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Yk mom thrilled son competing at Olympics
Akeem Haynes developed love of sports in Yellowknife, says mother; athlete will run for Canada in 100-metre sprint in Rio next week

John McFadden
Northern News Services
Friday, August 5, 2016

A Yellowknife mother whose son is competing at the Olympics next week in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, says it doesn't matter how he does at the Games - he is already a winner in her books.

NNSL photo/graphic

A proud, beaming Carlene Smith holds a photo of her son Akeem Haynes. The Yellowknife woman will be glued to her television set when Haynes runs for Canada in the 100-metre sprint at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Aug. 13. Haynes lived in Yellowknife as a youngster, attending Weledeh Catholic School. - John McFadden/NNSL photo

Carlene Smith said she will be glued to the TV on Aug. 13 when her son, Akeem Haynes, competes for Canada in the 100-metre sprint. Haynes actually lived in Yellowknife from age six to 12, attending Weledeh Catholic School. He was born in Jamaica and moved to Yellowknife before relocating to Calgary in 2004, said his mother.

"I'm really excited about it. I can't even express my feelings. I am really happy for him," Smith said.

"He has overcome a lot. We went through a lot of hard times together. There were times when we had no food ... When we first came to Canada there were no jobs. It was just me and him and he never complained. I told him that this world is tough and he used those words to apply himself and to become the person that he is today."

Smith and her then-husband Donovan Haynes divorced in Jamaica in 1994. She then came to Canada as a single-mother with her young son in 1998. Haynes stayed in Calgary when is mom returned to Yellowknife, where she now holds down two jobs and raises two young children, ages seven and three.

This is actually the second trip to the Olympics for the 24-year-old athlete. He was on the Canadian team as an alternate in London in 2012 but never got a chance to compete.

Smith said she came to Yellowknife the first time because she had brothers and sisters here. She said she cannot remember exactly why they all came here in the first place.

Smith said Haynes was always very interested in sports, particularly soccer. She said one of the reasons they moved to Calgary was so that he could pursue an athletic career. He was a football running back in high school, Smith said, and then graduated to track. He was offered a scholarship in the U.S. and attended Barton College in Kansas. He currently trains in Phoenix, Ariz., Smith said.

"He was always running growing up. You send him somewhere and he is sprinting even when he was really young back in Jamaica," Smith said.

She added that she saw Haynes just two weeks ago in Edmonton and he assured her that he was completely healthy. He suffered a hamstring injury in 2010, which can on many occasions end a sprinter's career. But he is 100 per cent now, she said.

Smith said although her son is not considered one of the favourites in the 100-metre event, she sees no reason to think a gold medal is outside the realm of possibility, adding that on any given day, if everything goes his way, he could come away with a medal.

"He would love to bring the gold back to Canada," Smith said.

"I told him, whether it's gold, silver, bronze of whatever it is, I will always be proud of him and he will always be proud of himself for going and doing the best he can."

quoteInspired by Donovan Baileyquote

Smith said her son was only four years old when another Canadian sprinter born in Jamaica, Donovan Bailey, won gold for Canada in the 100-metre sprint at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. She said she doubts he can remember that but he has become friends with Bailey.

"He met Donovan when he went to Toronto to compete. Two weeks ago Bailey was in Edmonton to support him," Smith said. "Donovon Bailey is like his mentor, one of his inspirations."

Smith added her son's track coaches have also played a large role in his life.

She said her friends and co-workers are very excited for her and her son. She expects a full house on Aug. 13 when Haynes races in his first heat. Heats for the men's 100-metre sprint begin at 9:30 a.m. MT.

Smith said her son also wrote a book in 2012 called Love, Life and Legacy about his trials and tribulations growing up and his journey to becoming a world-class sprinter. Smith said Haynes runs for his family as much as for himself.

"He said, 'Mom everything I do for my siblings. I don't want them to go through the same hardships I did.'"

Smith said her younger son and daughter are also proud of their older brother and are hoping he does well. Smith said she has been talking to Haynes who is already staying in the athletes' village in Rio. She said she will be watching TV today, hoping to catch a glimpse of her son when he marches with his Canadian teammates in the opening ceremony.

Smith added she definitely will not be working that day. Smith is telling her family and friends that if they want a spot in her living room to watch the race - they'd better get there early.

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