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Journey of comebacks

Published: 
Sunday, July 22, 2018
Akeem’s work mantra pays off

Patience is the key

However strong or tough we might consider ourselves to be, the fact is that none of us are indestructible. As amazing and adaptable as it is, the human body is vulnerable. Even those of us in perfect health will at some time experience loss, illness, or injury that throws us off our game plan. How do we hold on? How do we pull ourselves up and struggle through the pain, disappointment and despair? How do we face those unexpected challenges that hit us without giving up? How do we deal with injury and still maintain focus?

Whether we are aiming to lose weight, striving to establish a consistent exercise routine or preparing for competition, when unexpected problems affect our fitness or training plans it is vital that we re-adjust your goals. The key is to be patient and realistic. Rather than concentrating on performance or results, we must make the first goal healing. By focusing our energy on recovery, we allow ourselves to feel encouraged by our progress rather than discouraged by how far we may have fallen back.

Stress is a major factor in the prevention of improvement after injury. It makes it more difficult for our bodies to heal. Stress hormones interfere with the removal of damaged tissue and impair the movement of healing immune cells to the site of the injury. It can also cause sleep disturbance, further hindering recovery. We must use our bad break as a chance to work on another part of our performance and train our minds to look at what we can do rather than what we can’t. This will give us a feeling of purpose and be of benefit when we are able to resume our training. This is an excellent time to work on such skills as balance and stability.

Vital to the recovery process is emotional healing. Time must be spent on relaxation, ensuring that negative emotions are kept at bay. Crucial to any healing process after injury is professional care and support, without which it is virtually impossible for the process to be completed.

So as we train and struggle to achieve our best in whatever field of endeavour we choose, as we fight back from disappointment, despair or injury the words of Sherrilyn Kenyon speak volumes: “The strongest steel is forged by the fires of hell. It is pounded and struck repeatedly before it is plunged back into the molten fire. The fire gives it power and flexibility and the blows give it strength. Those two things make the metal pliable and able to withstand every battle it is called upon to fight.”

Akeem Stewart has created history in T&T as a Paralympian. His is a journey of endurance. We applaud his skill and determination and are inspired by his commitment. “Just as we develop our physical muscles through overcoming opposition, such as lifting weights, we develop our character muscles through overcoming challenges and adversity.” —Steven Covey

Keep training!

My name is Akeem Stewart. I am 24 years old and I am the first athlete in T&T to win Paralympic Gold in 32 years. My journey has not always been an easy one and has been a series of ups and downs.

I can remember when I was 14 and I started experiencing pain in my knees. My dad was my first coach and he was training me in shot-put and discus. The doctors described my knee pain as the result of a growth spurt. I had grown an additional six inches and my body was trying to adjust. I was frightened but my dad encouraged me to remain calm and positive. I had to lay off of training for one and a half years. Thankfully, when I got back on the field I was stronger in shot-put and discus and I qualified for the Carifta Games in St Kitts and Nevis.

My knee had improved and I was motivated, but misfortune struck again. When doing shot-put the ball rolled off my hand and fractured my right middle finger. Were it not for my dad and my close friends who encouraged me and my own spiritual strength, I would have wanted to give up. I had to stay out of participation for three years. I kept training and in my final year of being a junior athlete I qualified for the Carifta Games in Jamaica and won T&T’s first medal in that competition.

I moved up to the senior category and started doing really well in my favourite event—shot-put, breaking the national record for the first time in 19 years in the Open Championship with a throw of 19.34 meters. I was on a roll, but once again disaster struck. At the Hampton Games, I tore my meniscus, which is the most important cushion you have in your knee. It was the most terrible pain that I had ever felt. I had to stop throwing. This injury threw me back a great deal. I continued in the gym and with aqua therapy.

In 2015 and early 2016 I was at my lowest. I felt that I had no real technical support, no equipment, no facilities. Still, I held on and in 2016 while fighting off my knee injury, though I did not feel like going, I went to the Paralympics in Brazil. To my shock, I broke the world record in the javelin, a skill which I had just started in 2015, throwing 57 metres. The crowd support was amazing and really motivated me. Now I started to get recognition globally. I started training even harder, breaking the shot-put world record in Jamaica in 2017 and qualifying for the Paralympic World Championship in London.

Then once again misfortune struck. While off the field I injured my left metatarsal and had to sit out. It is part of the bones of the midfoot and is extremely painful. Despite the injury, I had to throw the javelin a few days later or I would have been disqualified. I feel that I took out my frustration, anger and disappointment on the javelin. I put everything into the throw. I broke the 25-year javelin world record as well as the world record in shot-put.

I now have to compete with the able-bodied group, the big guns and I am training for the CAC Championship in Colombia and the NACAC in Toronto. With all my injuries there have been times that I felt like giving up but I know that major setbacks bring major comebacks and that if you align yourself with positive people and have faith you will succeed. We must never, ever give up. I believe strongly in the Biblical word “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

I want to thank my dad Wayne Stewart for always being there for me, my coach Wade Franklin, my Cuban coach Ishmael Lopez, who worked with me in Australia. Thanks to the Guardian Group, bpTT, Southern Sales, and MJP Michael Johnson High Performing Centre. I also want to thank Playable Caribbean for supporting my development over the last three years and the public for your continuing support.

The road is never easy but if you work hard and give it your all you will succeed.

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