Athletes are ambassadors for health, that is a general concept. The moment the athlete becomes a professional and goes internationally is when the athlete then becomes an ambassador for something bigger, like a sponsor, a country, and even a culture. The responsibility can bring similarities to that of government ambassadors, where the role is to bring the core ideals and principles to foreign entities.
The purpose of this writing is to clear up a misconception of who we are and our intentions.
I was born in the United States to a Samoan mother. Although that makes me American, my core values are developed by the way I was raised. I was raised in a Samoan culture, a culture of loyalty, honor, family, and among other noble traits. Unfortunately, I couldn’t control where I was born, but I can control what I represent.
I was talented enough to make several USA National teams, including an Olympic Team. For those that know track & field, the USA team is also known as the “hardest team to make”. The task is so difficult, that there are athletes who rank top 10 in the world and still fail to make the USA team. The team is arguably the best; therefore, the athletes represent the best. But, I never felt that representing the “best” was sufficient for my purpose, so I left.
A large part of my family lives in New Zealand and Australia, so that was my initial direction. Although I would have qualified for Australia’s A-Standard Team that pays $80,000 a year, it wasn’t a great enough reason to choose them. I wanted my efforts as an athlete to provide opportunity for others, not just myself. With my unique experience and knowledge, I could become an ambassador to and for Samoa.
I have reached levels in the sport that few have achieved, so it was a perfect opportunity to bring something with me, and that became the nation of Samoa. Samoa deserves honorable recognition by talented athletes, and not a pity clap for unqualified athletes. Samoa should never grace the bottom of the results list, that is not representative of the culture.
It took an unnecessary amount of time to make the switch official (communication, process, etc.), so patience was practiced. However, what I lack patience for is the politics that go along with power given to elected officials who refuse to do their job. Officials (Federation Presidents, Olympic Committee Presidents, etc.) were worried that I wanted to “take” something, or possibly force them to do the work they were elected to do. Well, it’s about time work starts to be done.
There is nothing I would want to “take”. Free Trips? I am an elite track athlete, sponsored by Adidas, that makes a living by racing. Out of the 300+ meets I have travelled to for competitions, three (3) of those trips have been for Samoa, partially paid by my own money. There are arguments that it is an easy way to make an Olympic Team. Alex Rose and myself qualified for the Olympics by our own merits (hitting the qualifying standards), a feat that an average of 25 athletes in the world accomplished in each event. We were one of those athletes.
Samoa was no longer on the list for countries with “unqualified athletes”. There were three (3) countries in Oceania that had qualified athletes for 2016 Olympic Games in Athletics, Australia, New Zealand, and Samoa.
It is not an easy task to be an internationally elite athlete, but for our efforts, we are rewarded with more scrutiny, laziness, and lack of loyalty. We don’t ask for money, but funding does aid in the process. When I hear that the best rugby team in the world pays their athletes 20WST a week, I see disrespect. No wonder they can’t live up to their full potential, because they are treated with ignorance, while the high authority steals their earnings.
The goal is to create wealth for our culture. If you think that you will be rich by funneling money from your sport to your own pockets, then you don’t understand the true meaning of wealth. Sport is bigger than being famous and rich. It is about highlighting the true talents of a nation. We are ambassadors for our country. Therefore, we should be treated as such. Money spent on bettering these athletes is an investment that could enrich Samoa. Why would any team or person visit Samoa if they see how their own athletes are treated internationally?
From the three (3) years I have represented Samoa, I have seen officials do nothing but get free trips, trips spent lounging in sponsored hotels while athletes eat processed food. I have seen officials get elected not off merits, but friendships. I have seen decisions being made about sports they have never attended or know anything about. I have even seen sport funding being spent on bar tabs that date back over 3 years in Apia bars!
That is not the country I was raised to know. All I ask is that officials do their job, and if you can’t, step down for someone else who can. I am more than happy to find well qualified individuals that would be happy to make the change. Athletics Samoa is doing a great job, but they are only a subset of SASNOC. Athletics is not the only sport in Samoa. Prove to me that I made the right decision to represent Samoa, a country rich in culture, loyalty, and honor.
“The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.” F. Scott Fitzgerald
The life of American author F. Scott Fitzgerald was misunderstood. A celebrated author of the early 1920s, his work goes on today to be one of distinguished and prestigious intellect. However, his legacy will always be coupled with his addiction to alcohol. Yet, was alcohol the true poison that led to his early death at the age of 44, or was it his sense of perfectionism and his belief that he was only as good as his last work?
Fitzgerald’s most significant work, The Great Gatsby, did not receive its respective praise until after his lifetime. For an individual who kept detailed records of his daily life, you can only imagine how the perceived lack of success drove deep into his mind. A perfectionist to a fault, can we blame him for his turn to alcohol to cope? It was said that Fitzgerald could barely construct a proper sentence on paper since the “failure” of The Great Gatsby. The belief that he failed and was no longer a great writer took control of his life.
The author struggled his entire life to grasp onto anything that could define who he was, looking to become the next successful author. Whether you identify yourself as a “perfectionist” or not, there is some relevance to his drive of defining his identity. However, one thing to note about Fitzgerald and the reason I chose to speak of him, was the fact that he never let his passion die.
“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function (Fitzgerald)”. There is struggle with holding onto an unexplainable idea of passion in one hand, and the actual circumstance in the other.
The desire to run is indescribable. Somehow, in some way, some power in the universe put me in position to be a runner (hopefully a good runner). There are so many other talents and traits I possess that can be of more ideal use, like my ability to learn topics fast, hence the several graduate degrees I possess. But the circumstances are that in this world of professional running, you are only as good as your last race. And, no matter the conditions of the situation, my last race was almost half a second slower than my absolute best, and that’s a huge difference when the race was only 60 meters long.
What gives us our passion? What gives us this strong emotion that positively affects how we function? What gives us such enthusiasm and limitless energy that is almost impossible to switch off? I cannot answer that, but I can answer that those brave enough to embrace the passion never question the purpose to their life.
From observation, some people would rather be practical than passionate, and merely survive than to live. Then, there are some who let their passion take over and end up doing things that challenge the norm, push boundaries, destroy tradition and ultimately reshape the world as we knew it. To go after your passion is to be deemed different. To go after the unseen parts of your heart requires a high level of bravery. Fitzgerald’s most arguably best work came decades after The Great Gatsby was published, a piece that was never completed due to his untimely death. The half-finished book amounted to be greater than all his completed works put together. The passion to write never faded, and his life was celebrated because of that.
“For what it’s worth, it’s never too late to be whoever you want to be. I hope you live a life you’re proud of and if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start over.” F. Scott Fitzgerald
Jeremy Dodson is an Olympic Track & Field sprinter with a Master's in Business Administration, and Bachelor's in Sociology, Economics, and Neurophysiology.