Sports rising star: Ajaniah "Ajani" Casimir
It's a euphoric feeling that young cyclist Ajaniah "Ajani '' Casimir, knows all too well and usually experiences during his big competitions.
The moment when his heart starts beating faster. The strange feeling in the pit of his stomach feels a little like nausea, but in a good way. His palms get sweaty and his breathing gets so hard that he has to remind himself how to do it: "Breathe in, breathe out."
Nevertheless, he loves it.
After receiving his first tricycle at a very young age, the now 14-year-old developed a love for bikes, to a point where he would often ask to take his new best friend everywhere with him.
"I wanted to take it to school, to the supermarkets, even when I went to the bank with my mother,'' he jokingly revealed to the Sun.
As he grew older, and he started admiring cyclists such as Koath and Levi Baron, Chester Letang and a few other local cyclists, the itching for cycling just wouldn't go away.
"Brams Anderson, he was the one who really pushed me into cycling. I can remember this one time I was just riding and he pulled me aside and he said he sees potential in me and that I am able to go somewhere with cycling. He then brought me to my first race at the age of 10. Though I didn't do well, it gave me a love for the competitive side of cycling," he revealed.
From that moment, his cycling fever really began, and he used as much time as he could to hone his skills.
It wasn't long after that Ajani began competing against the seasoned riders and though in the start he would often get left behind, now, four years later, he prides himself as being one of the fastest cyclists in Dominica, who on many occasions has outshined those he once couldn't keep up with.
At the time of the interview, the teen who has cupped several trophies locally and regionally had just returned from a weekend competition, Tour de la Martinique where he captured the third-place position among 50 riders as well as nine trophies.
Speaking on advice for young aspiring cyclists, the St Mary's Academy (SMA) student highlighted the importance of finding the right discipline and a drive for the sport.
To start, he recommended one thing: "Just have fun."
He further added, "it doesn't matter what anyone may say, the difficulties you may encounter, no matter how hard it may be, as long as you have the passion, go for it. I had a lot of setbacks. During my journey I had times where I was sick, I had times where I didn't have a bike, times where I was greatly discouraged but the initial drive that I had for cycling just kept going."
As to his future goals, Ajani who also has a passion for the French language loves reading books as well as one who is passionate about his religion Yahweh, says that he hopes to either become a doctor or an engineer and a pro cyclist of course.
"I see myself as a professional who can one day compete in the Tour de France. I want to go to the top level on the international scene and make a name for myself and Dominica," he says.
The teen acknowledges that the only way this can be done is by finding a proper balance between school and cycling which he says can often be difficult.
He used the opportunity to also sound a call to parents to provide greater support to their athletically gifted children who have the potential to accomplish the many feats which he has.
"I had a belief in myself at age, but the belief was not the thing that really helped me. It was more so the support that I had from everyone around me," he says.
His father, Dr. Barry Casimir, echoed similar sentiments and told the Sun that the support his son has received from family members, the Dominica Cycling Association (DCA) business establishments such as Auto Trade, Fine Food Inc, and L'Express des Iles, to name a few, was one of the key factors to Ajani's success.
"Sports is no different from education. Without family-supporting financially, and emotionally, there is no way the athlete is going to go anywhere. Small things like taking the athlete to a different tournament," he said. "While the athlete may be very good, without getting into good competition for people to actually see how good that athlete is or even to compete, the athlete is just an athlete that we may just believe that is good but without that support, it is very difficult for athletes to move from point A to point B."
Dr. Casimr is hoping to have his son enrolled in more competitions outside of Dominica, to improve his skills, but most importantly, to ensure that Ajani continues the trajectory as relates to education, as he noted the two must go hand in hand.