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Texas campus street named in honour of Bermuda Olympian

Former Olympian Sonya Smith got more than she bargained for when she ventured online to research her past athletic achievements as a student athlete at Abilene Christian University (ACU) in Texas.

To her amazement the security officer discovered that a street on the campus of her alma mata had been named after her in honour of her remarkable athletic achievements in track and field during her time at the US college.

“I was really surprised because I was looking for some other information and stumbled across that,” she said. “I had to read it three times because I was so shocked about it and it's a great honour to be acknowledged by Abilene. I wasn't expecting that at all.”

The street, one of several named after past ACU athletes, is now known as Smith Drive.

Ms Smith, who celebrates her 51st birthday next week, has many fond memories of her time at ACU where she achieved many milestones throwing the javelin, discus and shot putt.

“When I was there it was a great honour because I was breaking records every week in the different track meets that we had,” she recalled. “I was the first woman from there to win the Texas Relay, which is a very prestigious meet, two years in a row. Everybody was so excited while I was like ‘what's the big deal?'

“We also won the men's and women's national championships two years in a row, which was another great experience for me.”

Ms Smith is also the first female student athlete from ACU to compete in the Olympics (1984).

“It was a great honour to represent Bermuda in the Olympics and I was disappointed not to represent Bermuda in the 1980 Games because of the boycott,” she said.

Ms Smith's athletic career began in humble settings at West End Primary before it really took flight after her budding talents were spotted by late national track and field coach Clive Longe.

“I started out in track and field at West End Primary doing cricket ball throw with Diane Hunt, and then Clive Longe came along and had me train at the National Stadium,” she explained.

Ms Smith says her passion for travelling motivated her to put her best foot forward in the track and field arena.

“I always wanted to qualify for overseas meets so I could go away,” she added. “I ended up doing a lot of these meets abroad because I love to travel — that's the reason why I got stuck in track and field.”

To this day Ms Smith holds national records in the javelin (53.98 metres) and shot putt (13.59 metres) as well as multiple high records in either javelin, discus or shot putt.

At the 1979 Carifta Games in Jamaica she set a Games' record in the javelin (53.98 metres) which has yet to be broken.

With her career now a distant but glorious memory, Ms Smith is passing on her wealth of expertise to the current generation of throwers in her role as national throwing coach.

One of her most promising throwers is Tiara DeRosa, who continues to come on in leaps and bounds.

“Since I've been with her she's throwing ten feet further than what she was throwing before,” Ms Smith said. “It would be great to see her break my records, and that's what we are working on now for next year.”

Honoured: Sonya Smith during her days as a top student athlete at Abilene Christian University.

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Published September 14, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated September 14, 2013 at 12:14 am)

Texas campus street named in honour of Bermuda Olympian

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