NATIONAL LONG jumper, Jaydon ‘Tallo’ Antoine, has been accepted to the University of Minnesota, United States on a full sport scholarship.
Since his introduction to the sport in 2012 by Neon Wolves coach, Heathcliffe Thorne, Antoine has leapt over many obstacles throughout his athletic journey. Many of these challenges however, have played integral roles in carefully building the 19-year old into one of TT’s brightest, up-and-coming athletic prospects.
After losing his 13-year old sister in 2012 and then going four demotivating years (2012-2016) without earning a single medal on the local junior circuit, Antoine considered giving up the sport. Inspirational words from his parents though, returned his desire to compete, and Antoine opted to give it one more shot.
In 2017, the Academic College for Excellence (Couva) graduate seized his opportunity and earned his first-ever podium place (silver) at a pre-Carifta meet in Barbados. The rest was history. Later that year, he secured bronze at the Flow Carifta Games in Curacao.
In 2018, he won gold at the National Junior Championships, followed by silver (7.39 metres) in the St Kitts/Nevis’ Senior Championships and then bronze at the National Senior Championships. At the 2019 Pan American Under-20 Championships in Costa Rica, Antoine leapt to a credible seventh (7.30m) place.
“In this sport I came from the bottom, staying motivated was really tough after the first four years. One day after a competition in Tobago, I burst into tears because I was so fed up of losing and I wanted to stop the sport entirely. With my mom’s comforting words and life lessons from my dad, I persistent. Working my way back up was the biggest obstacle for sure,” he explained.
After achieving two distinctions, one grade one and two grade two’s at the Couva institution, the talented field athlete transferred to Presentation College, San Fernando, to pursue A-level qualification (Management of Business, Physical Education, Entrepreneurship and Caribbean Studies) and extend his surging sporting career.
Having completed his first year of the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Exams (CAPE) at ‘Pres’, Antoine is now in his final academic year and gearing up for a world of opportunity when he heads to Minnesota in a couple months.
“It feels surreal,” he said. “Every athlete wants to get a full scholarship because it’s tough on parents to fund tertiary education out of your homeland. I was worried that I might not get the scholarship that I wanted. God really blessed me with this opportunity and has been good to me over the years. It’s still a bit unbelievable,” he added.
According to Antoine, it was during his performance in Costa Rica that University of Minnesota coach, Matt Bingle, approached him with an offer he “could not refuse”.
Although the former basketballer did not finish among the medals, Bingle was impressed with youngster’s technique and believed he would be a great addition to the team. In July last year, Antoine’s scholarship was confirmed by the tertiary institution.
He heaped praises on his coaches Thorne, Robin Brerton and Wellington Wilson for nurturing him into the athlete he is today.
“My coaches are my mentors and I’ve never had any major issue because they have always made training comfortable. If you’re having fun in training you would always feel to go. I always wanted to compete, be the best at the highest level and etch my name in the sport’s history. I’m not afraid of this stage (of the process) because I was always looking forward to it. Going to a US university, that’s where achieving the dream that I have, would begin,” he concluded.