EmilyBlog – The next generation of Olympians

By Emily Ridlington, Sports Media Canada Special Correspondent and

International Olympic Committee Young Reporter

Singapore – She might not have clocked a time as fast as Usain Bolt’s just yet, but she is the third fastest woman in the Bahamas.

At 16-years-old, it is expected Marva Etienne will be a force to be reckoned with at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

Marva Etienne and young fans

Marva’s specialty is the 100 metres. In late June, the very modest, spunky and down to Earth teen ran her personal best time of 11.94 seconds in a 100 metre race in the country’s capital of Nassau.

While there were people her age competing the woman who snagged first place was two-time Olympic medallist, the island’s national track star Chandra Sturrup.Etienne lost to this legend by only 0.79 seconds. Not only does Sturrup have  two Olympic medals to her credit, but she is twice Etienne’s age.

“That opened my eyes a lot and I realized one day that could be me,” said Etienne.

The World Young Olympics provided athletes like Etienne a training ground so they can improve on their personal best times and continue to push themselves to their limits.

Described as feisty and determined by her teammates these qualities shone through as Etienne notched a second place spot in her heat. She said she was not happy with her time of 12.34 seconds. She came off the track shaking her head and frowning.

“My start was good, but coming home I started tightening up a bit so I couldn’t finish as strong as I wanted,” she said.

Etienne did qualify for the finals but could not run due to a torn ligament. Although disappointed, this young teenager continued to cheer on her teammates as that is just the type of person she is according to her coach David Charleton.

Off the track, Etienne’s spirit, enthusiasm and zest for life are evident as she is an active volunteer in her community.

Entering the twelfth grade in the fall, she spends her spare time at a children’s home counselling those who have been abused.

No one could be more proud of Etienne’s achievements than her 79-year-old grandmother. The teen’s eyes water as she speaks of the woman who raised her. “Grammie”, as Etienne, calls her, used to come to all her granddaughter’s meets in the Bahamas but now has a hard time walking. Instead, she watches the meets on television.

Her granddaughter wants that to change.,“One day when I become an Olympian, I would like to see her sitting right there cheering me on.”

It is moments like these I know are more precious for these young athletes than the final results or their ranking. While I might not be much older than they are, you can see something in their eyes, that their presence at the Games helped find or confirm their sense of direction or purpose as they move on with their athletic careers and lives in general.

After her race while coming off the track, Etienne was swarmed by a gaggle of young Singaporean school girls with notebooks and pens and pencils in hand. Some of them probably don’t know where the Bahamas are located and quite frankly they don’t care. All they see is a young girl who gave it her all and despite not posting the best time still has a smile on her face and a kind and welcoming demeanour.

For these girls, Etienne is their Usain Bolt.