Brandon Valentine-Parris, a rising junior at Claflin University, will be representing his home country St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the 400-meter dash on Aug. 12.
Claflin University held a Thursday sendoff ceremony recognizing the university’s first Olympian, track and field star, as he prepares to depart for Rio on Saturday.
The 21-year-old Olympian, who is in only his seventh year as a full-time track competitor, finished the past season at Claflin ranked third nationally in the 400-meter dash in indoor track and fourth nationally in outdoor track in NCAA Division II. Valentine-Parris was also recognized as a Division II first-team All-American.
“I’m excited to see support from the university and the community,” Valentine-Parris said. “I’ll do my best to put Claflin and my country on the map.”
Lincoln London, Claflin track and field coach, said he takes great pride in recruiting and training an Olympian.
London, who was named the 2016 U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association NCAA Division II Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field South Region Coach of the Year, has worked with various Olympians in the past. But working with Valentine-Parris was different because he was London’s first international recruit.
“I chose him because it’s all about opportunity and he took good charge of his opportunity,” London said. “I’m happy and proud of him because of where he started from.”
London said that while having a member of his team qualify for the Olympics is big, the program and the university, he is happiest for Valentine-Parris.
“I’m excited most of all for Brandon. I know he put in a lot of work during the year,” London said. “What separates him from the rest is that he’s dedicated and he works hard every day.”