Updated 01 August 2012
Jehue GORDON, Trinidad and Tobago
Born: 15 December 1991, Port of Spain, Trinidad
Lives: Maraval, Trinidad
Coaches: Dr Ian Hypolite, Edwin Skinner
Manager: Emanuel Hudson
Spectators at the Olympic Stadium, in Berlin, Germany stood in awe at the end of the 2009 World Championship men’s 400 metres hurdles final. American Kerron Clement had successfully defended his title, but that was not the reason so many jaws dropped.
A 17-year-old from the small village of Maraval, in Trinidad and Tobago, had matched strides with the finest one-lap hurdlers in the world, and at the end of the race was within a whisker of climbing the rostrum.
Finishing fourth at the Worlds is Jehue Gordon’s biggest achievement on the track...so far. On that memorable day, in August 2009, he beat one of his idols, 2004 Olympic champion Felix Sanchez.
“I was shocked at first. After the race, I realised...’shucks, I beat Felix Sanchez’. It was a really nice experience, seeing that the training actually paid off.”
Gordon was not alone in his disbelief. The athletics world was shocked as well.
In Moncton, Canada, however, he found himself in an entirely different situation. Gordon was the overwhelming favourite for 400 metres hurdles gold at the 2010 World Junior Championships.
At the 2008 World Juniors meet, in Bydgoszcz, Poland, he went out in the semi-final round.
“The first time I made World Juniors I had to come up against some rough guys - Johnny Dutch, [eventual champion] Jeshua Anderson, Amaurys Valle from Cuba. I’ve been watching back on the majority of World Juniors. Normally, people who just missed out on making the finals their first year, their second time around they normally come and attain the gold medal. The gold is the focus for me.”
A confident Gordon achieved his golden goal, the T&T athlete securing the 2010 world junior title in 49.30 seconds.
Gordon’s confidence should not be mistaken for arrogance. Though taller than most adults around him, he’s respectful, calling the men “sir” and the women “miss”. And though he was the talk of the town in Berlin, in 2009, Gordon remains humble. He’s just one of the boys following an arduous training session at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, enjoying some playful banter with sprinter Emmanuel Callender.
Gordon has nothing but praise for Callender, an Olympic and World Championship sprint relay silver medallist.
“He was my roommate in Berlin, and he brought all the positivity around me. Positive thoughts bring positive actions.”
Gordon is pursuing athletics as a full-time profession, opting to skip the American collegiate route. But though he is represented by HSInternational principal, Emanuel Hudson, the talented hurdler continues to train in T&T under the watchful eyes of Dr Ian Hypolite and Edwin Skinner, his coaches at the Memphis Pioneers athletics club.
Though Gordon is also quite capable in the 110 metres hurdles, he does not plan to pay too much attention to that event.
“I see myself being a specialist in the 400 hurdles. I do 800 for strength and the 400 to get the speed for the 400 hurdles. The sprint hurdles? Maybe training, but not really competitive.”
When he’s not on the track wowing the world, Gordon is a regular guy.
“I love to play video games,” he says, while munching on a pack of smoked almonds. “I love to play table tennis.”
Table tennis? Having played the sport competitively I feel comfortable throwing out a challenge to young Jehue Augustus Gordon. His response is full of humility.
“I don’t feel I could take you because I’m not professional. It’s just something that I like to do.”
But Gordon is so gifted that challenging him in any sport could prove to be folly.
In fact, had it not been for a clash of competitions, Gordon might well be a West Indies cricketer today, and not a world class one-lap hurdler.
The best young athletes in the Caribbean are on show every year at the Carifta Games. The Trinidad and Tobago team is selected after a two-day meet known as Carifta trials. In 2006, Gordon was entered in that meet, and was also among a group of young cricketers shortlisted for national duty at a regional age-group tournament.
“The cricket trial was in the afternoon and Carifta trials in the morning. I didn’t make it at Carifta trials. That year I tried out for the long jump, I tried out for the 400 and the 800. I hurried to cricket trials in the afternoon but I was too late. I didn’t make any of the teams, and seeing that I was ranked in the top two in track and field but I just wasn’t running the times as yet, I stayed on the path.”
Track and field’s gain was cricket’s loss, for Gordon was a budding allrounder with the physical attributes to excel.
“I used to go in the batting about three or four down. I was like the big-hitter in the game.”
And in the bowling department, he says he was “very fast”.
“Starting to lenghthen out, get much taller, and everyone was still much shorter. With the speed from track and field training on and off and the football, that helped me a lot in the cricket.”
