Ronald Forbes was the happiest sportsman in Cayman a couple of weeks ago. He’s still riding on a crest of a wave now, in fact.
It’s not every day someone can boast that they’ve qualified for the Olympics and with only a couple of months to go he was fearful of not reaching that mark.
Forbes is the fourth Cayman representative going to Beijing in August along with swimming brothers Shaune and Brett Fraser and sprinter Cydonie Mothersill.
Forbes, who has just graduated from the University of Florida, will compete in the 110 metres hurdles.
Competing in the NCAA Division I Championships at Drake University, two weeks ago, he clocked 13.625 seconds in the semi-final round, bettering the 13.72 second ‘B’ mark needed..
Forbes, 23, placed third in his heat and fifth overall in that round, automatically assuring himself a berth in the finals, and All American status.
Unfortunately, he slightly re-aggravated a foot injury, which hampered him in the finals, as he finished eighth in 14.05 seconds.
Nevertheless, he joins an elite band who can add ‘Olympic rep’ to their resume.
He’s been on island this week, the last time here until after the Games.
‘I felt pretty pleased, he said. ‘Basically, I knew the potential to make the time was very close at the regionals in May. I missed the time by one hundredth of a second.
‘I was going back intent on not pressurising myself by trying to make the time every time I went to the line.
‘I just concentrated on executing the race right and trying to do the best I can. After I crossed the line and I knew it was 13.63 seconds was I was also concerned by the wind reading. That has been the most controversial factor of the whole season.’
It was 0.9mph, well inside the legal time of 2mph. Not satisfied with barely making it, Forbes went out the next day to try to improve his time. But because of the bruised foot he couldn’t manage it. Not one for celebrating, he just wanted to stay focussed for the next day to try to finish in the top three of the NCAA.
‘I was excited and tried to answer as much emails as possible. I put some ice on my foot and tried to recover as best I could. There was no major celebration with party streamers and horns going off.’
There was a little party going off in his head though. The goal was to make it to the Olympics, now it’s to do the best he can when he gets there.
Forbes is relatively new to the event. He got hurt last year in the first two months of competition and only did two meets. Despite that, he felt capable of making this season a success and getting to Beijing.
He is unlikely to be a medal contestant but hopes to make the final. The long-term goal is to be on the podium at the London Olympics in 2012.
‘I want to make it through as many rounds as possible and don’t want to go out in the first heat. Hopefully, I’ll make it to the finals. I’m trying to run the best I can.’
His coach at the University of Florida was Eric Campbell, a veritable one-man show.
‘Eric’s been the one whose brought me along and shown me what I’m doing right and wrong. From secretary to assistant manager, he is everything. A one-man wrecking crew.
‘He’s a tremendous coach, not just for me but for the whole of the University of Florida track programme. He’s learning too. This was his first year as head coach, so it was a learning process for both of us. I think it worked out.’
Bernie Bush has been Forbes’ sporting mentor all his life. The sports administrator and multiple coach grew up with Ronald’s parents and is like an uncle to him. When Forbes attended primary school at Truth For Youth, Bush first took an interest in his sporting progress.
‘I always text Mr Bernie Bush to let him know how I’ve performed, no matter whether he is concerned with track and field or not.
He’s been a major supporter and a big influence on me. Not just me, but a lot of youth in Cayman can relate to him as a major role player.’
‘Ronald is a great example to all young athletes,’ Bush said. ‘The first time I realised how serious he was about succeeding was on a Carifta Games trip when he must have been only 14, he carried his Bible with him. Mature beyond his years.
‘I also remember when he was about 16 and he had a girlfriend who used to come and watch him train all the time. Because she was a distraction, he asked her to stop coming. Once, when I was coach, I gave him and the others a two week break from training. Ronald was so determined, he set up his own training programme in his garden. That is how focussed and serious he is.’
Forbes is competing in the Jamaica national trials in Kingston this weekend as part of his preparations, though not allowed to compete in the finals.
On July 2 its off to Colombia for the CAC Games and he will reach Beijing around August 1. The tournament starts on August 8 and he will first compete soon after.
Forbes is from Northside where he is getting plenty of props from people monitoring his progress.
Although 6ft 3ins and a muscular 205lbs, Forbes claims he wasn’t all that sporty as a youngster, he just worked harder than others.
‘I went off to school and actually graduated and achieved this while I was getting an education. A lot of people are really proud of the success I’ve had and the success it’s brought to the Cayman Islands.
‘Not only people from Northside, but the whole of Cayman. That’s something I don’t know come up and say: ‘Kid, I’ve never spoken to you before, but I have to shake your hand because it’s a really good thing you’re doing.’ It could be the richest guy or the poorest guy, I still appreciate it.
‘That’s a tremendous honour because there are countries like the United States, they have guys out there who are the calibre of athlete that make me look like a baby to them.
‘And to see that those guys who I compete with in the NCAAs will never get the chance to compete for their countries because of the mass population that they have to work through, for me to have a chance to do it is a tremendous honour, not just for me but the Cayman Islands too. You’re one in a million to have this honour. Even that figure is too low.’