Melaine my inspiration - Nugent
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil:
Born in Pennsylvania to a Jamaican father, first-time Olympian Leah Nugent is looking forward to jumping into the Rio 2016 excitement and carrying on Jamaica's tradition in the 400m hurdles.
Nugent, who described 2008 Olympic champion Melaine Walker as her inspiration, is set to compete in the 400m hurdles after a positive season that saw her finishing in the top three in all but one of her nine races this season.
"I know that Jamaica is one of the best teams in athletics in the world. I also know that Melaine Walker was one of the best in the 400m hurdles and I have been watching her since I was like six years old, so I know I have a lot to live up to, but I think I can do that," she told The Gleaner from Jamaica's pre-Olympic training base here.
"It's awesome! I just went back to the airport because they have all the Rio-relayed stuff there and I wanted to see them again. It's really exciting and I'm not even at the (Olympic) Village yet!"
Nugent's personal best time of 55.44, which she ran on her way to a second-place finish at the National Senior Championships a few weeks ago certainly does not make her one of the favourites for a medal here.
But the 23-year-old is facing the Games in confidence and is encouraged by her returns this year.
"My target is definitely the gold medal. Every athlete wants to win the gold medal and aim for the best, but if I don't make the final, I would be very surprised and disappointed," Nugent said. "I'm shooting for gold, but making the final is my main goal.
"Things have been going very well, as far as what I am capable of, but being able to make an Olympic team, win a few of my races, come in the top three in all of my races except one - I think that's really a blessing, and I'm just hoping that it all comes together here and I am able to push on," added Nugent.
"When I started training for this season, I knew that I was capable of making the team, but it's always been at the back of my mind. I never had any doubts I would make the team to the Olympics," Nugent said before adding that she WAs a little anxious about all the negative news in the build-up to the Games.
"There is a little anxiety with the whole Zika thing and everything else, but there is so much going on and the Olympics is such a big thing that you can't allow stuff to get in the way. You have to focus on doing what you need to and executing," said Nugent.