On 23rd September 2000, a collective roar from patriotic Bajans sounded worldwide as Obadele Thompson sprinted across the finish line winning the first ever Olympic medal for Barbados.
The 100m bronze was his, but like all professional athletes it had been a long journey with the goal only reached through incredible drive, passion and hard work.
At the prestigious Harrison College, Bridgetown, which five out of Barbados’ seven Prime Ministers have attended; it soon became clear that Obadele was destined for great things both on the track and off.
His athletics career truly took off during his time at the University of Texas at El Paso, to which he’d earned a scholarship. In 1997 he graduated with honours with a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics and Marketing, but it was only one year into his studies in 1994 that Obadele accomplished his first great sporting achievement.
The 100m junior world record title was his with a time of 10.08 seconds. The athlete’s first Olympics was the 1996 Games held in Atlanta. Here he just missed a medal finishing an impressive fourth in the 200m final in a highly competitive event where Michael Johnson closed the gold with a new world record. Over the next decade Obadele won medals at the Commonwealth Games, World Indoor Championships, World Student Games, Caribbean and Central American Championships and the IAAF World Cup as well as the Olympic Games – an impressive list!
Obadele’s fastest allowed time for the 100m is an incredible 9.87, but he achieved his fastest ever 100m (and back then this was the fastest time for anyone) in April 1996. With a tail wind of 5 m/s, his mark of 9.69 couldn’t be recognised by the IAAF, but this record time wouldn’t be beaten by anyone, wind or no wind, for 12 years until Tyson Gay ran 9.68 at the 2008 US trials – only a fraction faster. With a 4.1 m/s tail wind this was also disallowed. Usain Bolt would eventually legally match Obadele’s time at the 2008 Olympic Games with 0.0 tail wind.
Obadele Thompson’s impressive feat at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney was publicly recognised by the then Barbados Prime Minister Owen Arthur as well as by the adoring population of his native country. Obadele was made “Ambassador and Special Envoy to the Youth” and returned to thousands of fans lining the streets from Grantley Adams International Airport to Government Headquarters on Bay Street.
A life of constant training, pressure and pushing to be the best is tough, but Obadele is a deeply spiritual committed Christian and this has helped him through every moment. In 2007 the athlete turned to life coaching and co-founded the Christian-based ‘Champion Living’.
This life coaching system works by connecting like-minded people in groups so they progress their goals not only via their leaders’ tutorship, but with the help and support of the other group members as well. These groups are rooted in common interests or life situations including sports, business or life stages such as being a parent or in a certain age bracket.
Obadele is extremely charismatic, and encourages via motivational/keynote speaking as well as life coaching. His experience of dealing with international media channels, businesses and academic institutions during his sporting career has given him an excellent foundation with which to inspire and relate to the people he advises.
On 24th February 2007, Obadele married fellow athlete Marion Jones whom he met while they were training partners in Texas. The small, private ceremony was performed by a relative of Obadele’s and took place in North Carolina. The couple now have two children together, Thompson born in 2007 and a daughter, Eva-Marie, born in 2009.
Obadele Thompson’s sporting, academic and personal achievements and awards are numerous both in Barbados and internationally. He’s one of Barbados’ true heroes.
Brett Callaghan is the founder and managing director of Totally Barbados. I specialize in writing content for the tourism industry for my island home of Barbados. I help companies build strategies to grow their businesses online with SMART marketing, advertising, and social media goals.