SUNDAY TALK: Ristananna Tracey - Talks love, jealousy and life on the track
Ristananna Tracey is among Jamaica's brightest promises in track and field. The national 400m hurdles junior record holder and national champion is already on her way to being mentioned among the island's best.
The 21-year-old will travel to Moscow in a matter of days for her second IAAF World Championships in Athletics appearance. The last time around in Daegu back in 2011, fresh out of high school, she made the semis despite a broken wrist. Her ambitions are even greater this time.
Today, she lets us into her life as she shares how jealousy made her an athlete, her love and relationship with another of the island's top young athletes, what her name should have been and, of course, some of her experiences growing up.
André Lowe (AL): First of all Ristananna, do you have any idea why you were given that name? It is an unusual name, I'm sure you would agree.
Ristananna Tracey (RT): Well, the story behind my name is that my mom (Millicent Gallimore-Bailey) sent someone to register me. However, she never wrote down the name she had chosen on paper and the person forgot the name she was told, and so I just got a name and for sure it's unusual (laughs).
AL: That's pretty funny actually. So what was supposed to be your name?
RT: They use to call my father 'Ras' and so the original name was supposed to be Rascean.
AL: Hmmm. I think I prefer Ristananna. Ok, tell us about your early experiences growing up. Where are you from, what was young 'Rista' really like?
RT: I'm from Greenwich Farm in Kingston, however, I was raised in two communities in Clarendon, namely Fair Burn district and Bunkers Hill district. I attended Barnsfield Basic School in Fair Burn, then my mom got married and so the family moved to Bunkers Hill, where I finished early childhood, and also went to Bunkers Hill Primary. While attending Bunkers Hill Primary, I ran around the school a lot, I also participated in every race for my house team on sports days.
AL: You also have a sister that competes in the 400m hurdles, Nikita, tell me about your fondest memories growing up together.
RT: The fondest memories, growing up together with my sis were, first, my mom dressing us like twins when we were younger, and also competing with her at 'Champs' in the 400m hurdles. It was fun.
AL: Yea I'm sure that was a lot of fun, but honestly, do you two fight and argue a lot like other sisters?
RT: Yes, we do argue and fight, and I'm always the one crying.
AL: I heard somewhere that you were quite troublesome as a child and found yourself always running from a beating. Maybe that's why you are so fast.
RT: (Laughs). Yes, I used to climb the rose apple trees and go to the river a lot. However, my mom didn't like it and so she used to run me down to spank me. She's really fast too; I think I got that from her.
AL: Nikita was also a top athlete at Edwin Allen High School, like yourself. How did she inspire you, if at all, to get involved in track and field?
RT: She's always encouraging me to return to training because I had started in 7th grade and stopped, but just the fact that I saw her going out every weekend and sometimes going overseas, got me jealous, and so that's when I really started to take track and field seriously.
AL: (Hahaha) Who said jealousy is a bad thing? Were there any other sport that you played in school?
RT: I played football in primary school, I was the best goalkeeper ever!
AL: Ok, I'll take your word for it. Are there any other hobbies though? I hear you think you are a bit of a singer.
RT: (Haha) I can sing. I also enjoy sewing, cooking, combing hair and socialising with my peers.
AL: What is your best memory from competing at Edwin Allen and Champs?
RT: Best memory would be in 2011 when I broke Melaine Walker's record in the 400m hurdles at 'Champs'.
AL: I remember that well. 55.81 made you the first schoolgirl to dip below 56 seconds and erased Melaine's 10-year-old 56.55 record. You have also had other successes though.
You made Jamaica's senior team that same year, competing at the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu, South Korea. What was that experience like for you?
RT: It was a great experience for me. At the championships, I ran my second-best time ever in the semi-finals with a broken wrist.
AL: What went through your mind as you contemplated how you would run with that broken wrist, and what have you taken from that experience?
RT: I mean, the bone in my wrist, which is connected to my big finger (thumb) was broken, I was wondering how am I going to manage to stay in the set position since my body weight would be on it and it was so painful. I can recall someone asking me the question, 'Can you run, will you be able to manage the pressure on your hand?'; and I said to the person 'Yes, I can run,' because I was determined to go and do my best regardless of the situation. I've developed mental toughness from it."
AL: Another World Champs awaits and you will be heading to Moscow as national champion. How happy are you with your preparation, and what are your targets in Moscow?
RT: I'm extremely happy and my preparation is going on well. My main target heading into Moscow is to compete well and ensure I'm in the final.
AL: You aren't the only one who will be travelling to Moscow, as a matter of fact, there is someone on the team who you are very close to. Tell us some more about that.
RT: (laughs) Definitely not, I'll be travelling with the Racers family but the very close person is Kemar Bailey-Cole.
AL: You two have been together for a while, how did you and Kemar Bailey-Cole get involved and how excited are you to be competing at a major senior championships beside each other for the first time?
RT: Well, we met as friends in 2009 and that's where it all started. I'm excited knowing that it was our individual goals to represent our country and it was achieved.
AL: Is it difficult for you two to watch each other compete?
RT: When I watch him compete, it's almost as if I'm the one running! I get nervous at times, but otherwise I enjoy seeing him compete and I think he shares the same sentiment.
AL: No pressure, but your friends Warren Weir and Natalya McGhie are already one step ahead. Maybe we will hear wedding bells soon?
RT: (Haha) For now, we are just taking life step by step at the moment, not really rushing into anything.
AL: Tell me Ristananna, if you were not an athlete, what would you be doing?
RT: Maybe modelling, singing, cosmetology or some other profession that I love.
AL: Jamaica has been blessed with some excellent female 400m hurdlers in recent time: Deon Hemmings, Melaine Walker, and Kaliese Spencer leading the way. Do you see a little of yourself in any of them and which of these athletes would you say was your biggest inspiration?
RT: Yes, I do; Melaine Walker is my biggest inspiration. Just her mentality and watching her compete inspires me.
AL: What's your biggest disappointment or regret so far in your young career?
RT: My biggest disappointment so far was not being able to come back after surgery last November to make the team to the Olympics.
AL: Finally, of all the places you have travelled to, which is your favourite city or country, and why?
RT: It's kinda hard to choose, but I'll go with Paris. I enjoy looking at the Eiffel Tower, especially at nights.
AL: Interesting stuff. Thank you for the chat 'Rista'. Good luck with the fine-tuning ahead of the World Championships, and I will see you in a few days in Moscow.
"Winners, I am convinced, imagine their dreams first. They want it with all their hearts and expect it to come true."
- Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana.