One of Cayman’s brightest track and field stars has hung his spikes up.
Kareem Streete-Thompson, one of Cayman’s most recognized national athletes for over a decade, is officially retired.
Thompson announced his decision last week after contemplating his future since April or May of this year.
Thompson explained how he came to this point.
‘Questions about my future in the sport started to pop into my head. I started thinking about it before I heard it from people on the street as last year I heard rumblings about my future.
‘I was on a mission to end my career in Beijing this year. But when the injuries pile up, at some point you have to take notice and be realistic.’
Thompson last ran in 2007 before suffering essentially his career-ending injury in the spring.
While training, Thompson would experience tendonitis in his left side. Basically, he ruptured the tendon that connected to his hamstring and as a result the hamstring was pulled off the bone.
With assistance from the Cayman government he had a procedure done on his leg last year.
Thompson explained how the injury came about and the basics surrounding his surgery.
‘I was attempting to go the Pan-Am Games last year and the injury happened just before that.
‘When I was running I remember feeling a pop and a slight jolt. I knew something wasn’t right and I took myself to a doctor.
‘Prior to the injury I had experienced pain in my upper hamstring that never went away.
‘What happened is the broken hamstring latched onto another hamstring and that created scar tissue. The procedure I had was to clean that out.’
Since that point the 35- year-old has been rehabbing and testing the strength in his legs. Luckily the injury is not life-threatening or debilitating as Thompson can walk and run normally.
However he is unable to get back to the level he was at as he states the lack of balance in his legs prevents him from running competitively.
‘I can run and walk normally and do everyday activities and I thank God for that.
‘During rehab I tried to get balance. But now the balance in my legs is 60-40 with most of the pressure on my right leg.
‘I didn’t want to leave the sport disabled and right now I’m just happy I can still be active.’
The son of the late Valerie Thompson, a legend within Cayman’s education system, Kareem has been on the track and field scene since he was roughly 11 years old.
As he explains, the pounding on his feet over the years had much to do with his injury and subsequent move to retire.
‘For me 24 years of being an active athlete has everything to do with my injury. Track and field is my life. I always said I would compete until I couldn’t.’
The George Town, Grand Cayman native had a string of serious injuries that started some six years ago. In 2002 he had a torn meniscus in his right knee.
He would salvage the year though with a bronze medal performance at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England with a leap of 7.89m in the long jump.
In 2003 he had a pulled groin though he would do well. He won gold at the Central American Championships in Grenada with a long jump of 8.12m.
In addition he claimed fourth place at the Pan-Am Games in Santo Domingo with a leap of 7.96m.
The following year was a solid one for Thompson. He was in good shape and was a quarter-finalist in the 100m at the Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.
But his good health would be short-lived. The next year he suffered a torn acetabular labrum in his hip and had hip surgery in October.
He would re-aggravate the injury in 2006 but pressed on with numerous competitions.
Among them were the Commonwealth Games in December and his win at a race in Lucerne, Switzerland where he ran 10.32 seconds.
The facts are there to show Kareem Streete-Thompson was simply one of the best Cayman has ever seen on the track.
Among his career highlights were the setting of local records in long jump (8.31m) and the 100m (10.14secs) and having the ninth-longest jump in the history of outdoor athletics with a leap of 8.63m in Linz, Austria on 4 July, 1994.
Other notable achievements include being ranked number two in the world in long jump in 1994 and being a silver medallist in the long jump at the 1999 Pan-Am Games in Winnepeg, Canada.
Recently he has also given back to the sport. He has reportedly set-up a number of local athletes with foreign coaches.
The most recent of which is Ronald Forbes. Forbes is now under the tutelage of American coach Brooke Johnston.
Johnston directs relays for US track and field and also is in charge of the Disney Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida.
Ultimately Thompson’s biggest impact will be the level of hope he gave to the people of Cayman.
Among those who looked up to Kareem is Cayman Islands Amateur Swim Association member Sara Mackay.
Mackay, mother of local swim hero Andrew Mackay, says Thompson was someone she’ll never forget.
‘Thinking back over Kareem’s career, the highlight I will always remember most was when we were in Manchester for the 2002 Commonwealth Games and saw him win his bronze in the long jump.
‘Kareem didn’t just run and jump magnificently himself; he cheered his rivals on in a wonderful spirit of competition.
‘Definitely jazzed, he paraded back and forth; stirring the crowd into a rhythmic chant that helped each of the competitors.
‘At potential risk to his own placing, he exemplified the best spirit of high level competition [and that] sure made us proud.
‘The dual attribute of being a great athlete and a good guy is what Kareem has seemed to be about because he was always nice to the younger athletes at the big events.
‘There was a purity of Kareem’s pursuit of the ‘big one’. Maybe he never quite achieved it, but you felt like he wasn’t willing to cheat to get it.’
For now Kareem’s future and his continued link with Cayman is in doubt. For the last three years he has lived and trained in Gainesville, Florida.
From last August he has volunteered with the University of Florida track programme and is seriously contemplating going into coaching.
He has talked with government about possibly coaching in Cayman. Those talks are still ongoing. He would be an invaluable addition to technical director Kenrick Williams’ coaching staff and could help bring along young sprinters like Tyrell Cuffy and Kemar Hyman.
No matter where life takes Kareem one thing is certain. He will always be a role model for Cayman’s young athletes and a symbol of hope for its people.