Atkins sprints to the future: Former DSU sprinter already has his sights set on 2016 Olympics

Dickinson State graduate Derrick Atkins races for his home country of the Bahamas in a men’s 100-meter heat during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London on Aug. 4.
AP Photo

Derrick Atkins envisions himself, a little less than four years from now, bursting out of the starting blocks at João Havelange Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.

It’s a specific picture to paint. But there is nowhere else Atkins wants to be in August 2016 than The Marvelous City on Brazil’s eastern coast. The Dickinson State graduate’s sights are set on representing his native Bahamas in his third consecutive Summer Olympics.

The road there, however, won’t be easy.

At the 2012 Olympics in London last summer, Atkins was one of the few elite track and field athletes competing on the world stage without corporate sponsorship.

The 100-meters sprinter learned the difficulties of trying to navigate the ultra-competitive sport without the help of sponsors after Adidas, a worldwide athletic apparel company, dropped their sponsorship of him in 2010. He had all but disappeared from the international track scene in mid-2010 because of knee injuries and didn’t compete in 2011.

“If you don’t really have a major shoe company or a major sponsor, it’s kind of difficult to maintain the level of performance you need to because of upkeep,” Atkins said. “That’s where most of the expenses go.”

Despite being his own coach and sponsor, the 28-year-old Atkins said his isn’t considering his career on the downslide.

Continue reading “Atkins sprints to the future: Former DSU sprinter already has his sights set on 2016 Olympics”

Bahamas media big on DSU’s Olympic trio

The track and field events get under way Friday at the Summer Olympics and Bahamas media outlets have published numerous reports that show the country is looking to three former Dickinson State athletes to help earn medals for a country that had none through Thursday.

The Nassau Guardian, Bahamas Tribune and Freeport News — three of the nation’s leading media outlets — have sent reporters to the London Games and each has filed numerous reports either about or referencing DSU alumni Derrick Atkins, Trevor Barry and Ramon Miller.

While Atkins is a longshot in the 100 meters — one of the Olympics’ toughest events — Barry and Miller are expected to contend for the medal stand in the high jump and 1,600-meter relay, respectively.

A Thursday article by Sheldon Longley of the Nassau Guardian called the men’s 1,600-meter relay, which Miller is a part of, the country’s best chance for a medal.

Miller, who won a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Games as an alternate in the 1,600 relay, will also compete in the 400 meters alongside countrymen Demetrius Pinder and Chris Brown. In a Bahamas Tribune article published Wednesday, Bahamas coach David Charlton said the three “could all end up in the final.”

An article by the Guardian focused on Atkins, who he wrote “appears to have his swagger back,” as he tries to make a finals run in the extremely difficult 100 meters, an event he was all but dominant in five years ago.  A Guardian column by Fred Sturrup called this “moment of truth” for Atkins.

The Guardian and Tribune each penned articles about the chances of the Bahamas producing a pair of high jump medalists in Barry and his countryman, former high jump Donald Thomas.

On Wednesday, Sturrup called Barry a “dark horse among the Olympic high jump group,” and praised the former Blue Hawks’ late-blooming skills. Barry’s best event at DSU was the long jump, where he won four NAIA titles, as opposed to only two in the high jump.

Kind words aside, Barry knows he has a difficult task ahead of him.

Though Barry was a bronze medalist at the 2011 World Championships, when personal-best jumps are taken into account at the Olympics, his best jump of 2.32 meters would barely put him into the final round.

Then again, the competition doesn’t happen on paper and Barry has long acknowledged that anything is possible at the Olympics.

“You can’t afford to rest on your laurels in this sport because you would be passed,” Barry told The Nassau Guardian in an article published July 30.

Keep up with the how the DSU trio fares at the Olympics at or on my Twitter page or watch them live on if you subscribe to DirecTV or Dish Network. Below are their schedules.

