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Running Into The Spotlight, How Olympic Sprinter Akeem Haynes Overcame Adversity To Come Out On Top

Akeem Haynes | 2016 Olympic Bronze Medalist and Resiliency Speaker |

Every dark moment in my past served a purpose, and even though I couldn’t understand it back then, I’ve learned that it is often in our darkest moments that life tests us to truly see what we are made of.

Akeem Haynes

2016 Olympic Bronze Medalist and Resiliency Speaker

× The interview with Akeem Haynes was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.

You competed in both the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympic Games. When you stepped onto the track, what was that moment like?

I was excited to compete for my country and compete against the best in the world. The Olympic Games as a whole is a highly elevated environment because it only comes around every 4 years so it means that much more to you. While I was excited, I was nervous as well because I didn’t want to disappoint myself or let down my people from back home.

There is a lot of emotion during the games and I believe it’s the ones who can control their emotions are the ones who have the most success. The 2016 Olympic Games was special for me because I walked away with an Olympic Medal, it was the icing on the cake. While I don’t think about the medal much right now, I think it will be something I grow to appreciate more as the years go on.

Talk us through your decision to transition into becoming a motivational speaker? Is that something you always knew you wanted to do?

When I was 13, I knew my purpose on this earth was going to be much bigger than sport. At the time I wasn’t sure where those thoughts came from or why I thought that but I just had a feeling inside. It wasn’t until I was 20 that I had an inkling of what that purpose may be.

I started speaking when I was 20 years old. I’ll never forget I spoke at a school one time, and a week after I spoke at this particular school a young man messaged me on Instagram and said. “Your speech of hope saved my life. I was going to take my life that weekend, but then I heard your story and it made me want to live and keep fighting.”

That’s when I knew God had a bigger plan in stores for me other than sport. So I use my story to help remind people of their strength and what they can overcome if they can shift their perspective.


You’ve mentioned before that you’ve had to overcome challenges like homelessness and learning disabilities. What role do you think your past has played in who you’ve become today?

My past made me everything I am today. I was forced to grow up very early, and it made me think differently than the average kid my age. I was thinking about my purpose on this earth when I was 8 years old, most kids, when they are 8, aren’t thinking about that.

Every dark moment in my past served a purpose, and even though I couldn’t understand it back then, I’ve learned that it is often in our darkest moments that life tests us to truly see what we are made of. I was once asked if there was one word to describe me, what would it be? And I said  “Resilient”. When you look at the definition of Resilient which is: “Able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions”  I feel like my whole life has represented that. My past may have been tough, but it also introduced me to my strength.

In August 2017, you received the Athletes in Excellence Award from The Foundation for Global Sports Development in recognition of your community service efforts and work with youth. Can you tell me what that achievement meant to you?

It was unexpected honestly. I’ve never been one to talk about everything that I’m doing in my community or the works that I do behind closed doors. I’ve always believed in doing right by people regardless if its seen or not. But it was a great surprise!

What is a piece of advice you would give to an aspiring athlete?

Focus on what it feels like, not what it looks like. Let me explain what that means.

  • We live in a social media world now, where no matter where we look we see people’s highlights on camera. We see one-handed catches, we see people bench pressing 500 pounds, we see that explosive block start, we see the results, but we never see the countless number of reps it took to get to that point.
  • But when you focus on what it feels like, it gives you an understanding that some days are going to be learning days. Some days are going go really well and you will feel like you are making huge progress forward, and some days you’ll feel like you’re taking steps backwards.
  • But just remember It all matters, It all serves a purpose. If you didn’t have those tough days, you wouldn’t appreciate the good ones. If you didn’t get it wrong, you wouldn’t figure out what it feels like to get it right.
  • Focus one day at a time and make the most out of each session, each rep, each competition, To become a high calibre athlete, you must learn to have short term memory. Meaning doesn’t take your losses to heart. You will fall and you will have some tough days, but learn what you can from those moments and then apply it to your next training session.
  • Success is a steep climb and it requires a lot of small steps to make it to the top.

Anastasiya Romanska Anastasiya's Final Thoughts

Akeem Haynes shows us that everyone, no matter how successful, goes through their own set of challenges. He is a big believer in focusing on what you can achieve in the long run, rather than focusing on what people are thinking about you at the moment. His transition from an Olympic sprinter to a motivational speaker is such an interesting journey. Akeem is using everything he’s learned over the years and sharing his insight in hopes of inspiring the next generation and I’m sure that his words of wisdom will do just that!

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