Mon | May 20, 2019

Praught-Leer ‘complete’ after family connection

Published:Tuesday | February 19, 2019 | 12:10 AM
Commonwealth Games 3000m steeplechase gold medalist Aisha Praught-Leer at The Gleaner Company (Media) Limited in Kingston on Friday, February 15, 2019.
Commonwealth Games 3000m steeplechase gold medalist Aisha Praught-Leer at The Gleaner Company (Media) Limited in Kingston on Friday, February 15, 2019.

The winsome smile Aisha Praught-Leer wears on her face these days is not only because she is inching closer to the top tier in the women’s 3000m steeplechase.

The Commonwealth Games champion toldThe Gleaner that she is also beaming because of the rewards she is reaping now for deciding to unearth the roots of her biological father, Joseph Grant.

Praught-Leer, who was born and raised in the American midwest, sought answers to lingering questions in her head about her biological roots in 2013, and, after she reconnected with Grant, she decided to represent Jamaica in athletics.

The 29-year-old admits that it was a daunting task, but she is happy she took the risk as she now feels like a complete person.

“I always knew I was Jamaican,” she said. “That was always part of my upbringing, but I never had a personal relationship with my father.

“My mom and dad, who raised me, provided me with a beautiful life. I wanted for nothing growing up, but there was always a question, but I couldn’t really go there until I was ready,” she said.

“I used to think that maybe if I meet my Jamaican family, maybe they don’t like me. There is a few elements of changing your life and uprooting everything you thought you knew about yourself, to letting more information in, and you see so many stories of where it just doesn’t go well. But luckily for me, it went well and it provided a fullness to my life, that wasn’t there.”

Relocation

Praught-Leer’s mother, Molly lived with Grant in Jamaica during their relationship, but went back to the United States when she was three months pregnant with the distance runner as the relationship had broken down.

She raised Praught-Leer with her husband Jerome Praught, whom the national record holder credits for understanding her wish to want to connect to her roots.

“I am so lucky and thankful that the family who raised me and the family of my genetics have come together and made it really smooth and positive, and everybody is interested in how we can get to know each other,” she said. “It was important for me to express to my father, who raised me, that ‘you are still my father, but he (Grant) is also my father, and you (Molly) are my mom. I just give my parents credit for being so open-minded. We can have honest conversations and accept each other.”

She continued: “When we were in Rio de Janeiro (for the 2016 Olympic Games), it was remarkable because both of my families stayed together. My American parents and my Jamaican father stayed in the same AirBNB. And that explained how my American parents are.”

Whenever she visits Jamaica, Praught-Leer skips the hotels in Kingston and on the north coast for the easy streets and gentle hills of Bog Walk, St Catherine where her father is from.

“It is just my way of trying to deepen my relationship with my father’s family, and so I always stay there,” she said.