Derrick Atkins
Saturday, Aug. 4
100 meters preliminaries, 3 a.m. Mountain Daylight Time / 10 a.m. British Standard Time
100 meters first round, 5:30 a.m. MDT / 12:30 p.m. BST
Sunday, Aug. 5
100 meters semifinals, 12:45 p.m. MDT / 7:45 p.m. BST
100 meters finals, 2:50 p.m. MDT / 9:50 p.m. BST

Trevor Barry
Sunday, Aug. 5
High jump qualification, 2:05 p.m. MDT / 9:05 p.m. BST
Tuesday, Aug. 7
High jump finals, 2 p.m. MDT / 9 p.m. BST

Ramon Miller
Saturday, Aug. 4
400 meters first round, 3:35 a.m. MDT / 10:35 a.m. BST
Sunday, Aug. 5
400 meters semifinals, 1:40 p.m. MDT / 8:40 p.m. BST
Monday, Aug. 6
400 meters finals, 2:30 p.m. MDT / 9:30 p.m. BST
Thursday, Aug. 9
1,600-meter relay first round, 4:35 a.m. MDT / 11:35 a.m. BST
Friday, Aug. 10
1,600-meter relay finals, 2:20 p.m. MDT / 9:20 p.m. BST

Back on Track: After 2 years of setbacks, Atkins has returned to Olympics

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a three-part series previewing Dickinson State alumni who are competing for the Bahamas at the Summer Olympics in London.

There was a point, almost five years ago, when Derrick Atkins was sixth-hundredths of a second from being on top of the sprinting world. Somewhere along the line, though, he went missing in action.

Now, after four very quiet years, the Dickinson State graduate and Bahamas record holder in the 100 meters is back among the elite of a world he almost ruled.

His next stop is Olympic Stadium in London.

“A year or so ago, he was probably questioning whether or not he was going to be back,” DSU head track and field coach Pete Stanton said.

After failing to make the finals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Atkins stepped back from the limelight that found him after he won a silver medal at the 2007 World Championships. He raced a bit in 2009, clocking times far below what he was accustomed to.

Then, sometime in the middle of the 2010 season, Atkins disappeared from the international track scene altogether. He didn’t attend any major meets and sat out the entire 2011 season.

So what happened? Nagging knee injuries, Atkins said, were at the source of most of his problems.

“It took a while for me to get going again,” Atkins said. “It cost me the whole season.”

Now that he’s healthy again, Atkins has rediscovered the spark that nearly made him a world champion.

He punched his ticket to the Olympics with a 10.09-second run at a meet in Clermont, Fla., on June 9 and by winning the Bahamas national championship on June 22.

The 28-year-old returns to the games when the 100-meter heats begin Saturday, Aug. 4. “Basically, the focus was just trying to get back to competing and being competitive,” Atkins said.

Ramon Miller, a DSU alumnus who will race for the Bahamas in the 400 meters and 1,600 relay at London, was Atkins’ roommate during the Beijing games.

He said it’s inspiring to watch Atkins pick himself up when he could have easily hung up his cleats.

“This is a sport where injuries come,” Miller said. “Sometimes they knock you to the ground. It’s just how you pick up yourself. Everything takes time, but it heals up.”

Atkins said competition has always been his driving force.

It helped him claim seven NAIA national championships during his time at DSU and pushed him to new heights in 2007, the best year of his career.

Atkins’ career-best time in the 100 meters is 9.91 seconds, which came in the finals of the 2007 World Championships in Osaka, Japan.

American Tyson Gay passed Jamaican and former worldrecord holder Asafa Powell with roughly 30 meters remaining. As Powell slowed down, it allowed Atkins — who had been climbing toward the top of the sprinting world that entire summer — to move into second place and secure the silver medal.

Since then, Atkins’ career has been inconsistent to say the least.

He went to the Beijing Olympics the next summer with a season-best time of 10.02 seconds but could only muster a 10.13 to finish sixth in his semifinal heat.

While it has taken him four years, Atkins is finally back where he was before Beijing.

“It says a lot about his character,” said Trevor Barry, Atkins’ DSU teammate and an Olympic high jumper for the Bahamas. “If you want something, and have the determination and drive, you’ve just got to put in the work and effort.”

