Day in the Life of Yohan Blake
Yohan Blake working out, Jean-Pierre DURAND for IAAF
Jamaica’s World Champion in the 100m is coming off an injury-plagued season, that made him forgo the defense of his title in Moscow, and can’t wait to be fully back on track.
Yohan Blake lives and trains in Kingston, Jamaica. The titled sprinter is a part of the Racers Track Club, along with other world’s fastest men Usain Bolt and Warren Weir. Last month, within the framework of the IAAF’s project “Day in the Life”, a group of international media got a chance to take a closer look at what is Blake’s life like.
First, we caught Blake, frequently referred to as “the Beast” in the gym, during a morning weight training session. The workout was pretty short, but seemed to be very efficient, as Blake kept putting on more and more plates on the barbell. For his heaviest set in the one-leg press he took 540 lbs!
Ahead of the session, we were told that the athlete would be very focused and intense during training, but there was something going on that morning, that took him out of his zone a little bit. It was an important cricket match, shown on the gym’s TV-sets live. We could see Yohan glancing at the screen from time to time, and even cheering for the West Indies. To be fair, all gym patrons, both elite athletes and local regulars, were quite captivated by the game, as well. As for Blake, it is no secret that the Jamaican is a huge cricket fan. And besides watching the West Indies play, he actually plays himself, almost every Sunday if he is in on the island.
While the MVP Track Club does its track training sessions early in the morning, at 6 am, the Racers aren’t afraid of the Jamaican heat, and hit the track at around 4 pm. Their sessions take place at the sports complex of the University of West Indies. We caught the Racers on an easy day. Both Blake and Weir did most of their session on grass. The workout consisted of drills, plyometrics, sled pulls and uphill sprints. However, most of the work was done in weighted vests, which only looked light. Weir’s west, for example, weighed around 13 lbs. The training session also included several 60m repeats on the track and a heated discussion about who is going to win at the Boys and Girls Championships.
However, outside of training, you won’t find Blake discussing track and field. “I like to take my mind off what I have to do and not to put too much pressure on myself,” he said. During his free time, Yohan likes to spend time at home, watching sports, movies or reading books. Among his favorite ones are “The Notebook” and “Think Big” or “The Gifted Hands” by Ben Carson. “I read all those kinds of books, because they make you aware of life, aware of people. About what they were doing before they reached that position in life, that they have now”, the athlete explained.
Blake has another major passion in live – helping kids in need. The sprinter comes from a poor parish, and his family has been through tough times. He admits, that this is what drives him every single day. “Many times at training when I feel like I cant go, I remember that it is to make my family happy, and also – to help the poor,” Yohan said.
Yohan Blake’s foundation, named YB Afraid, currently supports the Mount Olivet Boys’ Home. This facility is currently serving as a home for 26 boys of different ages. Many of them have been abused and neglected by their parents. Taking over the facility, Blake started with small, but important things. “The first thing he did, when he came, was to see how comfortable the children were. In his quiet way he said that they needed some furniture, and within a few months he sorted that out. He came another time and I told him the washing machine was broken. The following Saturday a commercial washing machine arrived!” said the Mount Olivet Boys’ Home director Sonia Lowe.
Eventually, the foundation helped to set up a multipurpose sports facility and a computer lab at Mount Olivet. The kids are taking part in a program called “Expressions Through Creativity”, studying photography, videography, cooking. “Most fulfilling is that the kids are happy now. When I first came here, it was terrifying. The kids were fighting every day, there was no chemistry, everyone was new to each other,” admitted the athlete. “We’re trying to update them on what’s going on with the world, to strengthen their minds,” he added. Blake plans to expand the foundation’s activities. First of all, YB Afraid aims to take over one more facility in Montego Bay. Further on, the foundation plans to go international.
The work with the foundation brings a whole new meaning to Blake’s performance on the track. The more successful the sprinter is, the more he is able to commit to his charity work. So, after missing last year through injury, he is looking forward to get into full competition gear. “I’m really excited, but my agent has to be keeping me calm,” smiled Yohan.
Mount Olivet, Yohan Blake, photo by Jean-Paul DURAND for the IAAF
So far, he has competed in 200m (20.49) and 400m (47.20) races in February, and in the 4x100m relay at the UTech Invitational on April 12th. His first major event this season will, most likely, also be all about team work – the inaugural IAAF World Relays Bahamas 2014. “I’m a relay person,” said the 4x100m World Record holder. “Back in high school I used to discuss with my teammates, how great it would be to have different countries competing in just the relays,” he added.
So, watch out for “the Beast” on the circuit and in the Bahamas, especially in the 4x200m. In this even, Jamaica will most certainly be looking to get another World Record from the USA’s hands.
(Editor’s note: Elena Dyachkova writes for RunBlogRun on topics far and wide. Her series on A Day in the Life, includes the piece above on Yohan Blake. Elena allows you to see more than the athlete, in Yohan Blake).