FROM BREAKING neighbours’ windows to smashing records, a javelin thrower’s still emerging but already notable career belies the slender and humble exterior of Tobago’s latest sporting prodigy.
The northern half of our two-island republic, having produced no small number of outstanding personalities, introduced its latest offering on Easter weekend: the unassuming Tyriq Horsford.
It was at the Carifta Games in St Kitts two weekends ago that Horsford almost literally threw himself into the limelight. A 15-year-old shattering the record in a field event for Boys Under-18 - that’s stuff to make people sit up and take notice. The javelin record had stood at 67.67 metres; Horsford threw the spear a little past that, 70.73m to be precise.
Keshorn Walcott’s gold medal shocker at London 2012 notwithstanding, the Horsford saga started at a primary school in the fishing village of Parlatuvier, some seven years ago. A child used to “pelting stone” had excelled at an event called “throw the cricket ball,” and having watched some older boys in training, had made a habit of begging their coach to let him try out at the javelin.
“And I say, you too young for this,” said his coach Wade Franklyn. “His father told me that he does break everybody glass window in the village. He said, take care of him and train him, he might come out something good.” Franklyn, a Level Four Athletics coach, took the boy under his wing, and Horsford’s throwing distances have increased every year since. Basseterre was his second Carifta outing.
“I was expecting a lot, to throw over 70 metres and break the record,” Horsford said, relaxing amidst the Tobago contingent after winning his pet event at the Secondary Schools Championships last week. “And it was achieved, and that was basically it.”
Slim, and about five foot ten, he can only grow stronger. Horsford is also a decent sprinter, but in the javelin, he has much further to go; though he made the qualifying standard for the World Junior Championships, he is still under the minimum allowable age. Franklyn says he is already showing signs of maturity, noting that Horsford has moved up from training twice to up to four days per week. “I think it’s because of the age, he sees things a little different now, especially after making the national team.”
There seems to be a lot working in the youngster’s favour. Franklyn alludes to natural strength from a heritage of fishing and pulling nets and sails. “He has the capacity to learn, and as a matter of fact, he hasn’t even started to do strength training with weights yet,” he noted. “I really don’t want to push him too fast into that, because I mean his body is still developing. We do more like core work, speed work, jumps, drills, you know, and a lot of technique work, because technique is really important. If your body alignment and hip turns wrong, no way you could throw that distance, so you have to concentrate a lot on technique.”
It’s a lot for the teenager. He attends school at Signal Hill Secondary and trains at Shaw Park in Scarborough.
“I take two days off, like Tuesday and Thursday, so those days will be for my homework,” he explained. On weekends, he travels home to Parlatuvier; he is the youngest of four, having a brother and two sisters.
“My favourite food?” he paused, then smiled. “Dumplings and chicken.” Horsford loves music and relaxes by playing the guitar. “I love swimming,” he added, without prompting. “I love to go to the beach a lot. That is one of the most important parts of my career right now. Javelin puts a lot of strain on your shoulders, so bathing in the sea will recover it faster than usual.” Franklyn believes that Horsford could be throwing 80 metres next year. “Basically, with the mindset and the passion he has to reach that level where he wants to break the world junior record, I think that he’s on the right track.”
He added that Horsford would not be introduced to weights for a while yet. “I think at around 17, because by that time, his body should be more mature. It could slow him down. There are other forms of strength training we could work on.”
For the time being, the pride of Parlatuvier will remain just another ‘Fourth Former’ at Signal Hill.
“My motivation is train hard and shut up,” he said, staring intently at his teammates’ efforts on the track. “You have to be patient because nothing comes easy in life, it’s always by hard work, so you have to dedicate yourself to what you’re doing and try to work and improve, and always listen to your coach.”
Hopefully, the nation’s talented youth are listening.