SUNDAY TALK - Leford Green - Man on a mission
This week's guest is one of the island's most promising athletes. A finalist in the 400m hurdles at last year's Olympic Games in London, Leford Green was also a member of Jamaica's bronze medal-winning 4x400m relay team at the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Athletics, in Daegu, South Korea.
His CV also includes gold medals at the CAC Games, but more than anything, Green is one of the more colourful members of Jamaica's track and field team. He is jovial, hard-working and committed, as evidenced when he battled a year of injuries and setbacks to win against the odds at last year's Olympic trials inside the National Stadium.
The 26-year-old has big plans for 2013 as the IAAF World Championships in Moscow beckons, and we had the opportunity to speak to him recently.
Andre Lowe: OK, Leford, tell us a bit about yourself - growing up, your family, and your early days, etc.
Leford Green: I was born in Port Maria, St Mary. I'm the wash belly for my mother and the only boy of her three children, and the second of seven for my dad. I have a total of five sisters and three brothers. I lived in St Mary up until age eight then moved to Greater Portmore, St Catherine. I lived with my mom and my two older sisters. I was raised in a single-parent household with my mom being the head of the household. I will proudly say I was a problem child. I would always get in trouble because I refused to stay in the house and listen to what my mom had to say, but my mom wasn't having that in her house because she is a disciplinarian and she is very strict. Ninety per cent of the time, punishment would result in me getting a good whipping (laughs). That wouldn't stop me anyway.
AL: Haha, seems those beatings worked out after all. Tell me though, how did you get involved in track and field?
LG: It all started when I went to primary school. I used to attend Greater Portmore Primary. We would have our annual sports day and I went and competed in the sports day. When I competed at the sports day, I was faster than all the kids [in] my age group and I could beat some of the older boys, too, and I would always get champion boy. I would try to run all the races that were on the schedule. I wasn't blessed to go to the Primary School Champs because my primary school was just getting established, so we didn't take part in the early years. Then I went to high school and met coach Shawn Cunningham, who is the head of the PE department, and he believed that I could achieve a lot out of track and field if I put in some work, so I took his advice and went to work.
AL: Most kids try their hand at several sports while growing up. What other sport did you play as a youngster, or still play when you get a chance nowadays?
LG: I only tried one other and that was football. I love football. That's all I would play. I would go everywhere to play football, even nowadays, I still play football and I'm pretty good at it. I played all my years in high school. Under-13 (Pepsi), Under-16 (Colts) and Manning Cup; I was also the captain for my team. I was a good defender.
AL: Good is relative, but ok (laughs). Who would you say is your biggest influence in track and field?
LG: I would say my mom, my coach and my two sisters. They played a big role for me because they believed in me when I didn't believe in myself, and that would always motivate me.
AL: You competed in your first Olympic Games last year in London. What was that whole experience like for you, from the camp in Birmingham to competing in the Olympic Stadium?
LG: I just couldn't believe that I had made it this far in the sport, which I grew a lot of passion for! The camp was awesome - lots of big-ups to the people of Birmingham and the University of Birmingham for hosting us. I was trying my best to stay focused on my race and not to think too hard on the stage at which I'm competing because that would help me to calm my nerves. Everything really hit me after the Olympics was over. I said to myself, 'Wow, I just competed in the Olympics' (laughs).
AL: What were your expectations going into the Olympic Games?
LG: To do better than what I did in 2011. In 2011 at the World Championships, I was knocked out in the semi-finals, so I told myself, 'I have to make it to the finals and then I give it my most honest effort in the finals and see where it puts me.'
AL: ... And you did get that place in the final in London. How has that impacted your own confidence going forward?
LG: A place in the London final was just confirmation to myself that this is where I belong. I have always been very confident in my abilities.
AL: OK, let's change the focus a bit. How do you unwind? Some folks like to listen to music and others enjoy video games, what is your downtime activity?
LG: I do both. I'm a game freak, I will play FIFA until my eyes burn and my fingers hurt and while I'm playing my game, I've got some music in the background playing too. Sometimes I would be by my friend's house eating food and playing dominoes.
AL: One of these days I will give you a proper test on FIFA. Tell us about your time at Johnson C. Smith University and how that helped you to develop into Jamaica's best 400m hurdler?
LG: Johnson C. Smith University has helped me a whole lot because I felt like I was home, I felt extremely comfortable. The faculty and staff are amazing, great facilities and I have one of the best hurdles coaches; and for those who don't know who I'm talking about, his name is Lennox Graham.
AL: Big-up to coach Graham. Anyway, which are your favourite sport teams?
LG) Most of my friends say I'm a wagonist because for years I haven't had any one particular team, but I like Manchester City. I have no basketball team or international team. I like some team's style of play though (laughs).
AL: Yea, you sound like a wagonist for real. There is no real Man City fan from Jamaica (laughs). Ok, honestly, who were the craziest persons in the Jamaican Olympic camp; those sure to keep everyone else laughing?
LG: I wouldn't say craziest, but the most fun-filling, and that would go to the FUN-tastic 4 (notice the spelling). The FUN-tastic 4 includes me, Jason 'Dadz' Morgan, Maurice 'Mobile' Smith and Dorian Scott. We would keep everybody smiling, even the team managers, even our opponents (laughs).
AL: Hahaha - even though, unfortunately, Maurice wasn't so mobile in London though. Anyway, what's a normal day like for you?
LG: A normal day would include me taking my son to day care, then go to my first session of practice, hang out with my homeboys in-between the break, then do my second session and then head back home to get rest up and to do it all over again.
AL: It's a World Championships year, what are your objectives for 2013?
(LG): I have two objectives; first, to stay injury free, and second, to make it upon the podium.
AL: What are your thoughts on Jamaican 400m hurdles great Danny McFarlane and how much of an influence is he to you?
LG: I just think he was a great athlete that always represented Jamaica well.
AL: And what is on your iPod these day?
LG: You would be amazed by what you will find on my iPod. I listen to all kinds of music. I have some Damian Marley, Fun, Vybz Kartel, Tommy Lee, Bounty Killer, Movado, Al Green, Betty Wright; I have everything; Super Cat (laughs) ... the list goes on.
Interesting list indeed ... big thank you to Green for joining us and we wish him the very best in 2013 and beyond.
- SPORT QUOTE:
'Winners write history, while losers can only read about it.' - Juventus' coach Antonio Conte