For many athletes, getting one opportunity to compete in the Olympic Games is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.
But after getting that first chance to compete on the world's biggest stage in Beijing, China, four years ago, Tyrone Smith set his sights on making it back and taking another step in his career – one that he hopes will land him on the awards stand later this summer in London, England.
Smith, a 2007 graduate of Missouri S&T, has qualified for his second Olympic Games in the long jump and will take part in the two-week competition that will begin in London on July 27. As was the case four years ago, Smith will compete for his native country of Bermuda, where he was born and lived until the age of six when he moved to the United States.
He is the national record holder in Bermuda in the long jump, setting the mark of 8.22 meters (26 feet, 11 ¾ inches) in the process of winning the Central American and Caribbean Games in 2010 in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, in 2010.
Smith won that meet again the following year before competing in the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, and posting a top jump of 7.91 meters (25-11 ½), the same mark he posted in the 2008 Olympic Games.
In 2008, Smith made his first Olympic appearance in Beijing and finished in 15th place in the long jump, missing the finals by only three centimeters. He said that he learned a critical lesson from that meet that he now carries over into the meet he takes part in.
“I've grown quite a bit both physically and mentally since Beijing,” Smith said. “I'm a much better student of my event now and am strong and fast enough to execute what I have learned. One big lesson I learned is never waste a jump. I did that on the first round jump in Beijing and then missed the final by three centimeters. That won't happen again.”
Smith's dream is not only to make the finals in London, but to also win a medal. His personal best of 8.22 meters would have been good enough to earn a bronze medal in Beijing and is only 0.05 meters off of the top jump in that meet recorded by Greece's Louis Tsatoumas of 8.27 meters.
Earlier this season, Smith was slowed by some injury issues, but he feels that he is rounding into form at the right time with the competition set to begin with the preliminary rounds on Friday, August 3. The finals will take place the following day.
“I'm finally getting healthy and exited to compete,” Smith said. “I know that when I'm healthy, I'm more than capable of making that final. I'm currently in Europe for a couple of tune-up meets to get everything where it needs to be. I'm definitely much faster and stronger than I was for the last Olympics and even last season, so I'm looking forward to doing big things.”
Page 2 of 2 - While competing for the Miner track & field team from 2003-06, Smith made his mark on the program by winning three All-America awards in the long jump, which included a pair of national runner-up finishes at the 2006 NCAA Division II Outdoor and 2007 Indoor Championships. He won the Great Lakes Valley Conference championships in both the indoor and outdoor long jump in 2006 and again at the 2007 indoor meet where Smith repeated as the league's indoor triple jump champion.
Smith was named as the regional field event “Athlete of the Year” by the NCAA for the 2006 indoor season for the Great Lakes region and was also selected as the GLVC's “Male Athlete of the Year” in that same season.
It was during that time at Missouri S&T that Smith began to believe that the Olympics were in his future.
“I remember I jumped 7.45 at Missouri State in 2004 and came to practice the next day telling everyone I was going to the Olympics. They all thought I was crazy,” Smith recalled. “I probably was, but it was a goal that I knew I had to obtain. When I competed in Beijing, I realized that dream but got a taste of a new one – making the final and winning an Olympic medal.”
After finishing his Miner career, Smith moved to Houston, Texas, and began competing on the international circuit. One of his personal coaches is Bryan Schiding, the assistant track & field coach at Missouri Southern State University who served on the Miner coaching staff while Smith competed at S&T.
Smith is one of two individuals with ties to Rolla that will be competing in this summer's Olympic Games. Chantae McMillan, a graduate of Rolla High School who attended the University of Nebraska, has qualified for the United States Olympic team in the heptathlon.