WHERE ARE THEY NOW: Maurice Smith 'bittersweet' over decathlon national record
World Championship silver medalist wants Jamaica to unearth multi-event talentFriday, July 23, 2021
By Daniel Blake
There's always a belief that Jamaicans are good at almost everything and Maurice Smith embodies that sentiment.
The former Calabar High star is Jamaica's most successful decathlete, with his highlights coming at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.
Smith always believed he was born to do the 10-event contest, and his drive was fuelled by a word of advice from the late legendary Olympian, Herb McKenley.
“As a senior (at Calabar), Herb McKenley told me 'Maurice I think you should stick to this event because based off your talent, ability and drive, I think you will be one of the best in the world,” he recalled. “Once I got the opportunity to leave Jamaica and go to college overseas with better facilities to train, I knew from there nothing could stop me.”
The overseas collegiate experience paired with his determination paid off as he qualified for the 2004 Games in Athens, Greece. He found it hard to contain his excitement.
“I was still at Auburn University and I won the Texas Relays with 8023 points which was the A Standard for the Olympic Games,” he said. “Mi remember mi call mi mother and say 'Mummy, guess what? Mi a go di Olympics!' That was very exciting for me knowing that I made it to the Olympic Games which is the highest level in track and field”
He may not have medaled in Athens, but he certainly made his mother proud, finishing 14th out of 39 competitors with 8023 points.
Four years later, Smith qualified for the event again and was named the captain of Jamaica's team for Beijing, an experience he will never forget.
“I feel like I handled it pretty well, the team spirit and energy were really up,” he reflected. “I actually asked the management staff why they chose me and dem say because we realize you get along with everybody and everybody respect you. It was definitely a great experience to captain the Olympic team.”
Smith, who won silver at the World Championships a year before, was seen as one of the favourites to challenge for the gold in Beijing. However, it was not to be as he finished 8th with 8205 points.
Nevertheless, he enjoyed his Olympics experience and was grateful to compete with talented decathletes around the world.
“Decathlon is more like a fraternity. Everyone is aware of what is going on, the strengths and weaknesses of each other but at the same time, we cheer each other on because we understand we are out there for hours at a time competing.”
“We running, we jumping, we throwing, so you can consider us gladiators of the arena.”
Since his retirement in 2012, no Jamaican has come close to his achievements which he finds to be bittersweet.
“Part of me feels good that I'm still the national record holder and no one has surpassed what I've done. But at the same time, mi nuh really want it stay stagnant. Mi woulda love fi see another Jamaican athlete come and challenge the record,” he said.
“Mi all feel like we're better multi-athletes than sprinters and jumpers. It's just for somebody to come and highlight that to everyone and make we realize the talent is there for it.”
The 40-year-old says he will always make himself available to help athletes in the sport but in the meantime, he is making use of another talent.
“Music is the journey right now. Before it was Maurice Smith: the athlete, now it's DecaJams the artiste. Right now, I have a song out called 'The Olympians'”.
Smith and Claston Bernard, who also competed at the 2004 Olympics, are the only men to ever compete for Jamaica in the decathlon at the highest level.
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