Vincentian track star Brandon Valentine-Parris says preparations are in high gear to compete in the Sumer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“Right now, I’m just focusing on getting stronger and getting more power in the weight room,” said Valentine-Parris, 21, in an exclusive Caribbean Life interview Monday after returning the day before from the four-day North American, Central American and Caribbean (NACAC) Under-23 athletic championship in San Salvador, El Salvador, which ran from July 14-17.

“I’m trying to stay healthy and mentally-focused and not be overwhelmed by the opportunity,” added Valentine-Parris, who is one of two Vincentian track stars selected to compete in the Olympics, which spans from Aug. 5-21.

Valentine-Parris — who was the lead athlete when the Thomas Saunders Secondary School (TSSS) first competed in the Penn Relays at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in 2011 — will represent the nation, along with Kineke Alexander, in the 400m in the Rio Games.

“At first, the excitement did not hit me right when I was told,” said Valentine-Parris, who is on an athletic scholarship at Claflin University in Orangeburg, S.C.

“I am extremely excited and grateful [to be] given the opportunity,” added the track standout. “I am also humbled and honored. It really does mean a lot being the first athlete from my school and the first in my family to compete at these games.

“I am working hard but smart, and doing my best to prepare myself,” Valentine-Parris continued. “I am looking to cut my times down before heading to the Olympics.”

He earned the spot on the St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Olympic team through an invitation from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) for achieving the country’s best time (46.11 sec.) in the 400 metres, according to Claflin University.

In competing in the 2nd Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) track and field championships in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) late last month, Valentine-Parris said, while he did not win, he was “pleased that I found myself again.”

He said he placed third in the men’s 400m in 46.77 sec. and fifth in the men’s 200 metres in 21.15 sec., adding that “the joy of the day was being a part of the winning 4x400m relay team.

“At the end of the OECS meet, I was informed that I was selected to represent St. Vincent and the Grenadines at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro,” Valentine-Parris said.

“Being a part of my country’s Olympic team – it hasn’t hit me yet,” he added. “I’m sure, when I get to Rio, everything will set in. “It’s a great accomplishment to make the Olympic team and a great opportunity for me to get the experience I need to continue to be successful in my career.”

Claflin University said Valentine-Parris had a “breakout season” during his sophomore campaign for the school’s athletic team, known as the Claflin Panthers.

During the 2016 indoor season, he placed third in the 400 metres at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II Indoor Track and Field Championships in Pittsburg, Kan. to earn the All-American Status.

During the outdoor season, Valentine-Parris earned three All-Region honors (200, 400, 4x400m relay), and was a NCAA qualifier in the 400, Claflin University said.

On the track, at the annual athletics award banquet for Men’s Cross Country, Valentine-Parris told Caribbean Life that he was awarded the Coach’s Award of 2016.

For Men’s Indoor track, he said he was awarded Most Valuable Athlete for 2016.

“I have broken and set a few school records for both indoors and outdoors,” he said, stating that, for indoors, he attained records in the 60 metres, 200 metres, 400 metres and the 4×400-metre relay.

For outdoors, reiterated that he set school records in the 200 metres, 400 metres and 4×400-metre relay, along with a 400-metre meet record.

“Overall, I ended the indoor season ranking third in the nation [United States] for the 400 metres and ended outdoors ranking fourth in the nation for the 400 metres for Division 2,” Valentine-Parris said.
“It being my very first collegiate Track and Field season, I’m pleased and thankful,” he added, “giving God all the honor and praise for every bit of success.”

At the same time, Valentine-Parris said he has been able to maintain good academic standing, “being listed on the Honor Roll here at Claflin University,” where he is majoring in Sports Management and Business Administration.

Locally, Valentine-Parris said he is a senior member of the I.T. – D.A.T. Track Club, owned and coached by regionally-renowned athletic coach Michael “Lord Have Mercy” Ollivierre.

His mother is Vincentian Lesanne Valentine, whom he considers to be his greatest fan; his dad is Barbadian Franklyn Parris.

“It’s a wonderful thing that he [Valentine-Parris] is going to represent St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the 400 metres [at the Olympics],” James Cordice, the Philadelphia-based mastermind behind the St. Vincent and the Grenadines-Penn Relays initiative and a Vincentian humanitarian, told Caribbean Life.

“I’ve seen his progress since 2011, when he also went to the CARIFTA Games,” he added. “I feel this is a wonderful young man, who is doing a great job representing his school and the country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines; and I’ll like our country to support him financially and physically, so he could be ready for the tasks ahead.”
Valentine-Parris leaves for the Olympics on July 28. The track and field portion of the Games gets underway on Aug. 12, with the first round of the men’s 400m starting at 7:20 pm EST. (Nelson A. King)