Akeem Stewart looks beyond Paralympics to Summer Olympics
SHATTERING world records and winning multiple medals at the Paralympic Games isn’t nearly enough to satisfy TT field sensation, Akeem Stewart.
Although Stewart will not be part of this year’s Paralympics, owing to insufficient preparation, the 28-year-old recently gave fans insight into his ambitions, saying his ultimate goals transcend a repeat of his performances at subsequent Paralympic Games. They are to represent this country in field events at future Summer Olympics and World Championships.
Stewart was speaking during a recent instalment of a series of motivational webinars titled There is Hope, hosted by the TT Football Association.
The series has also featured retired TT sports icons, including Brian Lara and Kenwyne Jones, Olympic-bound sailor Andrew Lewis, TT women’s senior football team stand-out Karyn Forbes, and others, all of whom offered participants details into the struggles leading to their eventual successes.
A question was posed by a participant who asked Stewart about his endgame in track and field.
“My (ultimate) goal is to qualify for the Olympic Games,” he said. “To qualify for the Olympic Games will be a big task but it’s something I want to do. So I’ll work towards that until I accomplish that and if I accomplish it, I’ve accomplished everything (I targeted) in the sport.”
At just 28, Stewart boasts a sterling record of sporting achievements, including a pair of gold medals at the World Para Athletics Championships 2017 in London, where he set a world record in the men’s javelin (F44 classification), launching the spear some 57.61m, ahead of Iceland’s Helgi Sweinsson, who would have claimed a championship record otherwise, with a 56.74m second-place effort.
Incredibly, Stewart doubled his success in the men’s shot put (F44), claiming gold and with a mammoth new world record distance of 19.08m, leaving Slovakian Adrian Matusik for the runner-up sort with a distance of 3.09m.
The International Paralympic Committee defines classifications F61-64 to refer to “lower limb/s competing with prosthesis affected by limb deficiency and leg length difference.”
Stewart, dominant in his class and developing still, says his end-gold “as difficult as it will be” is to qualify for and represent TT at the Summer Olympics and World Championships, where competition is stiffer.
It may not come to shock his “able-bodied” team TTO colleagues, whom he trains with while para-athletics is off-season. In fact, Stewart said he trains throughout two separate seasons and often gets about one month’s rest.
He said he surrounds himself with TTO athletes, namely a personal friend and fellow field athlete in Keshorn Walcott, as well as Cleopatra Borel, who he said always supported him and the younger, developing athletes.
Having taken up field events at 14, remarkably late for the sport, Stewart himself is often described by coaches and admirers as having “unlimited” potential, boasting exceptional strength and an ability to quickly adapt to new techniques.
Stewart told the audience, “Track and Field is a family tradition. (Their) support has always been 100 (per cent). Fortunately for me, they encouraged me to do good things.”
He also credits faith for his success.”
His father was his first coach, which he said was tough.
“You cannot slack off or give any kind of trouble that the other kids do because you’re entitled to get licks,” Stewart said with a grin.
Stewart is known to battle through injury in pursuit of his target. Unfortunately, he will not have the chance to defend his Paralympic titles.
Reminiscing on a knee injury he sustained in 2015 Stewart said, “My physiotherapist and doctors told me, ‘Akeem, that’s it for the season.’
“But I’ve been training for the whole of 2014/15 preparing for these games… The physiotherapists, (ruling me out) was just their opinion. I’ve been doing all my training for myself. I’m the only person training in the sporting arena, everybody else on off-season, and I still went out and I broke a world record. I won two gold medals in Toronto. It doesn’t matter what people say. It’s up to you as the individual to have a goal and work towards that goal.”
Stewart claimed two gold medals (discus and javelin, F44) at the 2015 Parapan American Games in Toronto. That same year, he also competed at the 2015 World Para Athletics Championships, winning bronze in the men’s discus throw F44 event.
Two years later, Stewart copped a gold and silver medal in the discus and javelin throws (F64), respectively, at the following Parapan Games in Peru.