Avia Ustanny, Outlook Writer
AT 5:30 IN the morning when the heat of the sun is still a very distant memory, Michael Frater and his fellow sprinters are warming up in the dark preparing for their laps around the dew-kissed earth on the University of Technology track field.
We rendezvoused with the 23-year-old athlete at 8:00 a.m. on one such morning two weeks ago, midway in his training programme.
"I want to be what every kid dreams of. I want to be Olympic champion," Frater said with frank calm. If it takes a six-hour training day, six days each week, every week, this is what he is committed to doing.
Michael Frater was the 22-year-old who last year captured the attention of all Jamaicans in the August 2005 World Championships, when he won the silver medal in the 100 metres in 10.05 seconds.
He was awarded the silver after a photo-finish with resurgent dethroned champion Kim Collins of St. Kitts and Nevis - both clocked 10.05.
His comeback, after being knocked out in the semi-finals at the 2004 Olympics was due to consistent training. Keeping in form requires a rigid regimen of everyday training.
Frater loves the routines.
Sports is in his blood.
He was born on October 10, 1982, in Manchester to mother, Monica Frater, a teacher and a sprinter. His father, Lyndell Frater, former Member of Parliament for southern Trelawny was a cricketer. His brother, sprinter Lindel Frater, was a 2000 Sydney Olympian and former Texas Christian University (TCU) sprinter who earned five All-American awards in his outdoor season - including three times in the 100m and twice as a part of the TCU's 4x100 relay team.
Frater grew up in Ulster Spring, Trelawny, passing the Common Entrance Examinations for Knox College where, when he attempted to try out for the track team he was told that he was too young and too small. But he was not to be discouraged.
At Wolmer's Boys' School where he went to be with his brothers, his way was made easier, as he was recommended to coach Stephen Francis by his sibling. He made an immediate impact at this school, never losing at Boys' Champs until in his final year when he was sent at age 15 to the United States to continue his education and training at the Boyd Anderson High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
His parents, Michael Frater says, have had constant discussions with him about his choice of career.
"My parents said do not put all your eggs in one basket. Make sure you have a degree."
Knowing that the body is subject to injuries which can change his chances of success, he accepted their advice. He was later to complete a first degree in political science in preparation for studies in law, should he ever need another option.
But, while still at high school in Fort Lauderdale, he was named the Gatorade Outstanding High School Track Athlete in the state of Florida (in 2000) after becoming the Florida state champion in the 100 metres. He also earned all-state honours in track as both a junior and a senior.
Winning a scholarship to Texas Christian University (TCU), Michael Frater was selected in 2003 as the Verizon Academic All-District VI first team for track and field and cross-country athletes in the university division.
A junior with 3.49 grade point average point average in political science, he was having another good year.
ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Later, he was named the Conference U.S.A. Outdoor Track Athlete of the Year after winning both the 100 metres (10.07) and 200 metres (20.45), and ran the second leg on the winning 4x100 metre relay team (39.17).
In 2004, Michael Frater was National Collegiate Athletics Association 100m silver medallist.
Although he experienced some hamstring injury, he has recovered 100 per cent, going on to consistently improve his performance.Before he collected silver in the World Championships, few paid him the attention he deserved. But, all along, Michael was doing better and better.
Frater was a Pan American Games gold medallist in 2004. His personal best was 10.03 seconds in the 100m, done in Athens Olympic Stadium, the same race where teammate and training partner Asafa Powell broke the world record by running 9.77 seconds, on June 14, 2005.
A BREAKTHROUGH YEAR
Michael Frater describes 2005 as a breakthrough year.
"I started running pretty early. When this happens you have to avoid allowing the season to take a toll (physically)."
Coaches and support staff, he says, were useful in helping him and other Jamaicans to concentrate on training which, the athlete points out, is more important than just focusing on racing.
"They say, 'look at the bigger picture'."
It was this perspective that allowed him to do so well in August last year. "We executed and we delivered. The feeling was indescribable."
The support of coaches has also helped him since the hamstring injury which prevented him from delivering even faster times for the rest of 2005.
Michael has been fully recovered since October 2005 and consistently in training. While coach Stephen Francis sometimes requires the runners to leave home at five in the morning for training, more usually he says, training takes place in the afternoon, extending from 2:00 p.m. to around 7:30 in the evening.
The athlete begins with strength training then moves to the track before breaking at 5:00 p.m. for plyometrics which is an excellent way for conditioned athletes to increase and develop their jumping, sprinting and explosive power.
He then goes home to eat a hearty dinner and rest in preparing for another day. Healthy meals are always on the menu. His six-hour training schedule is an everyday event, excepting on Sunday.
Frater states that his chosen career has been very rewarding and, were he to, later follow in his fathers footstep in politics, he says, there is no doubt that he would do everything in his power to get more "kids involved in sports".
"If kids are involved in sports, involved in
competition, I don't think they will have time to get in trouble. If they are using their aggression track, in football on the court, it won't be used elsewhere." Sports he also notes builds the team spirit.
The downsides to a career in sports are very little.
The athlete admits that since winning the silver medal some people have been looking at him differently and there are some individuals who want to hang around for the wrong reasons.
But, "it is up to you to know the good from the bad. I know how to deal with that," he states.
He is very optimistic for 2006 which he notes will be another long year although there's no major meet apart from the Commonwealth Games in Australia. In 2008 the Olympic Games in London is expected to be a golden year for him.
"I have always dreamt about (being a champion). There is no doubt in my mind that you have to dream it in order to achieve it. If it does not happen as long as I know that I have done my best, I will be satisfied. This is what I have chosen to do right now and I am going to put my all into it."