Though Atkins is treating these Olympics like they’ll be his last, he’s hoping they aren’t. With new focus on his health and training, Atkins is confident he can continue competing long enough to make a push for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

“Trying to stay healthy is the big thing,” Atkins said. “That’s half the battle right there.”

Chance for gold: 3 former DSU stars chasing Olympic glory for native Bahamas (Part 1)

What are the chances?

What are the chances three men raised on the small Caribbean island of the Bahamas would decide their best option for college athletics was at a small NAIA university in Dickinson?

What are the chances those men would become three of the best athletes to ever walk the halls of Dickinson State University?

What are the chances all three would find great success on the international track and field stage?

Over the next two weeks, DSU will have three alumni — Derrick Atkins, Trevor Barry and Ramon Miller — competing at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

“It’s quite a distinction,” Barry said. “It’s quite a feat in itself, to have three athletes from such a small school to be in the Olympics.”

Atkins runs in the 100 meters and Miller in the 400 meters beginning Saturday, Aug. 4. Barry’s Olympics begin with the high jump qualifying on Sunday, Aug. 5. Miller is also a member of the Bahamas 1,600 relay team that starts Thursday, Aug. 9.

Blue Hawks head track and field coach Pete Stanton said having three former athletes — who combined for 27 individual NAIA national titles and helped DSU win national championships in 2004, 2005 and 2006 — competing at the Olympics is a massive accomplishment for any school, let alone one of DSU’s size.

“It’s a pretty incredible achievement for those three guys to be former members of our team and now all three are competitive at the world level,” Stanton said. “It’s not just a thing that they’re there, but all three are in a situation where they have a chance to be in the finals and be very competitive at a world level.”

Atkins, 28, was at his peak in 2007 when he won a silver medal in the 100 meters at the World Championships. He went to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing but lost out in the semifinals.

After a couple of years beset by injuries, he made his Olympic return by running a qualifying time of 10.09 seconds June 9 in Clermont, Fla.

Barry, 29, won a bronze medal in the high jump at the 2011 World Championships with a leap of 7 feet, 7¼ inches (2.32 meters) and ranks among the best in the world in his event. He’s making his first Olympic trip after falling short of qualifying for Beijing by 1 centimeter.

Miller, 25, is back at the Olympics after leaving Beijing with a silver medal. He competed in the semifinals for the Bahamas 1,600 relay team that went on to place second in the finals. This year’s Bahamas mile relay team, on which Miller is a featured member, is ranked in the top five of the world standings.

Miller actually qualified in three events, but chose not to compete in the 200 meters.

Nonetheless, he will become the first DSU alumnus of the four who have been to the Olympics — Aaron Cleare was on the Bahamas mile relay team at the 2004 Athens Olympics — to compete in two different events.

Like many Olympians, the men haven’t been without their trials and tribulations.

Atkins and Miller fought off injuries and subpar years before bouncing back to reach London. Barry, meanwhile, has made a steady climb toward becoming one of the world’s best high jumpers.

The trio has even provided a point of pride for DSU, which could use some after a school year marred by the firing of President Richard McCallum following a devastating audit that found hundreds of international students received bogus degrees. There were also violations against the volleyball team for improper payments to students.

The school’s pride in their Olympians has been expressed through the “Team DSU” promotional campaign this summer and DSU President D.C. Coston said the trio, who are all graduates, are shining examples of what it means to be a successful student-athlete.

“We’re very excited that three Dickinson State alumni will be competing in the Olympics, that along with the great things that other graduates have done, it’s great to see that Dickinson State is also a place where athletic success can accompany academic success,” Coston said.

Miller said he is glad to have defied critics who questioned why he chose DSU — a place where some believe the weather is too cold to groom world-class track athletes, he said — and now points to himself, and his Bahamian Olympic teammates as examples of how an athlete can find success, even out of somewhere as small as DSU.

“It shows that if anybody goes there, they can do the same thing,” Miller said.

Miller, Atkins and Barry have proven there’s always a chance.