A king in his own heartland
Quarter-miler Taylor gets backing from St Catherine folk as he chases gloryThursday, August 05, 2021
BY HORACE MILLS
The latest feat secured by 21-year-old sprinter Christopher Taylor has lifted people's spirits in his rural communities of Lluidas Vale and Ewarton, both in St Catherine.
He will on Thursday contest the final of the 400m at the Tokyo Olympic Games after clocking 44.92 seconds in the semi-finals three days earlier. It is the first time in 17 years that a Jamaican man is reaching this far in the event.
That feat, along with the fact that it is Taylor's maiden Olympics, has resonated profoundly with residents of Lluidas Vale district, where the sprinter's maternal family resides.
“I am one of the happiest mothers in the world right now,” declared Taylor's mother Pauline Knight, also called “Miss Bev”.
She said: “I am excited about the final and wishing that my son will win the gold. Even if him nuh reach the podium, he is my gold.”
That sentiment reverberated throughout Taylor's boyhood home, where his relatives sat together on a spacious verandah soaking up the euphoria sparked by the outcome of the crucial semi-final race.
In a section of the building, two of Taylor's young relatives — Aljay Bandoo (nephew) and Alana Prince (cousin) — enthusisatically unknot several medals that the athlete amassed during his younger years.
“It is a good feeling,” Aljay said when asked how it feels to be related to the young hero. He added that whenever he tells people he is Taylor's nephew, many express disbelief.
Two of Taylor's aunts — Mavis and Shelly-Ann Battick — told the Jamaica Observer they are ecstatic.
“I am overjoyed,” Mavis said.
She also expressed hope that Taylor's latest achievement will be an inspiration to other young people in and around Lluidas Vale.
“I believe more young persons from the Lluidas Vale area can achieve whatever they desire. If they just put the work in, the result will be great,” Mavis reasoned.
Her nephew already is being hailed as an inspiration in his farming community.
A child, Leon Rose, who intends to become a firefighter, is proud knowing that he and Taylor attended the same school of Lluidas Vale Primary.
“Taylor inspires us to have confidence,” he commented, taking a break from a game of football.
A prominent artist in Lluidas, Vale Fitzroy Williams, showed up at Taylor's childhood residence, holding a 2015 painting of the sprinter whom he has known for years.
“I could tell that he was gonna be very exceptional and a champion in something,” he said. “Ultimately, Taylor is running and I wish him all the best that the world has to offer.”
Another resident, Rasnado Johnson, better known as “Lyrical Nado”, posited that Taylor's rise to stardom is an inspiration for him as an aspiring recording artist. “Taylor is a humble, young and talented youth who inspires us a lot by putting our small community on the world map,” he said.
Taylor also grew up with his paternal family in another community, Ewarton located nearly 10 miles away from Lluidas Vale.
One cousin in Ewarton, Rohan Gyles, said: “For the first time Taylor is attending the Olympics, and we are glad that he reach this far (the final). We wish for him all the best.”
Another of the sprinter's paternal cousins, Nadia Gyles, commented: “The family is really proud of Taylor... I am hoping for the best and nothing but the best for him.”
Sharon Hibbert, one of the sprinter's aunts who hails from Ewarton, is impressed that the young star has been staying true to his dream.
“I feel so excited and I am so glad for him,” she said. “From primary school, Taylor has a love for track and field and he became champion at Ewarton Primary School until he went to Calabar High School.”
According to Taylor's mother, Miss Bev, her son initially loved cricket and would often play it with one of his close friends, using oranges as substitute for a cricket balls.
She recalled that when Taylor became enrolled at Ewarton Primary School, Coach Kevion Minzie discovered his sprinting talent and went on a mission to nurture it.
With Minzie's help, Taylor ended up competing at Junior Champs in Kingston and during sports day activities at his school.
He passed his Grade Six Achievement Test, and was placed at McGrath High School in Linstead, St Catherine.
By that time, other schools renowned for athletics became cognisant of Taylor's potential. They went in search of him.
Taylor eventually picked Calabar High.
While he attended Calabar, he lived in the Red Hills area of St Andrew with a family friend known as Indra Chin.
Taylor went on to represent Calabar and subsequently Jamaica, winning several medals and breaking records at national, regional and international events.
His first coach, Minzie, expects even greater things.
“Taylor is very talented. He can also do the shorter sprints, but his coach that he is with now is the person that definately will be able to decide where he goes from here” he stated.
“I think the sky is the limit for Taylor. He is a very determined and very hard-working youngster. I deifnately see him going a far way.”