wonders for him. "I am feeling great right now that I am where I hoped to be. I just need to be able to stay in the moment now," he said.
Training has been going great and he has been able to use the isolation that the camp has provided to work on his technique and that has worked for him. "My technique is getting better and better each day."
He was introduced to the event in 2006 when his coach at Green Island High, Michael McIntosh, whom he calls "Mr Mack" and describes as one of the most influential persons in his career, "just came out one day and said he was going to let me try the 400m hurdles".
Cato recalls that, that year the organisers of Milo Western Relays were offering two hurdles for any school whose athletes could run the event under one minute.
"Yeah man," he says with the big grin, "I had never done hurdles before but I just went out there and ran and jumped and we got the hurdles".
Training was not that easy, however, as he used an old classroom desk as his obstacle and today he says hurdles in races give him no fear. "I just knock them over as the desk hurt more to hit than the hurdles."
The time spent at the training camp has helped to cement some relationships he had, with Riker Hylton and Dane Hyatt, whom he knew before and make new ones. "Everyone here is friendly," he told the Jamaica Observer and it is great to be on the same team as great athletes like Usain Bolt and others."
He knows the atmosphere will change once they get to the Village and the Games draw nearer, but says the management team reminds them every day they were under no pressure, but to take things one step at a time.
Cato says he thanks McIntosh and singles out a teacher, Ms Berlyn, whom he said took the time to help him keep focused on what he was doing.
Making the Olympic team has also opened the door for what he says is more national teams and says he is already eyeing a spot to the IAAF World Championships in Moscow, Russia, next year.