By Noelle Smith
Guyana’s Deshana Skeete knew prior to winning the gold medal at the South American Youth Games in Santiago, Chile earlier this month that she would win the 400m event.
“When I got up in the morning I knew it was my time and that I was going to win the race. I spoke to my mother and my coach the morning of the race’ and they kept motivating me. I was nervous going into the race but I just kept talking to myself and hearing my mother and my coach in my head and that’s what got me through to win the race,” Skeete told Stabroek Sports in an exclusive interview.
And that’s just what she did in the process becoming the first Guyanese athlete to win a gold medal at the event.
Skeete clocked 57.28 seconds to win ahead of Brazil’s Jessica Moreira who placed second in 57.54 seconds while Ecuador’s Andreina Valencia (58.81 seconds) was third.
In Guyana, many people grow up getting licks from their parents or guardians so running from the beating would be considered the smart thing to do to avoid the pain that comes with it.
Skeete was one of those who did the smart thing and ran.
Stabroek Sports caught up with the young track star in her hometown where she recounted how her track career started.
“Mommy used to share licks when I was growing up. I used to run away from her when I had to get licks and she ran behind us until we got caught,” she recounted.
The soft-spoken athlete began running at the tender age of seven.
According to her mother Nickita Weekes, her daughter had a passion for running for as long as she could remember.
“My children used to get licks growing up when they needed it and they always running away from me. It is from running from me that Deshana realized she had speed and slowly began training herself and today we are here,” her mother explained.
Running from beatings moved from being a means of escape to a structured, staple part of her life when she started training with her coach Moses Pantlitz of the Christianburg/Wismar Secondary School Track Club (CWSS) in Linden at the age of eight and she hasn’t stopped since.
Skeete gradually rose to becoming the powerhouse she is in the sport of track and field by making her name first at the schools track meets. She has become one of the regular faces of the Guyana Teacher’s Union Track and Field Schools Championships and would often contend with other top runners for the championship trophy.
Her debut at the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) annual sports came in 2012 and she copped a silver medal in the girls Under 10 200m.
Over the years her success at the competition has been steady and she has bagged gold and silver medals with every appearance.
Her first major achievement came at this year’s Nationals when she caused an upset by winning the girls Under 16 200m in record time ahead of Kenisha Phillips, the favorite to win the race.
Stabroek News was at the Linden Inter Schools Sports and it was clear that she was a main attraction when she took to the track for the final of the girls Under 16 200m.
Though she is a student of the Mackenzie High School, the entire Mackenzie Sports Club Ground cheered loudly as Skeete flew around the track to win her second gold medal of the day.
“There are a lot of people here who came to see Deshana run. People who never went to a sports before are here so that they can watch her race,” her mother said with the biggest smile.
Her presence has also been felt at games outside of Guyana. She has represented her home country at the Hampton International Games in Trinidad and Tobago and the 2017 Inter-Guiana Games in Suriname where she performed remarkably. The Inter-Guiana Games was the testing ground for the teenager as it exposed her to athletes outside of her usual competitors in Guyana. This, however, did not faze her as she returned home with three medals (two gold, one silver).
The 2017 South American Youth Games was by far the biggest meet that Skeete has competed in. The standard of the athletes who attended the competition was high but this did not keep her from making history by being the first Guyanese to win gold at the games.
She recounted the rush of emotions she experienced when the race was finished.
“I was happy, overwhelmed and tired all at the same time. It was not only a win for me but also for my family and my country. The hard work I did before had paid off.”
Her mother, seemingly her biggest supporter, told Stabroek Sport that she was over the moon when her daughter won the race.
“Before the race Deshana told me ‘mommy, I am going to win the race for you.’ I just prayed and prayed for her before she had to run. During the run I was cheering loudly to the TV. When I saw that she won I was in tears. I cried because of all the sacrifices that were made and all the hard work she put in. I was really happy and proud.”
The junior sprint sensation is also a well-rounded individual who is looking at achieving great things beyond the track.
Like every young athlete, Skeete wants to win a gold medal at the Olympics. Her sight is set on the 2020 Olympic Games to be held in Tokyo. Career-wise she wants to be a medical doctor because she likes to help people and it is her hope that she can give back to people who are in need.
Balancing school and running does not come as much of a challenge for Skeete as she prioritizes school over the track when examinations are around the corner.
Her coach also does his part by giving his student/athletes the time off from training to study and write their exams.
“She is there at Mackenzie and her teachers tell me that she is doing well,” her mother continued.
The biggest part of her support system is her family. Her parents and siblings are always there for her, with her coach also playing a big part in her life. Motivation and encouragement comes from her family, coach and the mining town of Linden.
Her mother reiterated that she is very focused on what she wants to do. “She is a very smart girl. She would go to competitions with her school books and study or do work when she knows she has to get her school work done. She wants to be a doctor and will do her best to become one,” her mother said.