I was born and raised in New York State (as opposed to New York City) by two parents who emigrated to the United States from Haiti. As you might imagine, their goal was to raise their children (three boys) in better circumstances than they, themselves, had experienced. Our home was still very much a Haitian household though and I am a proud Haitian-American.
My parents ensured that my brothers and I prioritized our education above all else while growing up and I can’t even begin to say how much I appreciate their doing so. Still, after spending several years focusing on, and to some extent, excelling at debate, I eventually found my way to track and field in my junior year of high school. I had grown up playing soccer, earned my black belt by the time I finished elementary school, played a couple years of varsity tennis and even had a brief foray as a distance runner before getting cut from the track team in 8th grade. After being inspired by the Sydney Olympics though, my return to the track was apparently the start of something; plus, I could finally fit into a singlet without it sliding off of my shoulder as had been the case in my days running the steeplechase and two-mile.
My success in the classroom coupled with some moderate success in my new event, the triple jump, resulted in my being recruited by a number of Ivy League schools. However, seeing as how Harvard University wasn’t one of those schools, my decision to go there was wholly unrelated to track and field. Granted, my parents would have made sure that track was the last thing to be considered even if they had recruited me. I graduated with a degree in government (political science) and along the way became an NCAA All-American, the indoor and outdoor school record holder, the outdoor Ivy League record holder, and a team captain.
Thanks to an injury in my senior year, I was afforded an extra season of athletic eligibility that I elected to use at the University of Texas, thus defering my matriculation to Georgetown’s law school. From an athletic standpoint, the year I spent in Austin, earning my masters degree and competing as a Longhorn, was nearly as influential as the four I had spent in Cambridge. On the team with me were numerous NCAA champions and future Olympic and World Championship medalists as well as a couple NFL draft picks (one of whom is now a perennial Pro Bowler). Being in that environment only fueled my desire to continue honing my skill as a triple jumper in spite of the fact that I was set to begin law school just a few weeks after earning my degree from Texas. Additionally, I had the sense that there was some potential that I had yet to tap into and I was not willing to hang up my spikes until I had seen exactly how deep the rabbit hole went, so to speak. I’ve actually never been the type to move on from an experience until believing that I fully realized my potential in whatever it is that I’m involved in.
I made the decision to represent Haiti with the understanding that my doing so would take me down a different path than if I were to take a stab at representing the US, and knowing full well that success in a Haitian uniform would have significantly more impact. Since making my first international appearance at the 2007 Pan American Games, I’ve been to six World Championships (three indoors and three outdoors), another Pan American Games and one Olympic Games, winning multiple regional medals along the way. I’ve spent several years ranked among the top ten in world but each day I train harder than the one prior in attempt to make my family, my supporters, my sponsors and Haiti proud and to continue my exploration of and improvement in the triple jump; one centimeter at a time.
Off the track, I graduated from law school, passed the bar exam, penned a book somewhat inspired by my dealing with the task of balancing law school with an international athletics career, and founded Jump for Haiti in an attempt to make a tangible impact in the lives of children in Haiti. I’m still very much the same nerd who loved chess, comic books, debate and was a member of the math team but now I truly enjoy reaching and teaching people, whether through my foundation or my public speaking efforts. I believe in the power of setting and contemplating one’s goals on a regular basis but there was a time when I could never have imagined having the success that I’ve had thus far as an athlete, or the platform that I now have to positively influence people’s lives. Still, there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t take stock in my journey thus far and take a second to appreciate it and the people who have helped me along the way.