Ayanna Alexander is one of Trinidad and Tobago's premiere track and field athletes, specialising in the triple jump. Encouraged by her brother Keino who saw her potential at age 13, Ayanna has continued to persevere, reaping many rewards of her hard work.To date, some of her achievements include 2010 Commonwealth Games Silver Medalist, 2010 CAC Games Bronze Medalist, five-time Trinidad & Tobago National Champion, Trinidad & Tobago National Indoor and Outdoor Triple Jump record holder. While setting a new Outdoor National Record of 13.98 seconds at the Hampton Games in Trinidad, Ayanna continues to train with all intentions of representing Trinidad and Tobago at the 2012 Olympics in London.
You set the new outdoor record of 13.98 at the July Hampton Games in Trinidad, beating your previous score of 13.96... what was your reaction?
I knew that it was going to happen. I wasn't surprised or shocked because I know that I work hard.
When you compete, is breaking records at the forefront of your mind?
When I compete I don't usually think about anything other than running through the TJ board and being aggressive through my phases. Oh, and jumping out the pit!
What runs through your mind just before you jump?
Lord let me glorify you with this gift you have given me.
You did not qualify for the 2008 Olympics because you missed the qualifying mark by roughly 6 inches, how did that impact on you?
It was a bit painful, but I bounced back. I was so close and had several PB's throughout the year but still didn't make it. I was hungry to better myself. So I pushed harder and continued to work hard because I knew next time by God's grace I will make it. It was also tough because I was coaching myself when I graduated from college and I was searching for a coach and training group so in the beginning of 2008 I took what ever money I had, packed up my car and drove 25 hours to Baton Rouge Louisiana to be coached by one of the best jump coaches in the world, Coach Boo. That experience, changed my life.
Are you doing anything differently this time around to qualify for the 2012 Olympics next year?
YES, I am! This time around I am a part of the elite funding program which is carried out by the Ministry of Sports and Youth affairs. It helps take care of the necessities that I need to get prepared for minor competitions and major competitions. With funding I can work less and focus more on athletics and get the proper medical attention I need to maintain my body. I have a coach this time around and no longer coach myself. I've been working on my strength and technique and it helps to have someone around to correct me and my form constantly.
Emmanuel "Skeeter" Jackson has been your coach for the past two years, describe your relationship with him?
My coach is one of the best coaches I have ever known. He used to be a world class jumper in his day and has lead George Mason Men to become NCAA champions in 1998. He was also a phenomenal baseball player. He is like my second dad to me. He sees me when I'm up, down, struggling through a workout and when I'm at my best. He motivates me and challenges me because he knows how great I'm going to be.
Would your performance at the World Championship games be indicative of what you will be capable of at the Olympics?
In a way it is. I'm working on hitting my Olympic qualifying mark. I've been improving and I anticipate hitting my standard soon.
In 2010, you sprained your ankle after setting the National Indoor Record of 13.99. How has that injury impeded your training and do you think you are at a disadvantage?
I think it impeded a good deal. Any athlete who has suffered an injury gets a little frustrated, some more than others. But I used my waiting time to prepare myself mentally. I realised that my injury was an obstacle that would be gone soon. Even though it took me 10 months to finally bounce back, I was anxiously waiting for the moment where I can compete pain free.
You are currently pursuing an MBA and Masters in Human Resources at Mary Mount University ...how do you balance academia and sport?
It's tough at times, especially after completing a tough workout. I have to muster up the energy to do my school work and readings. It is difficult but I'm up for the challenge.
How important has it been for you to pursue academia even though you are a successful pro athlete?
It is extremely important. I have to be a well rounded individual. I have goals and aspirations on and off the track. I am just as competitive in my academics as I am on the track. I take my academics very seriously and I am often hard on myself at times.
Do you think you have received enough support from your home country as a Trinidad and Tobago representative?
You can never have too much support.
Who are your role models on and off the field?
My mom definitely is because she is my backbone and also my family. On the field, athletically speaking, I have always been fascinated with Jonathon Edwards since he is one of the greatest that has ever done it... he has always been good at executing his speed and technique.
You are 29 presently, how many years do you believe you have again in track and field?
I am grateful for the gifts God has blessed me with and I will continue to jump as long as he gives me strength to.
What would you like to do after you retire?
After my athletic career, I plan on giving back to Track and Field and my country by teaching the next generation the art of triple Jump. At that time I will be finishing or have completed my doctoral program in Behavioral Neuroscience.
What does Ayanna Alexander do in her free time?
I like to design clothes and I love fashion. I also like to eat different types of food. I like to cook and spend time with my friends and family.
You are a role model, especially for those aspiring in your discipline. Any advice?
Never give up!! Hard work always pays off. There were many times when things were not in my favor, but through prayer, my belief in God, hard work and perseverance I made it through every storm.... People may doubt you but always believe in yourself no matter what the situation may look like! When you have a vision stick with it and be careful who you share your dreams with because not everyone will believe in it as much as you do. Stay away from negativity and negative people, they will bring you down.... Always believe in your self, no matter what!!