AUSTIN (KXAN) — Bermuda-born and Chicago-raised Tyrone Smith never imagined life would land him on the track.
“As a little kid, I always wanted to be a fighter pilot,” Smith said. “I always thought I would fly but I thought it would be under the power of a jet engine instead of my own power.”
Today, the 36-year-old is a three-time Olympian. He’s a long jumper representing his home country of Bermuda.
“I left there when I was about five years old,” Smith recalled. “My father was a Marine so we moved around a little bit. He was from Chicago so, eventually, I went to middle school and high school in Chicago.”
Settling in Chicago would come after a short stint in North Carolina. His time in the Tar Heel State would introduce Smith to the world of track and field through the Hershey’s Track & Field Games.
“I got to do that as a little kid. In fourth or fifth grade, I believe,” Smith said.
He would eventually graduate from the University of Missouri at Rolla, now known as the Missouri University of Science and Technology, and leave as a three-time NCAA All-American in long jump.
“It’s been a long journey,” he said. “When I graduated, I decided to pursue track a little more. I moved to Houston to work with Tom Tellez and Carl Lewis, the historic track program at the University of Houston, and spent most of my career there.”
Over the years, Smith competed in the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Olympics. This summer, the Tokyo Olympics, will mark his final stride for gold.
“This will be my last Olympics and more than likely Tokyo will be my very last track meet ever,” Smith said.
That’s why Smith is giving it his all — training while juggling his education. The long jumper is in the process of earning his master of business administration degree from the University of Texas at Austin.
“If I were to not push this hard for Tokyo, if I were to say, ‘You know, Monday through Thursday is too much. I’m tired. I’m hurting,’ maybe my body would feel better,” he said. “Maybe I would enjoy going to happy hour, or whatnot, for a little bit — but there’s going to be a time, a reckoning, a moment, when I’ll realize that it was only because of me that my dreams didn’t come true.”
While he is focused on gold this summer, he has another finish line to reach first — graduation this May. Smith admits he is looking forward to what the future holds outside of the track.
“Kind of bittersweet,” he said. “But it’s been a long road.”