When Akela Jones exited the Grantley Adams International Airport late Tuesday night, she was greeted by rousing screams and applause from friends and adoring fans, including Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth, Stephen Lashley, sports officials, and members of the Springer Memorial Secondary School track team.
Full of smiles, the island???s first IAAF World Junior Championship Gold medallist told the press that her 6.34m victory in the Women???s Long Jump in Eugene, Oregon, USA, was for a win for Barbados.
???I went out there with a focused mind; my mind was never so focused. I was on a flow… I just wanted that gold medal and I said Barbados has to get this medal???and I feel better to bring [home] this medal for my country more than myself. I feel like my coaches helped me, my school, my psychologist, my mum, I mean there are a lot of people that have to be thanked for this victory alongside myself,??? she said.
When asked if she was surprised by her performance, a confident Akela said, ???No, I was not surprised. I knew that I could do it. I was looking for a bigger jump, but at the end of the day I came out on top and Barbados was there.???
Adding that the conditions, facilities and track in Oregon were good, she pointed out, ???It was an atmosphere for a gold medal.???
Saying she felt very proud, she contended: ???I created a pathway to realising that the dream is real ??? You can actually go out there and achieve it.???
Although the star athlete had another chance to earn a gold medal in the finals of the high jump competition, she said she chose not to participate because of aching knees.
Describing this decision as ???minor setback for a major comeback???, Akela stressed, ???It does make any sense going out there and hurting yourself when you have all these major meets next year and the following year, so I had to look at the bigger picture.???
The island???s golden girl advised upcoming athletes to train hard and prepare themselves to be mentally strong for competitions.
???Don???t let anything hold you back, don???t let anybody say you are from a small island Barbados and you can???t do it. Anything is possible once you put your mind to it [with] hard work, mental preparation, you can really do this, the dream can really become a reality,??? Akela emphasised.
Minister of Sports, Stephen Lashley, congratulated the athlete, saying that the government and people of Barbados were ???very, very proud???.
???We are going to continue to support you as you continue on your path towards that ultimate goal which will be an Olympic gold medal. I think that is something you can achieve. I have certainly admired your progress; you have shown determination… to ensure that nothing can stand in your way. I feel very proud of that and I want to encourage you to continue to strive for even higher heights,??? he said.
Akela plans to enjoy the Crop Over festivities before attending to her new school, Kansas State University, in the USA.