Most Jamaican athletes use their natural sprinting ability to become stars on the track. Fedrick Dacres has used his to become one of the best discus throwers in the world.
If it had not been the laxness of his brother, Rojay, Fedrick Dacres may never have been introduced to the discus. Rojay, two years Fedrick’s elder, had been a promising thrower at the prestigious Calabar High School in Kingston. Yet when Rojay started “slacking off” (Fedrick’s words) in training his coach, Julian Robinson, paid a visit to their house determined to put him back on the “right track”.
But when Robinson saw Fedrick sat at the family home he spotted a new opportunity.
“He said to me I must have some form of talent and told me to come along to training,” explains Dacres, who was 16 at the time.
“I thought, I am a skinny dude and I don’t have the body for it. Yet the first time I picked up the discus, it went far. I though, okay, cool, I have a bit of talent for it and the rest is history.”
Race to the top
Within months of taking up discus he was crowned 2010 Carifta Games champion. Later that year he competed at the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, finishing second in the B final with a new PB of 54.79m.
An “average sprinter” but possessing good natural athleticism, he compensated for his lack of bulk with pace.
“I’m faster than a lot of the other throwers, so I use that speed in the circle,” he explains. “I also did a bit of gymnastics. I love to flip and do aerial things.”
His early progress has been meteoric. In 2011 he made history by becoming the first Jamaican to win discus gold at a World Youth (U18) Championships, taking out the top spot in Lille with a lifetime best and area youth record of 67.05m. The following year the former footballer added the world junior (U20) title in Barcelona. He took more than just gold medals away from those championships.
“For world youths I went in with the mentality just to relax and throw far,” he says. “My best at the time was well above the field [he won by more than five-and-a-half metres] so I relaxed and pulled through.
“The world juniors was different. I had technical problems leading up, so I was nervous but I calmed myself and managed to pull through.” His victory margin was just 5cm, but his double gong was secure.
“I never knew I would have done so much in such a little time,” he says of his rapid rise to the top of the age group ranks.
A spindly Dacres wins world youth gold in Lille in 2011. He retained his title at junior level the following year
Here’s to you, Mr Robinson
Rather than study away from Jamaica, Dacres opted to stay on the island and train with his Coach Robinson. It has proved an inspired decision, according to Dacres. Studying with a scholarship at the University of West Indies Mona campus, the sociology student describes his coach as playing multiple roles.
“He is a lecturer, engineer, entrepreneur, father, husband and mentor,” he explains breathlessly.
“He saw me and guided me and realised I had a talent for throwing. He is a listener and very understanding. He is also a technician when it comes to the throws and he never stops trying to learn more.”
Meniscus, not discus
In 2014 Dacres made a huge advance in the senior ranks, improving his PB from 59.30m to a world-class 66.75m in Austin at the Texas Relays. That performance saw the Calabar High School graduate – alma mater to so many Jamaican athletics legends including Arthur Wint and Herb McKenley – spoken of as favourite for gold at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
Yet, the Jamaica suffered the first major blow of his career, tearing his ACL and MCL ligament. “I had a hole in my meniscus, so my bones were rubbing together and my knee was not stable,” he says.
He was forced to pull the pin on his season, underwent surgery and faced a seven-month spell on the sidelines.
Sleepless in Beijing
Dacres returned to the competitive scene in 2015, describing his season as “okay”. An early SB 66.40m promised much but, despite striking gold at the Pan American Games in Toronto, he was left frustrated by his experience at the world championships.
“I could have done better,” he says of his performance in Beijing, where he finished seventh with a best of 64.22m. An untimely bout of insomnia did not help his cause.
“Because I was anxious to compete, I actually had about five days with no sleep,” he admits.
Dacres has not altered too much with his training regime as he looks towards Rio. Although there is one thing he has changed.
“I’m not as reckless or foolish or do things that might risk injury,” he says. He has reined in the back flips (he loves those, doesn't he?) and the football – he previously played as a defensive midfielder – to ease the pressure on his knee.
The 68m club
The improvement has continued this year. On April 23 he raced to the top of the world lists with a PB 68.02m in La Jolla in California. It makes him the fourth youngest discus thrower in history to hurl the 2kg discus beyond 68m – only Great Britain’s Lawrence Okoye, Australian Julian Wruck and ex-Soviet thrower Yuriy Dumchev achieved the feat at a younger age.
It was a big moment.
“I was surprised but more grateful because I felt it was long overdue,” says Dacres, who had a recent stint of training alongside 2008 Olympic champion Gerd Kanter.
“It is a great feeling to lead the world as a senior because I have done it as a youth and junior.”
Now ranked third in the world – just a few centimetres shy of German Christoph Harting and Pole Piotr Malachowski – Dacres is well and truly in the elite of global discus throwing.
Having attained 68m so early in the season as a good “stepping stone” for his chief goal for the season: “I really want to win a medal in Rio.”