Jerome Blake behind new foundation advocating for a high-performance athletics training center in Kelowna – Kelowna News

Cindy White

He’s a world champion, but Jerome Blake hasn’t forgotten about his home club in Kelowna.

The 26-year-old sprinter and his Canadian teammates the gold medal in the men’s 4×100 meter at the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon last week, stunning the crowd by upsetting Team USA.

“I think they said I ran 8.6, and they’re saying it was one of the fastest times run on the back stretch ever,” said Blake, from his training base in Florida, where he is recovering and preparing for his next competition at the end of August.

“It feels pretty special to be part of history, making history, winning gold after 26 years and then running one of the fastest times along with that is pretty cool,” he added.

His Kelowna coach was cheering him on from the stands in Eugene.

“It was incredible to see something like that happen in person and to be part of that atmosphere there and take it all in,” said Pat Sima-Ledding, head coach of the Okanagan Athletics Club.

She notes Jerome is still an Okanagan Athletics Club athlete.

“It certainly gives the younger athletes in the club something to aspire to,” said Sima-Ledding.

“He does, when he’s home, spend a lot of time with the kids in the club. He’s very much one of them, so it’s a great inspiration.”

The pair wants to build on Jerome’s success. They’ve started a non-profit foundation called On Your Mark with the goal of creating a high-performance training center in Kelowna.

“The fact that I’m from Kelowna, and that’s where I started and I’m doing the stuff I’m doing now. Just to show them that, hey, with a little bit more help and facilities around here we could do major things and push out more high-performance athletes out of Kelowna,” explains Blake.

He says there are a lot of kids who love track and field but they just don’t get the same training and travel opportunities that other athletes can access.

Sima-Ledding and some of her athletes are heading to the Legion National Youth Track and Field Championships next week, while another of the club’s runners will be competing in the Canada Summer Games in Niagara, which begin Aug. 6.

Athletics Canada announced earlier this week that Blake and three other athletes who won medals at the world championships would not be competing at the Commonwealth Games, which begin Thursday in Birmingham, England.

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