From the streets of Guyana to conquering the tracks of London and Dubai
Kimbely Baptiste is a Guyana born track athlete who has made several transitions in her personal life as well as in her sporting career. From playing cricket on the streets of Guyana to finishing the second position at the British Indoor Championships, we asked some questions about how one of the hidden gems in the U.A.E. has made her way to the top of the ladder.
Story of origin, where did it begin, and how did you get into athletics?
So, I grew up in South American Guyana and moved to England back when I was around 10 years old, and again in Guyana, my favorite sport was cricket. I just loved playing cricket on the streets, and I was always in with the guys, and I really didn’t think that I was really fast, and I could keep up with them. It wasn’t something that crossed my mind up until I moved to London. One day me and my stepdad at the time went to the park, and I was racing against my sisters, and he challenged me to a race, and sure enough, I was up for the challenge and decided to just run. I beat him, and he just went like “you’re fast,” and he wasn’t holding back when he told this, shortly after, probably a week or two later he signed me up for athletics track club back in 2005, and yeah that is how I got into the sport.
When making the transition from Guyana to London, what were the struggles you faced, and how did you adapt to the sport?
I did struggle when I moved from Guyana to London. I actually wasn’t in the central city but in a place called Crawley which is near Brighton and the place was super quiet, the weather was different, there was no one on the streets like I was used to, so my biggest struggle was perhaps adjusting to the cultural dynamics. But when making the transition into athletics, it was super easy, to say the least, to adapt and to talk to everyone. Even my first coach, his first name was Jim, and I don’t remember his last name. They just pulled you in, and it was a friendly environment, and I even knew a bunch of kids who came to training as they were in my class, making it a familiar and fun environment to train in. The struggle came again back in 2006 when I just literally stopped training for two-years, at the time I didn’t know the exact reason to it, but training didn’t feel the same as before, it was too easy. I know as weird as it sounds, it was the same thing, same people and everyone kind of went to training to socialize. I was kind of shy and introverted at the time. Training didn’t seem to have that hurt and passion anymore, so I just ended up doing maybe three or four competitions between the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 seasons.
Which was your comeback moment after almost doing nothing for two years?
After barely participating for almost two years, we took place in the English Schools Athletics Championships, which was a pretty big competition to get to in London, considering that I haven’t been training. Any child under the age of 18, their aim was to make it to English Schools and win it, and if you did, you would be considered a good youth sprinter or a distance runner. Before I had qualified for it, my P.E. teacher at the time who was also an athlete and ran the sprints, kept pushing me to come and train. I kept making excuses to not get back onto track, just because I thought it would be the same thing which made me stop training in the first place. But then there was the County Champs in which I won and qualified for the English Schools, and that moment left all my coaches in disbelief as there were girls who had trained their backs of years and still hadn’t made the qualifying time. I just walked up and did it like it was nothing. So that was also a little bit of boost and a kick for me, to get me back on track. There was also a little bit of pressure from my P.E. teacher, which I thank her for. After every class, she would push to come and train with her. I eventually got back into training in early 2009, I wasn’t competing or anything, but I was training. The two years had taken their toll on me because the first training session, it hurt to keep up with the other athletes. And from that point, I just wanted to keep training. I recall one of my coaches asking me what made me want to come back to training, and I went because it’s the hurt, the hard work, and its different.
Have you ever considered going pro?
I have, but I am a very humble, shy person, and when everyone asks me do you want to run the Olympics, of course, I do want to run it, it’s the dream of every track and field athlete. But for me, my main aim is to keep edging my way at my personal best like keep taking away my P.B., and once that’s happened, I will be able to make it. I don’t want to set my sights too high and say I want to get here and there, I just want to set realistic goals for myself. For example, this season I want to break my 200-meter P.B. because last season I broke my 100-meter, so if I can keep digging my way through the timings, either I can make it to a team event, or if I get my timings really down, I can make it to an individual event. For me, I just love what I do, and for me, it’s just to push faster and to keep getting better, and I will see where the sport takes me.
How did you end up in Dubai? Athletics is a sport that is on the rise in this region, so how do you see this place as an opportunity for you?
I first landed in Fujairah, and I ended up working in Fujairah for almost two years as a P.E. teacher at the Ministry of Education. I was a sports teacher in London, and it was part-time, the pay was good, and because of the working hours, it was okay, I would say. After that, every job I applied for and the interviews I went for, they just kept denying me, they would say “you’re great, but you need experience” and I just wasn’t getting a break. One day my friend sends me the application for the opening, and I applied for it. If I get it, I get it and if I don’t, I don’t. Sure enough, a couple of days later, I got the role, and the main reason that I took up the role was the reason that I was self-coached from May 2016, and because it was just me, I took up the opportunity. Because why not, it was 24/7 warm weather around the year, and it would keep me from getting injured. I kind of didn’t know it was Fujairah until almost two weeks before my flight, I was kind of hoping for Dubai. I just wanted the facilities to be excellent, and my friend told me that they did have a good track up there, and I said to myself if the Jamaicans can train on grass and come out that good, this can be manageable for me. I didn’t think of athletics as a whole when I came here, but as I was self-trained, I was just hoping for the right facilities, and that was my main take.
The following are Kimbely’s track and field achievements.
May 2012 – 100m & 200m. BUCS Championships.
Running in the London Olympics park prior to the 2012 Olympic games being held
there. As well as making the 200m finals in her first ever BUCS.
August 2013 – 200m. CAU Inter-County Championships. Becoming the first Sussex sprinter to win Gold at that event.
February 2016 – 200m. British Athletics Indoor Championship. Winning the silver medal and becoming 2016 British Indoor silver medalist.
August 2016 – 200m. Loughborough international. First time running sub 24s, just 3 months after leaving her coach and becoming self-coached.
July & August 2019 – 100m & 200m. CAU/England Champs & Manchester International. Became 2 x 200m Manchester International Champion! 4 x 200m CAU/England Athletics Champion and 2 x 100m CAU/England Athletics Champion.
August 2019 – 100m. Diamond League. It wasn’t the performance she wanted but was grateful she was being recognized. Getting that call up to run at an international globally recognized event felt amazing according to her.