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In flight: Long Jumper LaFond at the Commonwealth Games
In flight: Long Jumper LaFond at the Commonwealth Games

After a hamstring injury deflated her chances in the 2016 Olympics, triple jumper Thea LaFond, the Roseau-born and American-raised 27-year-old Maryland High school teacher who resides just outside of Washington DC, got another opportunity to compete in the Tokyo Olympics for Dominica. She looked forward to the Tokyo games yearning for another chance to show her ability and prove that she belongs among the world's best on the biggest stage competing for our island home. Unfortunately, things did not work out as expected.

And when the triple jump competition began on Friday, July, 30, LaFond was up to the moment. She jumped a personal record 14.6 meters on her opening attempt. This was the top mark in her qualifying group of 17 athletes which resulting in her breaking a national record during the semi-finals. She automatically advanced to Sunday night's August 1, finals. Unluckily, she could not secure herself a medal.

But what struck me was not the great disappointment of not winning a medal while our small nation suspensively awaited and anticipated her victory, but her humility and gracefulness after her defeat-or if you may, her mishap. She reminded me of my Dominica Grammar School, Skinner intramural house prayer which we repeated every Thursday morning: "Lord teach us to be humble in victory and honourable in defeat."

I took this line from this prayer and her reality in Tokyo to heart during her post-competition interview. Upon leaving the stadium and returning to her hotel, LaFond found her inbox overflowing with messages. "I am so thankful for all the love and support," Thea said in a message posted on her Instagram page. "I'll try to get back to everyone in the morning. Thank you from the bottom of my heart."

In an interview with a Bethesda, Maryland newspaper before heading to the Orient to compete in the Olympics, LaFond said she has had opportunities to switch her allegiance to the U.S., but stuck with her heart and Dominica. This line resonated with me deeply as I am sure with 'real' (100%) Dominicans who reside in the Diaspora and have found homes far away from its rugged shores and mountain slopes. Indeed, Dominica is always with us; always on our minds.

Lafond attended the University of Maryland and studied media and communications while competing as a hurdler, high jumper, long jumper, and triple jumper. Over the past five years, she has been a teaching assistant for special education classes at Kennedy High in the municipality of Silver Spring in Montgomery County, Maryland. She plans to pursue a Master's degree in special education.

Today our sharply fractured and divided small island home country whose economy is at a standstill where the main security apparatus, the police force appears to be broken, is desperately seeking real, authentic, and honest heroes and leaders. For Dominicans and Dominicans at heart all over the globe, we may have found one in Thea Lafond even for a brief moment. Her presence under the bright lights of Tokyo gave us some much-needed relief, joy and brought smiles to our faces as we desperately try to get and hope for the good news of, and from, Dominica today which are in short supply.

But Thea's presence in Japan, her work ethic, and her humility have reminded us of what it is to be a real Dominican with core unaffected values and mores are no matter where we reside, what we do, or who we associate with. She has not only put Dominica on the map at the 2020 fourth Olympiad games but has all given us hope and courage for today and the future.

The whole nation and our people (all over) send love to you. You may miss the podium ceremony in Tokyo but you have 'gold medalled' with all of us who love and sincerely care about you and our small island nation. You gave it your all and left it on the track. Your hop, skip, bounce and jump and determination on that track in Tokyo are now indelibly sketched in the deepest recess of our minds and souls. God's speed Ms. Lafond and all the best.


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