Fans of athletics would be grateful that fate pushed Gordon away from cricket. In 2009, they witnessed his fourth-place finish at the World Championships in a personal best 48.26 seconds. And now, they are watching closely to see if the 19-year-old can improve on that performance, and climb the podium at the 2012 Olympic Games, in London, England.
In October 2010, Gordon had foot surgery. It set back his preparations for the 2011 season. However, he looked to be fully recovered at Trinidad and Tobago’s national championships, in mid-August, winning in 48.75 seconds. But at the World Championships, in Daegu, Korea, some two weeks later, the T&T hurdler exited in the semis, his 49.08 seconds clocking unable to earn him a “fastest loser” lane in the final.
Gordon makes his Olympic debut in London, and would love to produce another jaw-dropping run. This time, though, he won’t be an unknown. The entire track and field world is now fully aware of what the T&T hurdler is capable of. The BBC even featured Gordon in “World Olympic Dreams”, a series that followed the journeys of 26 athletes on the Road to London.
Earning a medal in London will be no easy task. Gordon is ninth on the 2012 world performance list with a 48.78 seconds clocking. Puerto Rico’s Javier Culson, meanwhile, has dived under 48 seconds three times this season; reigning World champion David Greene will be a handful, and then the Americans will have strong representation from national champion Michael Tinsley, two-time Olympic gold medallist Angelo Taylor, and two-time World champion Kerron Clement.
Names and statistics, however, do not faze Jehue Gordon. A surprise finalist in Berlin, the 17-year-old came off the final turn in contention for a medal, eventually missing out on bronze by just three-hundredths of a second. After that performance, I’m not putting any limits on what he can achieve in London.
But while Gordon has the goods to do amazing things on the track, he remains level-headed, demonstrating a clear understanding of why he has been able to achieve excellence.
“First things first. God, for giving me the health and the strength, for giving me the talent. My parents [Vincent Gordon and Marcella Woods] for always being there in the times that I’ve been down, the times I’ve been injured. And my coaches for the good management and support they’ve given to me.”
In addition to the positive influences in his life, Gordon is driven from within, his determination to succeed fuelled by what he sees day in, day out in Papyia, Maraval.
“People in my area, they go astray easily. They’re always on the road, following friends, smoking…all the stuff that they shouldn’t be doing. For me, I basically stayed out of this from very young. I just continued to stay inside, do my work, train hard. From training, back home, rest. It just drives me to be seeing my friends and some of my family out on the road. They lose their life very easily. And I don’t want to make that mistake.”
400: 46.43 (2010)
110H: 13.82 (2012)
400H: 48.26 (2009)
400m/110H/400H: 2008:48.83/-/51.39; 2009:46.73/-/48.26; 2010:46.43/13.88/48.47; 2011: 47.12/-/48.66; 2012: 46.79/13.82/48.78
2008 3rd (400H) Carifta Games U20 (Basseterre) 53.18
2008 SF (400H) World Junior Championships (Bydgoszcz) 52.26
2009 1st (110hH) Carifta Games U20 (Vieux-Fort) 13.86
2009 1st (400H) Carifta Games U20 (Vieux-Fort) 50.01
2009 1st (4x400m) Carifta Games U20 (Vieux-Fort) 3:10.20
2009 3rd (400H) CAC* Championships (Havana) 49.45
2009 6th (4x400m) CAC* Championships (Havana) 3:05.17
2009 2nd (400H) Pan Am Junior Championships (Port-of-Spain) 50.08
2009 2nd (4x400m) Pan Am Junior Championships (Port-of-Spain) 3:07.70
2009 4th (400H) World Championships (Berlin) 48.26
2010 1st (110H) Carifta Games U20 (George Town) 13.41
2010 1st (400H) Carifta Games U20 (George Town) 49.76
2010 3rd (4x400m) Carifta Games U20 (George Town) 3:11.79
2010 1st (400H) CAC* Junior Championships U20 (Santo Domingo) 50.26
2010 1st (4x400m) CAC* Junior Championships U20 (Santo Domingo) 3:08.19
2010 1st (400H) World Junior Championships (Moncton) 49.30
2011 SF (400H) World Championships (Daegu) 49.08
2011 3rd (400H) CAC* Championships (Mayaguez) 50.10
* CAC* = Central American & Caribbean
Prepared by Kwame Laurence for the IAAF “Focus on Athletes” project. Copyright IAAF 2012