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‘I Am Going To Live Up To My Word To My Father And Push Towards Competing In My Last Olympics’

Bria and Leevan Sands.

Bria and Leevan Sands.

As of Monday, March 30, 2020

#By BRENT STUBBS

#Senior Sports Reporter

#bstubbs@tribunemedia.net

#AS a tribute to their deceased father, Leevan ‘Dragon’ Sands Sr, triple jump siblings Leevan ‘Superman’ Sands and Bria Sands are more committed to making their final and initial appearances respectively at the 2020 Olympic Games.

#Now that the four-yearly global sporting spectacular in Tokyo, Japan, has been postponed from July 24 to August 9 until 2021 because of the spread of the Coronavirus Pandemic, the duo has gotten more ammunition to fulfil a desire of their father as they prepare themselves to make Team Bahamas.

#“I am going to live up to my word to my father and push towards competing in my last Olympics. That is what my dad would want,” said Sands of his father, who passed away on February 25. “We also spoke about this before he died, about me and my sister competing on the same Olympic team.

#“So I just want to take some time off before I get back to the drawing board when this issue with the coronavirus is over and start my off season to prepare for the Olympic Games in 2021.”

#Preparing for his fourth and final Olympics, Sands said the postponement has given him the opportunity to get refocused and do some things that he didn’t get to do in the lead up to the games this year. He intends to get stronger and be more than ready for Tokyo next year.

#“Our dad played a bigger role in our lives, making sure that we stay focused on our goals and aspirations,” he said. “I’m a little emotional, but with him not being here anymore, I think I have to step up and be that father-figure to Bria and encourage her.

#“I want to be able to help her to get past any adversity that she faces, like he was there for me when I faced my own in the past,” Sands said. “So I have to step my game up and encourage her so that she can be prepared for the games. I’m going to make sure that we stay on track to accomplishing that goal.”

#The former basketball player at Temple Christian Academy, who went on to excel in track and field at Florida Air Academy, hopped, skipped and jumped his way to the Bahamian male national record of 17.59 metres in the triple jump in his debut at the Olympics in 2008 in Beijing, China.

#The 38-year-old Sands was aiming for the gold in his second appearance in London, England in 2012 when he suffered a horrific knee injury.

#With his parents, Leevan and Elaine Sands at his side as he was wheeled into an ambulance for an emergency surgery, Sands lifted a clutched fist and wowed that “I will be back.”

#In a remarkable comeback, Sands found himself on his third Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, but he failed to advance to the final. Prior to his Olympic glory, Sands also claimed a bronze at both the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England and the 2003 World Championships in Saint-Denis, Paris.

#The NCAA champion for Auburn University also got a silver at the Pan American Games in 2015 in Toronto, Canada, a three-time gold and a bronze medallist at the Central American and Caribbean Championships, NACAC bronze medallist, a two-time gold and silver medallist at the CAC Junior Championships and a winner of four gold and three bronze at the CARIFTA Games for regional junior athletes.

#Bria Sands, 22, is now training under the watchful eyes of former Bahamian triple jumper Nyles Stuart in Marietta, Georgia. She doesn’t have the credentials as her older brother. The Abilene Christian High School graduate is now in her senior year at Life University and she hopes to make her own sunshine.

#This year, she captured the title in both the long and triple jumps and was fourth in the high jump, while placing fifth in the 60m and helping Life University to victory in the 4 x 400m relay at the Mid-South Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships over the weekend of February 21-22 at the Defiance RM & CM Small Track in Defiance, Ohio.

#Unfortunately, she was unable to participate in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Indoor Track and Field Championships March 5-7 at the Sanford-Jackrabbit Athletic Complex at South Dakota State University in Brookings, South Dakota, the same weekend that they buried their father.

#Sands, who majors in general studies in biology and psychology, has already earned seven NAIA All-American honours, but she was a little disappointed that she couldn’t go for another athletic achievement.

#“I believe that everything happens at the right time. Everything happens in God’s time,” she stated. “So I think it is a good thing for all athletes to get their mindset ready and for those who were struggling mentally and physically to get them up to par.

#“I think with this Covid-19 being so contagious, I think it’s something that we need to consider for the safety of athletes and their families. So I think it’s a good thing that it’s been postponed. I know some athletes were considering retiring after the Olympics, but we all have to just continue to work hard because we will face adversities wherever we go and whatever we do.”

#Disappointed that she didn’t get to compete in her final NAIA indoor meet or the outside season because she was home for her father’s funeral, Sands said she is thankful for health and strength and the fact that she can get refocused for the rest of her career as she looks forward to becoming a pro athlete.

#“I am training with coach Nyles Stuart, who is a great coach and who I believe can bring out my best potential,” Sands said. “He’s been working hard with me to get to where he sees me where I can be and for me to believe in myself.

#“My goal is to become a professional athlete. So we will see how it goes. I’m just looking forward to being motivated to complete my senior year off strong, even if I don’t get to compete anymore. I know I can do this. I owe it to my father to do it for him.”

#With the spread of the Covid-19, better known as the Coronavirus Pandemic, Leevan Sands said he’s not confined to home in Colorado where he now serves as an assistant coach at the University of Northern Colorado.

#“The university is shut down right now and there is no school competition, so a lot of the seniors have shutdown their season,” he said. “I think the NCAA is trying to see how they can give everybody back their senior year, if they so desire to compete.

#“But for me, everything was going well as a coach. We went to our indoor conference championship and one of our guys got a silver medal in the triple jump. That was the first time in the school history. He also set a new personal best. And I had two girls in the final of the triple jump, which was also a first for the school.”

#Additionally, UNC got a silver medal in the high jump and a bronze in the 4 x 400m relay. These were some of the performances of athletes whom he met there and helped to inspire. Sands said he has not even dealt with the incoming freshman class, so the future looks bright for him at UNC.

#And while he’s joggling his time with his coaching chores, Sands has created the ideal situation for him to spend the time preparing for his quest to compete in his final Olympics.

#“It’s the same thing I have been doing at Auburn,” said Sands, who served as an assistant after he graduated. “It’s all about scheduling your time. I coach everybody in groups, so I get a chance to get my training in.”

#Right now in Colorado, Sands said he’s enjoying weather conditions in the 50s, which is sort of hot for the area.

#“It’s pretty down here. It’s nice,” he stated. “I’m really enjoying it.”

#Bria Sands, on the other hand, said she’s waiting on school to resume as they are currently on a break.

#Whatever happens, she said she’s looking forward to the rest of the year and hopefully making the transition to the pro ranks and eventually joining Leevan Sands on their first national team together.

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