ORANGEBURG, SC (courtesy Andres Waters,Thetandd.com) — “It’s been a (long) rough season. it’s just amazing to see how far he (God) has brought me,” Brandon Valentine-Parris said August 24 during his return to Claflin.
After making his Olympic debut representing his country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the games in Rio de Janeiro, Valentine-Parris is back in Orangeburg and ready to relax before looking forward to next season. He competed in the 400-meter dash in Rio on Aug. 12.
During the event, the 21-year-old said he was battling an injury that happened during training in Rio. The injury led to him posting his slowest time of the season (47.62).
“On the Monday before the event, I was working out and I pulled my hamstring,” Valentine-Parris said. “But I spoke to my coaches and they said that I just need to rest.”
Leading up to the race, Valentine-Parris said getting some rest and going through physical therapy decreased his level of pain. But the hurt did not fully go away. And during the race, he started to feel pain again.
“Through the first half of the race, I was perfect,” he said. “(But) as I was coming off the turn, my hamstring started to hurt and I began to panic and I finished sloppy.”
Though he was not able to perform at the level he had hoped, the Olympian said he was still able to have an enjoyable experience and make the most of it.
“Honestly, I was disappointed with my time,” he said. “But now I see what I am capable of and what I can produce.”
While in Rio, the Olympian said he had the opportunity to speak with the winner and world record holder for the men’s 400-meter dash, Wayde van Niekerk. Valentine-Parris said van Nierkerk had motivational words for him that he will always remember.
“He just told me that we’re small, we’re quick and we’re destined for greatness,” he said. “He told me to look past my bad showing and put it behind me.”
“Then he said that he looks forward to seeing me at the World Championships next year.”
In his return to the United States, Valentine-Parris was greeted with smiles by a group of Claflin representatives at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport before making his way back to the university, where an event was held at the Jonas T. Kennedy Health and Physical Education Center to welcome him back.
The rising junior said all of the support he received from his “Claflin family” was heartwarming and greatly appreciated.
“Right now, I feel appreciated, I feel loved and I feel at home,” Valentine-Parris said. “I’m just excited to have this level of support.”
Valentine-Parris also thanked his mother, Lesanne Valentine, and a pair of teammates, Stephon Clumis and Odu Hazel, for their backing during his time at Claflin and during his stint in Rio.
“These guys understood my goal and supported me,” he said of his teammates. “They pushed me and encouraged me to stick with it. That motivation did a lot for me.”
With the Olympics behind him, Valentine-Parris said he has the opportunity to focus on his future with a couple of goals in mind.
“My main goal and biggest point is the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020,” he said. “(And) my biggest goal for next year is the World Championships in London.”
As he prepares for his second year running at Claflin, the junior is expected to enter the season as the top-ranked competitor in Division II in his event for both indoor and outdoor competition.
Valentine-Parris said that while in Rio, he was able to find the fun in running again and he is really looking forward to getting back on track later this year.
“I’m ready for next season,” he said. “My time (in Rio) doesn’t reflect who I am. I didn’t walk away empty-handed.”
Claflin’s track coach Lincoln London said that being able to watch his star compete at the highest level was remarkable. He believes Valentine-Parris can be an inspiration to others already in the program or looking to join it.
“It was a dream-come-true,” London said. “I felt honored to have done that with him, especially doing it here at Claflin. It shows that hard work pays off.”
The 2016 USTFCCA NCAA Division II Men’s Indoor Track & Field South Region Coach of the Year said he believes his rising star will do great things on the track and should even be in medal contention for 2018 Indoor World Championships.
“Next year will be tough, but if he meets his standard, he will be there,” London said.
Valentine-Parris said he expects to perform at a high level, and he expects the same from his teammates.
“Next year is going to be a great year for Claflin,” he said. “The track team is going to turn some heads.”