Bermudan Long Jumper Tyrone Smith has been an established international performer for the past decade. Here the three-time Olympian, who earlier this year posted a national record of 8.34m, talks about the challenge of working full time and trying to perform at the top level, writes Steve Landells for the IAAF.
Making ends meet
ďThe greatest challenge Iíve faced is finding a way to finance my track and field career. I havenít won any Diamond League trophies or major titles and coming from a small nation makes it more difficult to get endorsements and win shoe contracts, so since leaving college Iíve worked full time as a car salesman.
ďEach day I train in the morning and work from about 11am until 8pm and then I go back to training at 8.30pm. Iíve done this since the fall of 2007 when I first moved to Houston, Texas in pursuit of making the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
ďPeople ask why I do it and a I guess Iím a stubborn guy. Since early in my career people told me that I wasnít good enough to get a scholarship at university or that I couldnít make the nationals or later make the Olympic Games. Yet, like every long jumper, I had a ton of long fouls and those fouls kept me motivated. I wanted to show that I belonged at that level.
ďIt is obviously tough to be an athlete and work full time. I canít freely leave when I would like. Iím limited to three weeks off a year plus the goodwill of my company to squeeze in all my competitions in the European season. It can make rest and recovery difficult. If I was a full-time athlete, I would still train in the morning but I would then probably complete my strength training and maybe get some lunch and on an afternoon rest and watch a movie. Instead Iím working and if I have a client to see Iím grabbing food on the run, which is far from ideal.
ďI also canít tell how many times my phone will ring when Iím in the middle of running repeats or doing drills. My instinct is not to answer, but as a salesman it might inhibit me from travelling later in the season because if I donít make that sale, I might not be able to afford to travel.
ďSometimes Iíve turned up in my training gear for a sale and other times the anti-doping people have come in during the middle of a sale.
ďI have considered life as a full-time athlete. Iíve enjoyed a couple of seasons when Iíve had enough money coming in that if I trimmed my living costs and maybe brought in a room-mate I could have gone full time, but the following years the money wasnít quite there to make it work so it was probably the right decision.
ďUltimately, Iíve reached quite a happy balance with training and work. I just think that my life is not so different to my college days of wake up, go to class, train and go to bed. The only difference now is I go to work rather than go to school. That is how I trick my mind into accepting that what I do is normal. I have never stopped being busy. I have just replaced school with work.Ē