The concept that once you reach the top of your sport it is all plain sailing after that is a myth. Just ask Cydonie Mothersill, she is testament to the fact that maintaining a herculean work ethic is essential to enjoying the trappings of being an elite athlete.
Competing through the pain barrier is also a pre-requisite, which how she got through to the 200 metres final at the Beijing Olympics.
Eighth in the world is no mean achievement even though she was slightly disappointed at not medalling. But that is the mark of a true champion, nothing but the best is good enough.
‘It’s been a tough year,’ Mothersill says. ‘I started it off really well and did a lot of 400 metres base work and was very strong.
‘But somehow I got hurt and I’ve been doing everything to get better; seeing the physio and getting regular massage, but my body just wasn’t co-operating and I ended up hurting my hip.
‘It was a hard pill to swallow at the time because I was definitely in the best shape of my life.
‘It was so frustrating, like taking one step forward and then three back. It was so hard because I was so determined to go to the Olympics and make sure I was in that final.
‘Having seen the best physios in the world, I was able to patch myself up. What was also disappointing was that I wasn’t able to run as fast as normal.’
We’re at the magnificent laid new track at the Truman Bodden Complex and Mothersill is chatting away as her two-year-old god-daughter, Madison, sits patiently on her lap.
Going into Beijing Mothersill was running 22.9 and 23 seconds, way slower than her best.
Through sheer will power and having a high pain threshold, she lined up and got through the rounds and into the final with a semis time of 22.61 seconds.
‘It was thrilling to get to the final after all the problems because four years ago I was so disappointed because I thought for sure I was going to be in that final and get on that podium.’
Race sharp and injury free at the Athens Olympics, she was devastated to go out in the semis. Desperate to make amends this time round, the omens looked bad when she developed hip and hamstring problems.
‘So this year I tried not to put too much pressure and expectations on myself.
‘But I knew definitely that if I ran strategically and did not waste too much energy in the first and second rounds I could save it for the final.
‘It didn’t matter what lane I got that night, I was just so happy. A lot of times when you get to that level, coming from the smaller islands, you just don’t get the recognition.
‘I felt really glad that out of those eight lanes, the Cayman Islands had a representative. It was a nice feeling. Once I made the final, it was no pressure, I was just happy to be there.’
The Jamaican sprinters, of course, obliterated all opposition in Beijing. In the women’s 200m they had three in the top six with Veronica Campbell-Brown taking gold and Kerron Stewart bronze. Sherone Simpson was sixth.
‘I was happy to be an island girl and that we were able to have such a mass effect,’ she beams. ‘In the 200m there were five from this region; three Jamaicans, one Caymanian and one Bahamian (Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie). That in itself was awesome. Our region – even though it’s small – is not considered to be a powerhouse.’
Sceptical onlookers, including Carl Lewis, are now suggesting that drugs are the catalyst to the Jamaican success without acknowledging that the Jamaicans have a long history of Olympic sprint success and have in the past 10 years improved their coaching and infrastructure to produce more world beaters.
‘We all get tested once you’re ranked at a certain point,’ says Mothersill.
‘I’m not going to say that they’re doing stuff. I don’t know to be quite honest. To accuse them because they performed that well would be just wrong.
‘What if I performed that well? Are you saying that because I’m from the Cayman Islands and because there is not a regulated drug testing system here that all of a sudden it’s impossible for me to run that fast?
‘I do get tested by the IAAF but I don’t get tested at home. I just think it’s an unfair accusation.’
Niggling injury and the drugs issue aside, Mothersill is in a happy place. She is especially appreciative of the Cayman Islands Olympic Committee, headed by president Donald McLean.
‘Donald is a great president. He makes you laugh and stuff. The support group, Miss Lori, Mrs Roffey, Carson…they’re a great support group who try to be there for an athlete.
‘Often times the athletes get pushed back and are not the ones focused on but Cayman’s Olympic Committee does that. That’s their main goal and they make sure that we have the necessities.
‘When the committees do well they should be recognised. The Olympic Committee has always supported track and field and swimming and it should be recognised that they do an awesome job.’
Mothersill runs for the final time this year in Daegu, South Korea on September 25, fitness permitting.
‘I have no great expectations, I’m going to go there hoping not to get hurt and just compete. Carmelita Jeter and LaShaunte Moore are likely to be the best runners there. It’s not a big meet. I’m going to try to perform the best that I can and not get injured. ‘
Mothersill pulled up in Zurich, Switzerland two weeks ago but the injury was not too serious.
‘That was the injury I’d been battling the entire season and it just gave way, the hip and the hamstring.
‘The hip was just tight and that could have been a number of things like the flight from China to Zurich, maybe the time period between races was too short and maybe my body was just telling me that it was tired.’
At 30 and after four Olympic Games, what’s next? ‘I have a lot of things I want to do with my life after track and I have a vast amount of knowledge which I want to pass on to younger Cayman athletes.
‘I don’t want to be selfish and continue when I could help out at home. I won’t be like Merlene Ottey and run until I’m 40-plus, definitely not.
‘Hopefully, I will be at the London Olympics though. At 34 you’re not considered old but in track at that age people start asking questions but time will tell if I’ll be there.’
Her immediate focus though is for the World Championships next year in Germany. ‘I’m excited about Berlin. After all my experience, I know what to do and what not to do.
‘I do get nervous because that helps get your adrenaline pumping and I know what to do. Being an underdog is okay. Just being there to represent Cayman is great, not just to make myself proud but also people at home.’
There was no lack of family support in Beijing. Her mum Angela was there, husband Ato (who ran in the 400m for Trinidad) and brother Ariel were all rooting for her in the Bird’s Nest.
A member of the New Testament Church of God on North South Road, she is grateful too for their spiritual support.
‘I believe in God and everything happens for a reason. Having my mum there, praying with me and letting me know that I shouldn’t be intimidated by the giants helped.
‘That really helped. She helped me realise that I deserved to be there. I worked my butt off to be there. That helped me through each round, not to be intimidated by the giants. But I’m a giant too.
‘So it really helped having my mum, Ariel and Ato there too as my support group. In the village there were no dramas, that helped too.’
The next batch of aspiring track stars are coached by Kenrick Williams and Tyrone Yen.
Mothersill hopes they can emulate her. ‘Mr Williams has been involved in my life for quite some time and what he does is commendable. Being out there and passing on knowledge is great, Tyrone too. They’re doing a good job.
‘Now we have Ronald Forbes and Tyrell Cuffy coming up. Track is definitely moving forward in the Cayman Islands.
‘I hope that all the youngsters coming through will all be here 10 years from now.
‘The young crop we have right now are a fantastic group. I hope they all stick to it.
‘At the moment they have the coaches pushing them but once you leave high school you have to want it for yourself and have that drive.
‘But most of all you have to be humble. In track and field, if you’re on that high horse and you’re from a smaller country and you go out there with an attitude because you’re the best in the Cayman Islands, you’ll get a reality check.
‘My biggest advice to them is to try to stay to who you are and remain humble. You can never go wrong with those two things. It’s worked for me.’
Friday night’s dinner laid on by the government for the four Olympians at the Ritz-Carlton was a special occasion in many ways for Mothersill.
‘That dinner was an A-class event. It was such a nice feeling for us four to come home and for the government to show how much they appreciate what we do.
‘It was such a nice feeling that everybody acknowledged that we did something special.
‘While we did not bring home a medal each of us performed well in our own right. It was the first time that had been done and much appreciated. I had a blast.
‘It was a nice feeling that Kurt Tibbetts, Alden McLaughlin and all the MLAs took time out of their busy schedules to acknowledge what we did.’