Following is a lightly edited transcript of my interview with Jason Morgan, Jamaica’s national record holder in the discus throw, which aired on May 30, 2012 on RJR 94 FM. Morgan has twice broken the national record in the past few months with his most recent throw being 67.15 metres on May 12th, and has achieved the Olympic A qualifying standard.
DJM: What accounts for your improved performance so far this year?
JM: This year, I think I am more focused, I’ve lost some weight, I’ve worked on my flexibility, and also just the aim of being the Jamaican discus thrower in the finals, at the Olympic Games.
DJM: That’s what been pushing you?
JM: That’s what been pushing me.
DJM: Tell us a little bit about your training regime.
JM: I can proudly confirm and stand tall to say I coach myself. I work a fulltime job, I work from 7 – 4.15 every day Monday to Friday, and as soon as I get off work I go to practice.
When I see strangers just walking on the track, I will just stop somebody and ask them to record me doing two or three throws and when I go home I try to study that video… pick out the mistakes, pick out the positive things, and work on the next thing the next day. If I see another stranger walking I would just ask them to do the same thing and keep on repeating that ’til my technique (is) sharp.
It’s been a struggle, it’s been a lot of challenges along the way, but I have this aim, I have this focus. I’ve been breaking down some barriers and doing some positive things for myself, and for people who look up to me and also for my country.
DJM: Let me go back to you coaching yourself – tell me how come.
JM: I graduated from Louisiana Tech University , the coach who is there, I know he’s got his university athletes to coach, and I know he has to spend time with them. It’s not enough time for me, so it just means falling back on my experience, my drive and willpower, my determination to do it myself…
DJM: It sounds lonely, is it?
JM: Yes, it is lonely, it’s frustrating and it’s also motivating. The frustration part comes in where I don’t think my country, I wouldn’t say my country, but my athletic association, I don’t think they do enough to keep me encouraged.
I’m the best discus thrower over the years, I’m not bragging, I’m not boasting, but just being thankful and humble for that. I reach out for a lot of help, asking for just a little assistance, I’m not trying to be rich from Jamaica, but just a little assistance would be really good, and it would make me feel wanted and appreciated,
DJM: What would you need to help you to continue, to do better?
JM: What would really help me is just a little financial assistance to take care of my travelling, accommodation. I have to take care of my discus and buy my own throwing shoes. I don’t have a sponsor, I don’t have a shoe contract, everything comes out of my pocket for gear, shoes. Every year I say I’m going to use faith to keep going, I’m going to show determination to say ok, someone can help me, someone can reach out, somebody can see what I’m doing, and just be compassionate in some way, but it’s been really hard, it’s been really challenging.
I’m going to be the first Jamaican to represent my country well in the Games (in discus), I’ve been to two World Championships, the first and only Jamaican to ever do that, it’s balancing on both sides – to continue and to stop. I’m still weighing my options to see whether I’m going to continue after this year, whether I win the Olympics or not, because sometimes just a little motivation, a little help somewhere, can make a big difference,
DJM: For the next couple of weeks leading up to the Olympics, tell me what your schedule is going to be.
JM: I’m going to the New York Grand Prix on June 9th, and then there’s another meet in Houston …but I’m not sure about going to that because financially I don’t have that, to go there to compete, so after the 9th, I’ll probably just sit back and work hard and get ready for the Jamaican trials.
It would be really good if I can get some help because I’m going to be missing some days from work, and I still have kids and family to take care of, and I don’t get paid while I leave to represent my country, I also don’t get paid when I leave to go to meets, so I’m competing and worrying about all that stuff, it’s so much pressure, (and I’m) trying to take that pressure out on the discus, I guess that’s why I’m doing so well this year, ‘cause I’ve been showing a lot of aggression in my throws.
DJM: You’re channeling all that into the throws?
JM: I’m trying, probably I need to (channel) a whole lot more when I get to London.
DJM: We know the track events, especially the sprint events are the glamour events that get the most attention, does that frustrate you?
JM: I don’t think it frustrates me anymore. Over the years, to be honest it frustrated me. I’ll go to some meet, the World Championships or whatever and sometimes I’m the only discus thrower there, everybody is a runner, jumper, whatever, I’ll look around and (think) ‘This feels really good, to say I am Jamaica’s best thrower standing right here representing really well, but my focus is just on me, and doing the best I can, while inspiring others to achieve, in spite of the challenges or struggles they go through.
DJM: A couple weeks ago I spoke with Julian Robinson, the Calabar (High School) throwing coach and (track and field commentator) Hubert Lawrence, one of the things they said is that after most people leave college and those athletic scholarships are up, most people just quit at that point. What’s been allowing you to keep going?
JM: There are challenges in every area, in everybody’s life. My thing that keeps me going is that all great achievements require time…also just to be able to do something that nobody has ever done before.
I know everybody’s going to jump and say yes, they knew he could do it, he’s strong and everything, but there are days when I’m crying. I’m a big man, 6’3”, 288 pounds, and I’m not afraid to say I cry through frustration, I’m not afraid to say I cry through victory, but I just want to keep breaking down barriers, and let it be known that staying positive and having great faith, working hard, can achieve a whole lot.
DJM: How do you assess the competition this year?
JM: I look at that field as, they’re just human like me. They may have some support and they may have two, three, different coaches, but at the end of the day, it’s what you bring on that day. I don’t have (anything) to lose, I don’t have (any) pressure to do (anything), I’m actually doing this because I really love it, and I’m doing this because I know there are a few positive people in my corner that really want me to do well.
So those guys, they know I’m coming, they know I’m on the way. Last year they looked at me at the World Championships, I finished 17th in the world, and they took top 12 to the finals so I was really close. I think that’s why I’m motivated to just make a difference, and (to) say on that day I’m going to be on the podium, that’s the aim.
DJM: Do you think you’re on track to achieve that?
JM: For sure. I’m just waiting to get some of the distance I get in practice. It’s a good thing I (got) that 67.15(metres), broke the national record, I know 70 metres can turn some heads and shock some people and open some eyes, so I am waiting for that to happen at an official meet.
DJM: I know Maurice Smith, the decathlete, introduced you (to discus) but what kept you with it?
JM: I was a sprinter at Calabar, I was a jumper, a triple jumper, but Maurice Smith encouraged me to do this and (I’m giving a) shout out to Mr. Noel White, because a lot of days they (told) me “Come on, you can do this.”
In 1999 I was a gold medalist in the medley relay, and I went to work one summer and gained about 40 pounds and (came) back to training and couldn’t get it off. Maurice was the one who pushed me and said, “Come on, you can be a thrower,” and I’d be like “No, nobody really looks at the throwers.”
It really motivated me to see how someone can really push you to do something and then I (found) …my own motivation and just (kept) going from then.
DJM: Any regrets?
JM: No regrets. I’m not sure if I would do it all over again, but I feel good about what I’ve achieved, and also feel good about when I’ve been through and still (am) going through to be where I’m at. I’m just thankful, this is just the grace of God that’s brought me to where I’m at today. I’m feeling good and I’m feeling positive.
DJM: What would you say to the Prime Minister who has the sports portfolio?
JM: I would say please, please, I need just a little help, a little recognition, to do some damage. I’m not going to say I’m going to be the Usain Bolt of track and field but I am going to be the Jason Dadz Morgan of the throws, so please do what you can. Anything you can do will be greatly appreciated.
You can get more information about Jason Morgan at his website, www.jasonmorganonline.com.