EUGENE, Oregon — Jamaicans at Friday's opening day of the 18th World Athletics Championships at Hayward Field in Eugene heard a familiar voice over the stadium broadcast systems, one that all regular visitors have become very familiar with in the last few years.
Donald Smith is one of three announcers invited by World Athletics to broadcast the 10-day championships, a first for any Jamaican, and while the former St Catherine High student says he is humbled by the achievement, he is also very proud and excited.
It has been a very fast rise for the information systems auditor, as after winning a competition to be an announcer at the Youth Olympics in Argentina in 2018 he has been invited to the World Under-20 Championships in Nairobi, Kenya, last year and now to the big show in Eugene.
"In 2018 I won the Voice of the Youth Olympic Games competition to be one of the newer voices for Wold Athletics for those games in Argentina," he explained to the Jamaica Observer on Thursday.
"Based on what I did, some of the people I worked with were impressed with my work and I was invited to the World Under-20 in Nairobi, Kenya, last year and this is another stepping stone for me," Smith added.
He said he was "very excited...humbled, and I am really grateful that I got this opportunity because it is not often that these chances come your way, especially if you are a Jamaican, so I am just happy that I am able to be here".
Of course it was his love for track and field that led him this far and he said he has been following the sport ever since he could recall.
"From I was much younger, I have vague memories of the Olympic Games in Barcelona in 1992 when Jamaicans were doing well, and I followed that up with [the World Championships in] Gothenberg, Sweden in 1995 that got me interested in track and field even more," Smith shared.
It was the championships in Sweden, he said, where the idea of being involved in the sport was hatched, but he said at first he wanted to be a starter.
"As a matter of fact, while watching that particular World Championships it made me want to be a starter. You know you would hear over the broadcast, you normally hear the starter saying 'On your marks', and that sounded very interesting to me so I wanted to do that. But, as time went on I went to college [at] UWI-Cave Hill and finished my final semester at Mona, and persons knew that I did some commentary. And then about 2011-12 I did a prep meet and persons who had influence in the sport heard and I got invited to 'Prep Champs', and it just grew from there," Smith recalled.
As a typical Jamaican track fan, Smith lives for the sprints.
"The 100m has a special place in my heart; I was a decent sprinter at St Catherine High but never took it seriously," he recalled. "Then, there are some field events that you can't go to a meet and not enjoy them, like the high jump and the discus since we have developed some good throwers, and there is also the long jump as well," he shared.
When asked what has been his favourite call so far, Smith said: "The Under-20 4x100m world record, and I also did the one at Carifta [Games] in Kingston, but we know what happened with that. But the one in Nairobi was special as well... there have been some in Jamaica as well but there have been so many calls."
— Paul Reid