By Jon Willemsen
As Shermar Paul prepares for the biggest competition of his life, he doesn’t have to go far to find advice. The 17-year-old sprinter can turn to the man who’s moulded him into the type of runner he is today – a member of the Canadian team ready to compete on the world stage at the Aug. 16-28 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China.
Paul enjoys a close relationship with his C.A.N.I. Athletics coach, Lyndon George, himself a former international sprinter who competed in the 1987 World Championships.
“He’s changed the way I view things,” Paul details. “He’s taught me to never be afraid of anything or anyone. Once you get to these big meets, that helps a lot. You’re there to do your business and nothing else matters.”
George has been working with his protégé on how to approach high-pressure scenarios.
“Just how to handle championship rounds, how to handle feelings – those are important things he’s trying to learn,” George explains. “When you get to this level, you realize there are a lot of people just like you. It’s the intangibles that you bring to the table and how you handle the pressure that makes you better.”
Paul handled the stress of the Youth Olympics qualifying event quite well, earning his place through a continental competition in Florida this past spring.
“He had to go through a selection process that included the United States and Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean just to make it,” George underlines. “This is the toughest region to come out of if you’re a sprinter, and Shermar did.”
Looking back four years when he first starting coaching the ambitious athlete from Nepean, even George cannot believe how strong his student has become.
“We saw him right away as someone who had an acumen for the sport, but none of us realized he’d evolve to the degree that he did,” George indicates. “He puts in the work and he’s a phenomenal specimen, physically speaking. So he’s easily ahead of his peers by a few steps, and I think we’ll see big things from this young man down the road.”
Paul enters the Youth Olympics having recently recorded a new personal-best 200 m time of 21.76 seconds from the May 30 high school east regional meet, which he beat with a wind-aided 21.54 performance to finish fourth in the OFSAA provincial senior boys’ class as a Grade 11.
“I want to do my best and hopefully I get a medal (at the Youth Olympics),” signals the St. Paul Catholic High School student. “My goal is to finish top-8 and make the final race, but I really want to be on the podium.”
Paul views racing at the Youth Olympics as the biggest opportunity of his career.
“After all the morning practices, the noon practices, and the work I put in, this means a lot to me,” he says. “And I just can’t thank my coach enough for believing in me.”
HELP SHINE A LIGHT ON LOCAL SPORT! The Ottawa Sports Pages has proudly provided a voice for local sport for 10 years, but we need your help to continue another 10 and beyond. Please donate to the new Ottawa Sports Pages Fund today.