SOME would think that a three-time Olympic medallist will have nothing else to prove, but Richard Thompson said completing his university degree was important as he wants to be an example for others to finish what you start.
Thompson, now 34, started his college degree at Louisiana State University (LSU), United States in 2005, but was unable to complete it as his track and field career soared in 2008. What started 15 years ago came to an end on Friday, as Thompson graduated virtually at LSU with a degree in sociology after completing the five classes required to do so.
As the world continues to battle the global covid19 pandemic, Thompson pointed out, “The most important thing, as my parents have said to me, is I have the certificate. I am officially a college graduate now and that is something to be very proud of. Even after all of these years just going back and having the determination and drive to get back into school and complete this chapter of it was something that has always been important for me.”
Thompson, a former student at Queen’s Royal College (QRC), sprinted his way to a silver medal in the men’s 100-metre at the 2008 Beijing Olympics behind Jamaican legend Usain Bolt. Thompson was part of the quartet that initially earned silver in the men’s 4x100m relay, but ten years later the local team was upgraded to gold after Jamaica’s Nesta Carter tested positive for a banned substance. Marc Burns, Keston Bledman, Emmanuel Callender and Aaron Armstrong (reserve) were also part of the TT team.
Thompson copped his third Olympic medal at the 2012 Games in London when he joined Callender, Burns and Bledman to snatch silver in the 4x100m relay.
Thompson, who was also a top footballer at QRC, said as an athlete most people only see his achievements on the track, but the Olympian is cognisant of how valuable an education is. “This side of me always knew that going back to school was important and finishing what I started because we are also more than athletes as well. People know our physical capabilities, but the education is something that will go even further and a much longer way than anything you could achieve athletically.”
Thompson said he wanted 2020 to be his last year as an athlete signing off with the 2020 Tokyo Games, but he also wanted his degree in hand. The Olympic Games has been postponed to 2021 and Thompson was able to spend enough time on his degree.
Speaking about his experience back on campus, Thompson said he wanted to inspire other athletes. “I contacted coach (Dennis) Shaver. Immediately he was excited about me coming back and the administration at LSU was very excited about me coming back and finishing up and being an example to their student-athletes that are currently there.
"I wanted to be an example for our kids in TT as well to let them know that Richard is a good runner, Richard has achieved a lot at the professional and Olympic level, but he also values the importance of education and hopefully, by me coming back and making this next step, is an example to those who come after me.”
Thompson, asked if students stared at him wondering 'who is this old man', responded, “Well, fortunately, I don’t look like an old man, so I was able to blend in and just fit right in with the others,” he said laughing.
Thompson, who felt at home at LSU, was proud of his attitude saying he was a more disciplined student compared to when he started his degree.
On competing at the 2021 Olympics, Thompson said he would like to participate but is taking it one step at a time.
“Where we are at now as far as preparation for 2021? I am just monitoring everything that is going on to see what will happen for the rest of this season and I know there is that possibility of there not being an Olympics next year with everything that is going on.”