Decathlete Hylton remains patient as he closes in on Olympic qualifying markSunday, April 04, 2021
BY PAUL A REID
Despite being within touching distance of the qualifying mark for the decathlon at this summer's Olympic Games, former Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) boys' champs bronze medallist Asani Hylton is in no rush to take part in the world's greatest sporting event and is taking his time getting better at the gruelling 10-discipline event.
The Stephen F Austin University student-athlete is coming off a massive performance at the Texas Relays where he amassed a personal best 7,536 points, beating his previous best of 7,116 points, but still 814 short of the Olympic qualifying mark of 8,350.
“Going to the Olympics is not a goal that I set for this year, but it's definitely a goal that I want to accomplish in my life competing in the decathlon,” he told the Jamaica Observer in an interview earlier this week. “To make it to the Olympics I have to get the qualifying mark, so I will continue working on getting it and if it comes, it come this year.”
If he is to get the Olympic Games qualifying standard, Hylton would move up to having the second best performance by a Jamaican behind national record holder Maurice Smith who has marks of 8,644 points, done while winning the silver medal at the World Championships in Osaka, Japan, in 2007 and 8,434 points done in Kladno, Czech Republic, a year later.
While the Texas Relays win on paper is the biggest title the former Godfrey Stewart High and Rhodes Hall High athlete has won so far, he ranked his victory at the National Junior College Athletics Association (NJCAA) title in 2019 for South Plains Community College as his most important.
“This meet was important because it's one of the biggest meets in the country that we are going to compete in here at Stephen F Austin other than the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletics Association) national and conference. This decathlon win wasn't the biggest decathlon for me. I think competing at South Plains College in the Division One NJCAA was the biggest accomplishment for me because I was coming back from an injury.”
There was also another plus to his good performance in Austin, he said, as the last time he had competed at the Texas Relays in 2018 he had finished 12th with 6,699 points and put it down to being overawed with the occasion.
“The last time I was at the Texas Relays I messed up competing there...maybe I was starstruck by the level of competition while at South Plains College. I didn't perform as well as I wanted to, so this was like a comeback for me.”
Hylton, who has another season to go at Stephen F Austin, was introduced to the event while at Godfrey Stewart High and said it was his former physical education teacher at the Savanna-la-Mar school, Miss Hilma Swaby, who first spotted his all-round abilities. “She said I was good at everything in track and field so she put me in the event at 'Champs'.”
In his first year, in 2014, Hylton placed seventh at the ISSA championships with 5,465 points, but improved dramatically the next year when he was third with 6,517 points, an improvement of over 1,000 points.
It was off to South Plains Community College after he completed high school but learning the events was difficult. “There were a lot of difficulties when I was competing in the decathlon,” he said. “I did not know how to do the pole vault as I had never done it in my life. The first time I ever did it was at the girls' and boys' championship and it was insane, to be honest, but somehow I made it through,” he reminisced.
There were a few second guesses as well, “Doing the decathlon there were so many times I asked myself why am I doing this,” but his former coach at South Plains, Erik Vance, said it best when he said they are the greatest and realest athletes in the world and that I can be that person.
At the Texas Relays, Hylton, who is now taking instructions from Coach Hadrien Choukroun, who he calls Frenchie, achieved an amazing six personal best performances, but said he was not all that surprised. “Only few surprised me but because I work so hard to perfect my craft, I wasn't that surprised but to be honest the pole vault and hurdles did surprise me.”
Of the 10 events that are spread over two days, Hylton said he had his favourites. “I like the high jump and the hurdles but the ones that give me difficulties are the pole vault and the discus throw.”
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