Monday, July 14, 2008

From school corridors to the Olympics

From school corridors to the Olympics
Jared Connaughton's track and field achievement
is proof that dreams can indeed come true.

As a student, Jared Connaughton could be seen running up and down corridors in P.E.I. schools. That's hardly an uncommon activity among energetic young people. But what makes Connaughton stand out is that he has run all the way from those narrow corridors to the world stage of the Olympic Games.

Last weekend, the New Haven, P.E.I. resident qualified for the August Games in Beijing, China when he captured the 200-metre race at the Canadian track and field championships in Windsor, Ont.

His achievement is a remarkable one, especially considering he is from a province where track and field facilities are as rare as people who don't like fresh strawberries.

Actually the lack of facilities may have helped forge the young man into the athlete he is today. It forced Connaughton to be creative in his training, hence the need to utilize school corridors, snow-covered portions of Island trails, soccer fields and sand dunes.

That creativity exposed his strong willpower and inner drive to succeed at whatever the personal cost. He was always willing to pay the price, no matter how difficult the circumstances.

After leaving Prince Edward Island, Connaughton enrolled in the University of Texas at Arlington where he excelled on the track team and, much to his delight, was surrounded by excellent training facilities. Since then he has evolved into a top-notch sprinter and last weekend's performance means he is ready for the world stage.

And competing in track and field at the Olympics is indeed the big time. Track is one of the glamour events of the summer Games.

With the Olympics only a few weeks away, the young Islander hasn't had long to rest on his laurels. He is now training in Europe with other Canadian Olympic athletes. In addition to competing in the 200-metre competition, he will run the third leg on the Canadian men's 4x100-metre relay team, always a highlight of the Olympic Games.

The good news for Prince Edward Island is that Connaughton isn't the province's only ambassador. Stratford's Kara Grant was named to the Canadian modern pentathlon team last month and just recently it was announced that Amy Kneebone of Charlottetown and Contessa Scott of Clyde River would be competing at the Beijing Paralympic Games as members of the Canadian goal ball team.

Like those other P.E.I. athletes, Connaughton is an example that dreams can indeed come true, even foolish ones like those of a young boy growing up in a track and field-challenged province like P.E.I. and dreaming of making it to the Olympics.

His dream of earning a berth on the Canadian Olympic team is now over. But those that know Connaughton well will tell you his Olympic dreams involve more than just making it to the event; he has higher goals in mind, such as earning a medal.

All Islanders will be hoping Connaughton's next dream also comes true. In the meantime, he should take a bow.

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