‘I knew it was my time’

- says South Amer­i­can Youth Games gold medal­list De­shana Skeete

Stabroek News - - STABROEK SPORT - By Noelle Smith

Guyana’s De­shana Skeete knew prior to win­ning the gold medal at the South Amer­i­can Youth Games in San­ti­ago, Chile ear­lier this month that she would win the 400m event.

and they kept mo­ti­vat­ing me. I was ner­vous go­ing into the race but I just kept talk­ing to my­self and hear­ing my mother and my coach in my head and that’s what got me through to win the race,” Skeete told Stabroek Sports in an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view.

And that’s just what she did in the process be­com­ing the first Guyanese ath­lete to win a gold medal at the event.

Skeete clocked 57.28 sec­onds to win ahead of Brazil’s Jes­sica Mor­eira who placed sec­ond in 57.54 sec­onds while Ecuador’s An­dreina Va­len­cia (58.81 sec­onds) was third.

In Guyana, many peo­ple grow up get­ting licks from their par­ents or guardians so run­ning from the beat­ing would be con­sid­ered the smart thing to do to avoid the pain that comes with it.

Skeete was one of those who did the smart thing and ran.

Stabroek Sports caught up with the young track star in her home­town where she re­counted how her track ca­reer started.

“Mommy used to share licks when I was grow­ing up. I used to run away from her when I had to get licks and she ran be­hind us un­til we got caught,” she re­counted.

The soft-spo­ken ath­lete be­gan run­ning at the ten­der age of seven.

Ac­cord­ing to her mother Nickita Weekes, her daugh­ter had a pas­sion for run­ning for as long as she could re­mem­ber.

“My chil­dren used to get licks grow­ing up when they needed it and they al­ways run­ning away from me. It is from run­ning from me that De­shana re­al­ized she had speed and slowly be­gan train­ing her­self and to­day we are here,” her mother ex­plained.

Run­ning from beat­ings moved from be­ing a means of es­cape to a struc­tured, sta­ple part of her life when she started train­ing with her coach Moses Pantlitz of the Chris­tian­burg/Wis­mar Sec­ondary School Track Club (CWSS) in Lin­den at the age of eight and she hasn’t stopped since.

Skeete grad­u­ally rose to be­com­ing the pow­er­house she is in the sport of track and field by mak­ing her name first at the schools track meets. She has be­come one of the reg­u­lar faces of the Guyana Teacher’s Union Track and Field Schools Cham­pi­onships and would of­ten con­tend with other top run­ners for the cham­pi­onship tro­phy.

Her de­but at the Guyana Teach­ers Union (GTU) annual sports came in 2012 and she copped a sil­ver medal in the girls Un­der 10 200m.

Over the years her suc­cess at the com­pe­ti­tion has been steady and she has bagged gold and sil­ver medals with ev­ery ap­pear­ance.

Her first ma­jor achieve­ment came at this year’s Na­tion­als when she caused an up­set by win­ning the girls Un­der 16 200m in record time ahead of Ken­isha Phillips, the fa­vorite to win the race.

Stabroek News was at the Lin­den In­ter Schools Sports and it was clear that she was a main at­trac­tion when she took to the track for the fi­nal of the girls Un­der 16 200m.

Though she is a stu­dent of the Macken­zie High School, the en­tire Macken­zie Sports Club Ground cheered loudly as Skeete flew around the track to win her sec­ond gold medal of the day. her mother said

with the big­gest smile.

Her pres­ence has also been felt at games out­side of Guyana. She has rep­re­sented her home coun­try at the Hamp­ton In­ter­na­tional Games in Trinidad and Tobago and the 2017 In­ter-Guiana Games in Suri­name where she per­formed re­mark­ably. The In­terGuiana Games was the test­ing ground for the teenager as it ex­posed her to ath­letes out­side of her usual com­peti­tors in Guyana. This, how­ever, did not faze her as she re­turned home with three medals (two gold, one sil­ver). The 2017 South Amer­i­can Youth Games was by far the big­gest meet that Skeete has com­peted in. The stan­dard of the ath­letes who at­tended the com­pe­ti­tion was high but this did not keep her from mak­ing his­tory by be­ing the first Guyanese to win gold at the games. She re­counted the rush of emo­tions she ex­pe­ri­enced when the race was fin­ished. “I was happy, over­whelmed and tired all at the same time. It was not only a win for me but also for my fam­ily and my coun­try. The hard work I did be­fore had paid off.” Her mother, seem­ingly her big­gest sup­porter, told Stabroek Sport that she was over the moon when her daugh­ter won the race. “Be­fore the race De­shana told me ‘mommy, I am go­ing to win the race for you.’ I just prayed and prayed for her be­fore she had to run. Dur­ing the run I was cheer­ing loudly to the TV. When I saw that she won I was in tears. I cried be­cause of all the sac­ri­fices that were made and all the hard work she put in. I was re­ally happy and proud.” The ju­nior sprint sen­sa­tion is also a well-rounded in­di­vid­ual who is look­ing at achiev­ing great things be­yond the track. Like ev­ery young ath­lete, Skeete wants to win a gold medal at the Olympics. Her sight is set on the 2020 Olympic Games to be held in Tokyo. Ca­reer-wise she wants to be a med­i­cal doc­tor be­cause she likes to help peo­ple and it is her hope that she can give back to peo­ple who are in need. Bal­anc­ing school and run­ning does not come as much of a chal­lenge for Skeete as she pri­or­i­tizes school over the track when ex­am­i­na­tions are around the cor­ner. Her coach also does his part by giv­ing his stu­dent/ath­letes the time off from train­ing to study and write their ex­ams.

“She is there at Macken­zie and her teach­ers tell me that she is do­ing well,” her mother con­tin­ued.

The big­gest part of her sup­port sys­tem is her fam­ily. Her par­ents and sib­lings are al­ways there for her, with her coach also play­ing a big part in her life. Mo­ti­va­tion and en­cour­age­ment comes from her fam­ily, coach and the mining town of Lin­den.

Her mother re­it­er­ated that she is very fo­cused on what she wants to do. “She is a very smart girl. She would go to com­pe­ti­tions with her school books and study or do work when she knows she has to get her school work done. She wants to be a doc­tor and will do her best to be­come one,” her mother said.

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