A Hokie's Road to Rio
Literature and art transcend any geopolitical boundaries. They’re an expression of humanity that’s purely honest. Once every four years this language is brought to the sporting world where the sculptors are the athletes, toiling away for hours at a time on the form of their jump, the angles of their marksmanship, and the build on their arms. The Olympics are a haven, a place where warring states can coexist for a brief period of time in the spirit of competition.
Virginia Tech’s full of exceptional individuals and on the tail-end of the Olympics, I was fortunate enough to come into contact with a Hokie who found themselves with their nation’s (Haiti) name across his chest this past August. 100 meter sprinter, Darrell Wesh, was generous enough to agree to my request for an interview about his experience in Rio and what it’s like to be a world-class track athlete.
First, I’d just like to thank you for sitting down and doing this interview with me.
Yeah, no problem.
We’ll get to the athletics part but first, just give me some insight as to who you are on campus, as a student.
I graduated last year, actually. I did five years, I did property management and I did human resources.
Oh okay, so this is just so foreign to me: are you a full-time athlete right now?
Of course running must take up a lot of your time but are there any hobbies/passions you have?
Well I hope to start a business, a car detailing business. That’s one of my passions you know, automobiles. I’m making my business cards hopefully next week and all that. Got my little Facebook page – I’m hoping it’ll grow through this Blacksburg community.
What’s an average day consist of for you when you’re at Tech?
It’s pretty boring. I’ll tell you that.
Well, I’m sure you’re running a lot.
You know, maybe a typical day would: I wake up around six, I got weightlifting to do, I get through weightlifting and I go home and take my protein shake / recovery shake. Go to sleep for a couple hours, wake up, I got to eat something before practice that I’ve got later on in the afternoon. So I go to practice for maybe two hours and then I’m free. Then I’m usually hanging out with some girl somewhere.
Now, turning our attention towards the Olympics, what was the big moment for you in terms of realizing where you were? Was it when you got onto the starting block or during the opening ceremonies – or perhaps at some other point?
The big moment was last year. When I qualified. It wasn’t really but it’s called the last-chance meet. When you qualify for the Olympics you have a one-year time period to qualify for it. To make that time qualification and I made it as soon as that year period started; so I was like, “Oh yeah, I don’t have to really ‘go hard’ for the next year,” because I already made that standard. That was really the big moment, as soon as I finished running I called my sister because my sister – she was a 2012 Olympian, she was in London. As soon as I finished, I called her and said, “I made it, I did it. I did it.”
What was that moment like getting into the starting blocks – or walking into the stadium?
Walking into the stadium I was like, “Woah, I’ve never seen this many people before. And I’ve been at some big meets, you know? NCAA Division 1 nationals, that was – I got fourth – it wasn’t anywhere near as big obviously but it was kind of a fleeting moment though, ‘cause as soon as you go out there you’ve got to get your blocks set. They don’t let you stand around there, when you go out there, you’re ready to run. As soon as you go out there, they’re ready to start the race. So you’ve gotta set your blocks, get your mark right, because it’s Showtime.
You run for the track team here at Virginia Tech, what’s the training regimen for an Olympic sprinter, how have the coaches here helped in your growth and development as a track star?
To tell you the truth, the last guy – because we got a new coach right when I was leaving, we got a new coach. That’s poignant because the last coach we had, the one I trained under didn’t do anything to help me. I did it myself. I did it all myself, so from my Sophomore year to my Senior year I trained myself. You know how hard it is to train yourself?
I can’t imagine having that self-motivation day-by-day. That’s pretty harsh but that’s really impressive.
As an athlete, where do you go from here, can we expect to see you in Tokyo?
Yeah, absolutely. Next year is the world championships and that will be in London, as of now, I’m staying under the Virginia Tech coach – the new coach – and assisting the track program as well.
Unfortunately, I feel that I should address it since so much was made of it – what was your impression of Rio? We only have second-hand accounts of discolored swimming pools and questionable sanitation, what was your experience as someone who was actually there?
Well, the media obviously over exaggerates everything. The water seemed fine. Maybe some parts were bad but for the most part the water was fine. I never saw a mosquito all – I never saw a single mosquito while I was there. The crime... I mean, we have crime in America, every day. It was the same in Brazil. The only reason I felt “unsafe” outside of the village was because I couldn’t speak Portuguese. That was the only reason the people there didn’t make me feel unsafe.
Well, I’m glad to hear that. What was the one thing that you’ll remember forever?
Nothing immediately comes to mind... I guess it was the opening ceremony. All the countries coming in, waving their flags and then you walk through this long, winding path to get to the other side of the Stadium and on the other side of the gates is all the civilians, people cheering you on. Any time you go by their line-of-sight they’re just cheering the country’s name so for me it was like: “Haiti, Haiti, Haiti.” And it was really cool. Once you get into the stadium, all the athletes get to mingle and I was taking pictures with all sorts of different people. It was crazy, the amount of diversity you experience in one day.
Last question: are there any good stories or perhaps insight into the process of getting to the Olympics that you’d like to share?
Well, I’d have to say: Olympians are just regular people. You know, we’re just regular people. I went into the cafeteria and there was this girl, she was sitting all alone – I mean, a lot of people sit all alone but I just saw her and I sat beside her and it was just casually brought up in the conversation that she had just gotten a silver medal. And I was like “Woah, I’m sitting next to a silver medalist in swimming.” And she was like, “Yeah, no big deal.” (He laughs a little) “No big deal.” You see a lot of stars sitting alone, there’s no big entourage, you know, we’re just people.
Yeah, I gotcha. Well, that about covers it. Thank you very much again.
Yeah, you’re welcome.
As we parted ways and I wished him the best of luck in the future, Darrell said, “Don’t worry, you haven’t heard the last of me.”