Mikel Thomas is an International Hurdler who represents Trinidad and Tobago in the 110m Hurdles. He is a 3 time Olympian having competed at the 2008 games in Beijing, the 2012 games in London and the 2016 games in Rio. He is a 7x National champion and National record holder and a double Pan American medal winner, as well as having competed in 5 World Championships, the Commonwealth games and the Central American and Caribbean games. One of the highlights of his career though undoubtably came in 2015, when he won the North American, Central American and Caribbean Championships in Costa Rica. Remarkably Mikel has also just become a Full time Firefighter and combines being a World class athlete with that critical responsibility.
Mikel told us he grew up on the island of Trinidad with his elder Sister and his Grandmother, with his Grandfather also playing an important role in his life as a Father figure. His Mother had left the island when he was young to go to the US in search of a better future for the family, something that often happens in Caribbean families, in order to give the children the greatest opportunities in life. Mikel didn’t have much contact with his Father till later in life although he was around on the island. As a child Mikel didn’t understand the absence of his parents, which resulted in him struggling with knowing who he was and where he could find his identity. Mikel said “Ultimately I began to search for that identity through other things such as Sports, the Sciences and Academics as well as seeking affirmation through those different avenues because I was unable to get it from my parents.” As it was, Mikel gave every endeavour 100% of his effort 100% of the time and as a result excelled in all those areas
At the age of seven he left the island to go live in Brooklyn with his Mother. It was an extremely rough neighbourhood that he would spend most of his youth in, where there were a lot of bad things that could have pulled him down the wrong path and ultimately destroyed him. Mikel even recalled that there were times when he and his friends got shot at on the way to Sports practice and although there were many of his peers in the area that chose one path, Mikel being exposed by good role models to different options, chose another way.
As a child Mikel used to live to run and race for fun all the time but it at the age of seven, at a Sports day, which his father while he was in Brooklyn came to watch, Mikel managed to win a race against much older boys and come away with a medal. It was at that point, that a seed was planted and that Mikel said to himself that maybe one day, he could make something of his passion for running.
Once he entered high school it wasn’t long before his gift was discovered. The High school Dean who was also the track coach took Mikel on and almost taking over where his Grandfather left off he became a Father figure to Mikel and still is to this day. The relationship came possibly at the perfect time, at an age when Mikel was just beginning to deal with all the changes and struggles in life that a teenager goes through.
At the age of 18 Mikel went back to Trinidad to represent his country at the CARIFTA trials as a Junior and won and set a National Junior record in the hurdles. This was after teaching himself the event, after not starting hurdling till his senior year in high school at 16. He began as a 400 meter hurdler running the 110m Hurdles only 3 times that whole year including trials and finals. Later after being transferred to the University of Kentucky he was encouraged to continue hurdling and in 2007 at age 19 his career took off with a great summer, where he competed against some of the best hurdlers in the world travelling all around the globe. The following year in 2008, was the first time Mikel really focused on the 110m and remarkably he made it to the first of 3 Olympic Games at the age of just 20.
Mickel grew up in a Christian family and although when really young he had an idea of who God and Jesus were, it wasn’t really a true faith and understanding that meant a great deal to him but more just what he had been told and It only really started to become more personal and real as he became older. He knew that God was always there with him as a child but growing up without his parents he always had questions and felt that he wasn’t allowed to ask them. As he matured a little, he discovered the truth, that it was God that had put that curious nature inside of him, as he does all children and that he was free to ask whatever he wanted. Mikel said that in that, he was able to learn who God was and to learn more and more what it meant and what is was to be loved by him.
Finally we asked in closing what he wanted you guys to learn from his story and Mikel had this to say. “I want you to never set limits on your expectations. I’ve been chasing the world record for as long as i knew it existed. I’ve not achieved it yet but look at where it’s got me and just look what that desire and drive has allowed me to do and if I’d never have taken that leap I would never have been able to see what God can do either. Sometimes you have to have a dream so big, that it’s impossible to achieve it without God.” Great words from Mikel.
His next ambition is to compete at the World Championships and become a World Champion in Doha in 2019 and the goal then is to go onto the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo for what would be unbelievably, his fourth Olympic games. All the while he will be working as a firefighter and saving lives, which as we mentioned, we’ll hopefully be finding out more about in the future, as well as following his sporting journey all the way to hopefully a fantastic ending.