Akeem Haynes, Olympic bronze medalist.
“That’s crazy! I don’t know what to say.”
It’s hard to leave Team Athletigen’s well-spoken, philosophical 24-year old speechless, but that is exactly what happened in an interview with CBC’s Scott Oake seconds after the US Men’s Relay team was disqualified from the 4x100m final, giving Akeem and his teammates the bronze medal at this summer’s Olympics.
Akeem quickly deflected Oake’s question to credit his teammates, “I’m proud of these guys – that’s all I can say.”
That is the kind of guy Akeem is: crediting those around him in the minutes after the greatest accomplishment of his athletic career.
“How many people it takes to help an athlete succeed is overlooked. They see the athlete, but no one person is an island and I am very grateful to the people who have helped me get to where I am.”
Understandably, running in the 4x100m final, one of the most celebrated events of the Olympic Games, is not only physically demanding, but can be psychologically and emotionally draining. Add to that the fact that Akeem had already competed in the 100m, it is hard to imagine mental exhaustion not becoming a factor.
“Mentally – the whole week your emotions are running wild. The open events are before – if it goes well, great, if it doesn’t, you have to bounce back, if you’re lucky enough to have a second event.”
The 4x100m final, run in front of 79,000 spectators in Rio’s Maracanã Stadium against the fastest men on the planet, made Akeem feel historical: “It reminded me of ancient Rome when gladiators would come out of the tunnel and put on a show.”
“But I wasn’t nervous or anything, it was showtime.”
Physically, Akeem says the Olympics are like any other meet, “but the mental aspect is where you need to be locked in. You have to reach a level of focus that it has never been on before.”
“After the 100m, I wanted to be mad and spend time being upset trying to figure out what went wrong, but no matter where I turned I could only see my city sending me support.”
It is that sense of community that has shaped Akeem – this interview was even postponed due to an impromptu visit to his old high school.
“I just wanted to stop by and say hi, and when the word got out that I was in the gym it became pretty hectic.”
Akeem is also heavily involved with the charity Classroom Champions, an organization which pairs students with with Champions to help them succeed. Akeem joined the organization in 2014.
“I tell them to never put limits on themselves. Sometimes you will have people say you’re not good enough, not big enough, but who are they to tell you otherwise? If you want to do it, why not do it?”
“Instead of asking why, ask why not?”