Persistent Pursuit of Progression – An Interview with Mikel Thomas

Stats:

Country: Trinidad & Tobago

Discipline: 110m Hurdles

Noteworthy Accolades: 2x Olympian, National Record Holder

Current World Ranking: 11th

Highest World Ranking: 5th

SB: 13.32seconds

PB: 13.19seconds

Mikel trains at the World Athletics Center, Phoenix.
Mikel trains at the World Athletics Center, Phoenix.

Persistent Pursuit of Progression

Defining success as the ‘persistent pursuit of progression’, Mikel has ‘never been afraid to dream’. Whilst a lot of us – myself included, at times – make our goals too realistic, Mikel calmly and boldly states: ‘the goal is to go as fast as humanly possible’.

And to do this, Mikel stands by his best success habit: ‘consistency before the breakthrough’.

This strategy has served him well in the past, and continues to do so now. Consistency ranks amongst the six key components that led to his lifetime best performance in 2013, the rest being: trust (in the training program), self-belief, grit and determination, focus on the KPIs, and going ‘blank’.

‘I knew I was ready to do something…’ (Self-belief)

He didn’t ‘overthink or overload’, ‘committed to one or two cues’ (KPIs), and experienced a relaxed flow state (going blank).

‘Walking back I heard it was 13.19 and I just went nuts.’

He completely ‘dashed everything…against the line’ (grit) and walked away with a well-deserved PB time.

Mikel setting up his own camera during our interview. Life may be up and down, but he remains at peace through it all.
Mikel setting up his own camera during our interview. Life may be up and down, but he remains at peace through it all.

But not every race can be ‘smooth, easy, cake, butter’ (Mikel’s own words for his PB performance)! Yet, knowing this, how many of us allow our bad competitions to affect us to the point of exhaustion, and even depression? These feelings are heightened when bad races are analysed in slow-motion, torn apart and each component exposed for its inadequacies.

Allowing yourself to be defined by each race can be an emotional rollercoaster. ‘I got tired of that. There’s no stability in that.’

It is not only athletes who suffer from identity crises when they fail. You can relate to this feeling if you have a bad test result at college, get passed up on a job promotion, or get laid-off from your dream job! Thankfully, defining himself ‘away from the sport’ and ‘learning to be content whether I am high or low,’ Mikel knows that external factors should not negatively influence his spirit and emotions. This is no surprise considering his favourite Bible verse at the moment is Proverbs 23:7, ‘As a man thinketh in his heart so is he’.

On this pursuit of progression, bad races are not the only obstacle to his success.

‘Last year I was homeless’.

There is this illusion that an athlete at one time ranked as high as 5th in the world must be rolling in it.
There is this illusion that an athlete at one time ranked as high as 5th in the world must be rolling in it. (Mikel at his first Olympics in Beijing 2008.)

Wow! I bet this was the last thing you expected to read, huh? This revelation certainly shocked me, anyway! Whilst appreciating that as athletes we are ‘fully committed to what we do’, he admits that he is justified to ‘expect a certain amount of fruit’. There is this illusion that an athlete at one time ranked as high as 5th in the world must be rolling in it. But this is often far from the truth! Although a short-term inconvenience, it was nonetheless a difficult reality at the time. And without adequate remuneration, stories like his will remain commonplace.

So why do you still hurdle?

Mikel attributes a lot of his accomplishments to his ‘stubborn relentlessness’, and admits that this same fire fuels him now, as well as the desire to inspire others ‘from the same hard circumstances as [himself]…to keep fighting and keep persisting.’

In The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho talks about embracing each moment of your Personal Journey because that in itself is worthwhile…

Mikel has suffered a fractured clavicle (the pin is still there!) in 2009 – his biggest injury – but he has also visited some extraordinary places that he may not have had the chance to visit if he weren’t an athlete (perks)!

Once we realised Brasil was where we first met, we went for the high-five!
Once we realised Brasil was where we first met, we went for the high-five!

Switzerland and Brasil rank amongst his top two destinations. About Switzerland, he says: ‘There is something so majestic about summertime where you’re near a lake and you can still see snow on the caps of the mountain’. And having already experienced Brasil’s vibrancy, he is ready to be there in 2016! ‘I love everything from capoeira to fried cheese to samba.’ (Personally, the caipirinhia’s and Flash Dance gym styles were my favourite discovery.)

And he has also had the opportunity to inspire greatness in others, coaching two athletes to the Commonwealth Games – their first national vest – a ‘heartfelt moment’ that he unsurprisingly labels his ‘biggest accomplishment so far’.

What’s next?

‘I’m on the right path, I just have to stay the course’.

Mikel does not hold back when revealing his aims for the future, both on and off the track. Acknowledging that he has been graced with God-given ‘talents…bestowed to advance the kingdom,’ he believes that success is more than fast times, and continually glorifies God both in victory and defeat. He also has a heart for encouraging and guiding others, and knows that his journey does not end when he stops hurdling.

‘Away from the track, I would like to help change the culture of the sport….I would like to expand people’s mentality. I’ve always looked up to Muhammad Ali, and it’s not just about how dominant he was as an athlete, but also how much of a philanthropist and game-changer he was in society…he promoted his God in his own way, and I want to be able to do that.’

Maintaining that Ali audacity, Mikel states: ‘I don’t believe in working for second. If it was up to me, I would try to run the world record every time I step out on the track. I probably have the world record for 5’8 guy hurdler!’ Now if this isn’t an example of boldly stepping into your future, I do not know what is! I only wish to be able to claim and believe in my success with such audacious ease. How about you?

Mid-interview funny faces! Laughter is good for the soul, guys! :)
Mid-interview funny faces! Laughter is good for the soul, guys! 🙂

Follow Mikel on Twitter @Mikel_Thomas & like his Facebook page.

P.S. As always, if you enjoyed this story, have a look through the rest of my site, and like, comment, subscribe and share! If you’d like to get in touch for any reason, drop me an email at abbeyrosesuccess@gmail.com. Thanks for reading!

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