Sports Rising Star: Stephan 'AJ' Pascal
From childhood, parents Augustine 'Beno' Pascal and Maria Etienne- Pascal always knew that they would be raising their son, Stephan 'AJ' Pascal, to be one of the greatest cricketers to emerge from Dominica.
"Growing up, my dad would always tell me stories of how my mother would rub on her stomach when she was pregnant with me and say you're going to be a major test cricketer one day," Stephan told the Sun. "So I can certainly say that I was destined to make it big in the sport of cricket."
At three years old, he recalls being taken to the Botanical Gardens with his plastic bat and imagined while he practised with his family, being a cricketer destined for world acclaim.
Now at the age of 16, this ambition seems modest for the recent graduate of the St. Mary's Academy (SMA) who has taken his craft of batting to a level that many double his age and even within his age group have yet to accomplish.
Statistically rated as one of the best batsmen in Dominica, Stephan has throughout his time in the sport attained six centuries and over 30 half centuries and landed a spot on the Windward Island Under-19 team at the age of 12 years old.
His display of brilliance on the field has also allowed him to captain the Windward Island U-12, U-13, and presently U-17 which he recently led to victory in the CWI Rising stars U17 Super50 championship as well as vice-captain of the U19 team.
The Shawford resident who was born and raised in the community of Goodwill admits that he once contemplated the idea of giving up the sport of cricket and switching over to football.
"When I was younger there was a time when I enjoyed football more than I did cricket, but my father sat me down. spoke to me about the opportunities that do exist in cricket instead of football especially here in Dominica," he revealed. "From then on I put football on the back burner, and never really paid much attention to it."
Speaking of his support, the 16-year -old, credits his family and the foundation which they have laid for him.
He also went on to place on record his gratitude for his current and former coaches and managers, who the athlete says continue to play a pivotal role in his life.
In his words of encouragement to his peers or other rising athletes who wish to follow in his footsteps, Stephan stressed the importance of hard work and diligence in the selected sport.
"It is also important to stay confident in your abilities because I too sometimes tend to doubt myself at moments and in those instances I never perform to the best of my abilities. So believe in yourself, practice and work hard towards your dreams, " he said.
As to his future plans, Stephan has decided to postpone attending the Dominica State College (DSC) and instead for the next two years focusing his attention on qualifying for the West Indies U19 team and having his big moment in the 2024 World Cup games.
The teen also has his eye set on being named the best batsman in that tournament, which he is confident will propel his future goal of becoming a professional cricketer.
He remains optimistic that in the future more in and outdoors facilities will be built in Dominica which he highlights will greatly assist young athletes to hone their skills. For his part, Stephans father, 'Beno' who is also the Public Relations Officer for the Dominica Cricket Association (DCA) noted that his entire family is incredibly proud of his son's accomplish at such a young age, and he is hopeful that with the support of all citizens, more opportunities will be made available for future rising sports stars.
"I don't think we are diligent enough in that regard. We leave it all to the system. I sometimes don't believe it's fair to the system and the children themselves because it makes a difference when we all play our part, " he told the Sun.
-By Ronda Luke