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Rivers happy to reconnect with his roots

Let’s twist again: Grant Rivers throws the discus during the decathlon(Photograph by Lawrence Trott)

Bermuda has unearthed another overseas talent with Bermudian-born Grant Rivers, a decathlete based in North Carolina, expressing interest in representing Bermuda.

Rivers has returned for a short visit and competed in the decathlon at the National Athletics Championships at the weekend. He has already been in contact with the Bermuda National Athletics Association and will represent the island at the World University Games in Naples, Italy, next month.

“I’ve been living in Raleigh after I left Bermuda when I was ten years old,” Rivers said. “My mom, formerly Colleen Anderson, is Bermudian and I grew up in Pembroke West, bouncing back and forth [between Bermuda and the United States] every summer.

“I’m a decathlete, training for the [Toyko] Olympics [in 2020] and will be going to Italy in a month. I’m trying to break into the top 50 in the world. In the United States, I was just outside the top 25 this past season, so I definitely feel like I can make some headway.

“I was just outside the top 100 in college. I was injured this past season and now that I’m healthy, I’m excited to try to put up a pretty big score in the decathlon and do some good stuff.”

Donna Raynor, the BNAA president, recalls being contacted last year by a coach at North Carolina State University, saying he had a Bermudian athlete worth looking at.

“His coach sent me a Whatsapp message last year and said there is a Bermudian running for his university and does the decathlon and you should look at him,” Raynor said. “I asked about his Bermudian ties, but unfortunately it was too late to put him on the list for the Pan American Games. With his points, he would be pretty competitive.

“I remembered we had the University Games coming and so I got his coach to send his Bermudian status and we communicated. Devon Bean [the national coach] stayed in communication with him and kept track of his events and we sent the information to the BOA.

“He told us he was coming home in the summer for a couple of weeks. He got his Bermuda passport all sorted out and we are looking at him possibly going to the Olympics next year and for any NACAC events we will include him.”

The BNAA recently discovered two new talents in Caitlyn Bobb and Nathan Armstrong, children of former Bermuda athletes Dawnette Douglas and Terrance Armstrong, who competed for Bermuda at the Carifta Games in Cayman Islands in April.

“That’s how we found out about Tyrone Smith, Caitlyn Bobb, Dawnette Douglas’s daughter, and then Nathan Armstrong, Terrence Armstrong’s son,” Raynor said.

“We have a lot of athletes now overseas and that’s fantastic because they are getting that competition out there and are able to be very competitive for Bermuda. The more we find out about athletes out there the better our team is going to be, as we saw at Carifta with Caitlyn and Nathan who were great additions. I met Grant a few weeks ago, a very, very nice young man, very dedicated.”

Rivers was introduced to the Bermuda crowd along with other local athletes during the half-time of Bermuda’s football friendly against Guyana at the National Stadium on Thursday. Rivers is happy to be reconnecting with his Bermuda roots.

“I gave them my scores and my numbers and they approved it; they were happy with everything,” he said of his contact with the BNAA. “Mrs Raynor is super supportive.

“I just got in contact with an Olympic coach, Solomon Simmons, one of the best decathletes in the world, and it looks like I’ll be training with him moving forward. It’s a pretty good situation for the next year leading up to the Olympics.

“I came here for the National Championships and wanted to see if I could get warmed up for Italy. Most of my Bermuda family is here, but this has always been home since I was little. I miss it all the time. To be able to come here and have this sanctuary is really stress-relieving. It’s home, safe and I appreciate that.”

Rivers has produced some outstanding performances during his college career, which began in 2014-15 when he recorded a personal best in the decathlon with 6,053 points at the Virginia Challenge.

He competed in 43 events throughout that season, shaving five seconds off his 110 metres hurdles time and setting a season-best mark of 20 feet 10½ inches in the long jump at the Virginia challenge. He also set a personal best in the pole vault at the ACC Championships with a mark of 13ft ¼in.

During the 2015-16 season he set an indoor school record in the heptathlon with 5,039 points at the ACC Championships, finishing eighth overall and cleared 14ft 1¼in in the pole vault for a new personal record. He also had a personal best leap of 6ft 7in to finish third in the ACC Championships heptathlon high jump.

In 2016, Rivers set personal outdoor records in the shot, javelin and high jump at the ACC Championships and won the decathlon high jump with a leap of 6ft 6in to finish ninth in the decathlon with a score of 6,444 points.

In the indoor season that year, he broke his own all-time programme record in the heptathlon at the 2017 ACC indoor championships, finishing with a total of 5,131 points.

He also ran his fastest collegiate 60 dash in the ACC heptathlon with a time of 7.44 sec and also set a PR in the 1,000 at the ACC championship with a time of 2:49.80.

Rivers placed first overall in the men’s heptathlon at the indoor Hokie Invitational with 4,923 points.

He then followed that up in the 2017 season with personal best marks in the 100 (11.68), 400 (53.22 seconds), high jump (2.00 metres), discus (38.68) and javelin (52.64) at the conference meet on his way to All-ACC honours.

Rivers placed fifth in the decathlon at the ACC championships, posting a season-high 6,564 points to earn all-ACC honours. He was also the ACC indoor heptathlon champion, setting a school record 5,177 points.