Two young men from the Winnipeg Optimist Athletics recently returned from an unforgettable experience in Medellin, Colombia.
Track and field athletes Alhaji Mansaray, 19, and Eric Guy, 18, attended the Pan American Junior Championships in South America from Aug. 23 to 25.
"I coach Alhaji and Rory McIntyre coaches Eric," former West End gym teacher and current Winnipeg Optimist Athletics coach Wayne McMahon said.
Mansaray, a River East Collegiate graduate, has been in Winnipeg Optimist Athletics for three years. Mansaray’s specialty is the high jump, and he very much enjoys it "because it’s an individual sport," he said.
"You only depend on yourself to do good. You don’t depend on anyone else," Mansaray explained.
Mansaray participated in three jumps, making the first (two metres high) and second (two metres and five centimetres), but missing the third (two metres and 10 centimetres).
"I didn’t do so well, but the experience was good," Mansaray said.
Overall, Mansaray placed fourth in the high jump category.
Mansaray was in good company while he was in Medellin. A fellow Winnipeg Optimist Athletics hurdler and friend also participated in the PAJC.
"(Mansaray is) a good friend of mine and we were roommates, which was really comforting," Guy said. "If I was worried, I can talk to him and vice versa."
Guy broke the provincial record in the hurdles category at the Pan Am Junior Championships — finishing in seventh place, he had the fastest time in Canada for the 110-metre hurdle at 14.10. The old provincial record was 14.16.
Guy also earned fourth place in the relay race.
"Going to a competition where I’m no longer the best is a learning experience. I know what I have to do as far as training goes. I have to do stuff differently and work a little bit harder," Guy said.
Even though the two athletes have just returned from a big meet, they’re already looking ahead at future track and field events.
"I have another national meet that I’m working for," Mansaray said.
"I’m really looking forward to next year’s World Juniors," Guy said.