“To be able to be living my son’s dream with him is the best Father’s Day present I would have until my eyes close.”
Those are the assertions of John Powell, who is overwhelmed with pride and emotions to see his 14-year-old son Alex Powell fulfil his ambitions as Jamaica’s and the Caribbean’s top karting driver.
John’s emotions were for more reasons than one as he never had the full backing of his father E K Powell while pursuing his own dream career in motor sport.
Instead, his father, a politician with the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) at the time, felt that swimming was a much safer option.
Still, John never lost his love and passion for motor sport — rally driving in particular — and as fate would have it, his American-born son Alex has ventured down a similar path, making quite a name for himself on the karting circuit.
Since making his debut in 2015, Alex has registered some impressive results, none more so than his recent win in round-three action of the FIA Karting European Championships in Sweden, creating history as the first Jamaican or Caribbean driver to do so.
Alex, a Mercedes-AMG protege, is also the first from Jamaica or the Caribbean to sign with a Formula One team when he was just 11 years old.
Having been there every step of the way throughout Alex’s development, John himself is fulfilling an affirmation he made to himself years ago.
“My dad wasn’t a big fan of motor sport at all, he was more in swimming and he supported me alot there as much as he could because he was in politics as well so as a single dad growing up, the time that he could commit to me was quite slim,” John shared.
“So growing up I always told myself that it wouldn’t be the same situation with my son, and here we are. I’ve always loved motor sport and I’m happy that Alex has taken it up and he loves the sport as well. So I’m giving him as much time and support as possible, and what a remarkable journey it has been so far,” he told the Jamaica Observer from his base in Italy.
While Alex credits his mother Claudia for her role in his life, he singled out praise for John for the commitment, encouragement, and the belief he has shown in his career from day one.
The young karting sensation views John as his biggest fan, and declared that his successes on the track would not have been possible without his support.
“He has been my absolute rock. Who I am today is thanks to him, along with my mom. They are the ones that put everything into supporting me and also helping me from the very beginning. So I don’t think I can actually describe how grateful for everything they have put into the sport that I love, I can’t thank them enough for it,” Alex said.
“My dad is someone I look up to and someone I aspire to be. He is the one that actually paved the way for me to get into karting and has been a big influence on my career. So I am super happy and grateful for all his input, all the effort and long hours that we spend practising to get to the ultimate goal,” he added.
Apart from the driving lessons, Alex is quite fond of his father’s teachings as far as social duty and faith in God are concerned. These, he said, he has always applied both on and off the track.
“He always told me to be fair and I think that is one of the most important things that sits with me, especially when I’m on the track.
“He has always pushed me to the limit and taught me not to take anything for granted — believing in myself and believing in God. Because of him, I am never short of self-confidence and I’m always humble and it has earned me a lot of respect from the other drivers who are much older than I am,” Alex noted.
He continued: “You know motor sport has its ups and downs and generally we have more downs than we do ups, and I think those are the times when he makes the real difference. Anytime I was ever feeling overwhelmed or trying too hard, he was always the voice of reason. He has a unique ability to understand the situation I’m in and make sure I’m enjoying it and not feeling overwhelmed.
“To have someone you can lean on and ask for advice is so important. He always ensures that my mind is in the right place and ensure that I prepare well for races whether I won or not. I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today without a man like my dad.”
Meanwhile, John only hopes Alex’s achievements so far will open doors for other aspiring drivers to make a leap of faith.
“Motor sport is always dangerous. We don’t talk about it but we know the dangers are there, and you do the best and train the best to avoid those dangers, so for sure that’s where we are now. Alex is still young and he has been responsible and focused, so I need not worry,” John said.
“What I really, really hope is that Alex’s achievements so far will open doors for other young aspiring drivers from Jamaica and the Caribbean to be in the top events in the world. Yes, it’s a lot of hard work, sacrifice, and tears, but it can be done.
“Any parent, mother, or father whose child or children are athletes would know how difficult it is to keep them focused, especially when things don’t go as expected. But you have to take those hits with them because most times you will have a lot more downs than you have ups, but I know that Jamaicans are resilient,” he ended.