From the United States to Jamaica! A candid interview with Carole
Beckford, who is also the publicist to Olympic Gold Medalist and World Record-holder Usain St. Leo Bolt, is a journalist with over 20 years experience in the press and electronic media, a best-selling author, Keeping Jamaica’s Sport on Track, and a college lecturer.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Ms. Beckford to discuss the relationship between the USA and Jamaica, her role as Usain Bolt’s publicist and the impact she has made on the Jamaican Sport of Business. She holds many titles, wears many hats and is inundated with requests regarding Bolt. Yet, she remains focused and committed to challenges regarding a sport that is held in high regards in Jamaica. Athletics, as she has stated, has opened so many doors and opportunities for her athletes.
DD: Hello Ms. Beckford, how are you and tell me about your background?
CB: I am actually a teacher and a journalist at Teachers College in Kingston, and I also worked at the newspaper, The Gleaner, a publication which is over 100 some years. I’ve been practicing broadcasting. I studied Physical Education and I am also a PE teacher and coached several athletic teams on the Junior, National and Senior level. I have done a tremendous amount of time in sports.
DD: How did you become Bolt’s publicist? As I am pretty sure many were vying for that job?
CB: I was approached by his manager, Norman Peart, I was attending a track meet in Kingston in 2009 and I think he was looking for someone and he approached me to do a small project for him to be tested as he was doing a project for his foundation and I was asked to do PR for his project and I was so successful that he decided to hire me as his publicist in April 2009.
DD: Jamaican vs. USA – Friendly rivalry or not?
CB: Can rivalry really be friendly? I know that many of the athletes may have gone to college together and they still do. Even speaking of Usain and Wallace Spearmon maintain a really great friendship, I know, for example, Simone Faison and Sanya Richards-Ross and Carmelita Jeter and some of those girls have great relationships. But I know once they get on the track it is business. I know that Jamaica and the USA have maintained relationships because the American athletes come to Jamaica to train while some of our athletes used to attend college in the USA. That type of rivalry creates media opportunities so there is a growing interest in Track & Field. It’s good for the media and the rivalry.
DD: The USA Olympic Trials, according to Allyson Felix, is one of the hardest teams to make because of the depth. What do you think about the Jamaica Olympic Trials?
CB: The Jamaican Olympic Trials is just as hard to make as it is scheduled for June 28th – July 1st , and it’s going to be considerable, especially in the Sprint events – both men and women in the 100/200 and 400 are going to be exciting. The last time we checked we found eight men that could run under 10 seconds. Of the top ten women in the world, Jamaica has at least five of the fastest women. Also, the 100-Meter Hurdles for women is going to also be exciting. Our depth doesn’t go beyond the 400 Meters but we are seeing signs of the field events – the Shot Put and Discus in the men’s section.
DD: Social Media – What do you think about this and do you think your athletes should utilize this vehicle?
CB: The technology has changed and it has impacted how we communicate with people and, like everything else, there should be some amount of control. It does appeal to a certain kind of market but the traditional way some people are on it a lot but the Olympics have instituted rules for Facebook and Twitter so that they are able to utilize this within guidelines and rules. More and more, the athletes are working with publicists and management teams so there is a level of responsibility. The athletes are realizing that the traditional method of speaking at an interview versus what they put on Facebook and Twitter is also news. I feel you are appealing to a different level of marketing which makes your sport more interesting.
DD: Any predictions in at the Games?
CB: My advantage is I don’t make any predictions; I’m an analyst. I’ve never done commentary so I’m going to go there at all. I will say that the relays are if you don’t pass the stick you don’t finish. Jamaica has the World Record with the same players involved. Trinidad & Tobago will be competitive and let’s not forget the USA. Wallace Spearmon is running very quickly. Interesting because now I see Sanya Richards-Ross is running the 200/400 and I see some athletes making decisions that could impact on how they fare not just at the Olympics but at the trials and the USA and Jamaica must be the most watched teams in the world.
DD: Overall, how do you feel about the Jamaican team going into the Games?
CB: If I should look at what the media is saying. There is a high expectation for our team. From the Jamaican standpoint, they are not hunting anymore, they are being hunted. Jamaica was the main attraction at the last Games so the other countries are watching and saying here we are coming after you. I anticipate the British team, Trinidad & Tobago, the USA will be coming all out to dethrone us but I believe we are up to task. I am interested to see the predictions. Track and Field came out with predictions.
DD: One last question – YAMS, is that what makes Jamaicans run fast?
CB: The verdict is still out on that and that is for you to find out.
Good luck to Team USA as the Olympic Trials will be held at Hayward Stadium in Eugene, Oregon from June 21 – July 1. For more information, please visit: http://tracktown12.gotracktownusa.com
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