Janielle Josephs overcoming doubt
St Andrew High School for Girls’ Janielle Josephs continues to rise to the occasion since her commendable performance in the Class One 400m at last year’s ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Athletics Championships (Champs). ‘Driven’, ‘dedicated’ and ‘determined’ are some of the adjectives that embody this student athlete. Described by her friends as reserved, yet witty, she has ambitious goals to represent Jamaica once again this year on a global platform. She gave The Gleaner an exclusive interview to discover the personality behind the performance.
Why did you start doing track and field?
Well, I think there are two stories to this. For me, initially, back in prep school, I wanted to miss school, but for my mother, a teacher saw me running and saw the talent and encouraged her to put me in tracks.
Why did you want to specialise in this event in particular?
I don’t know. I felt like 400m is a little different because I realised that it is the man with the best strategy and who can execute it properly. So I think it is different, and not many people realise that and can master it.
What would you consider your greatest achievement so far?
I think my greatest achievement would be CARIFTA and World Juniors. CARIFTA was my first (national) team. I had been trying for so long, and I went and came third in the 400m. To make a World Juniors team, that is the highest level you can reach as a junior, so I am very proud to reach that far.
What would you consider your greatest challenge?
Well, I think my greatest challenge is believing in myself sometimes. I think I’ve struggled with that over the years; like, I don’t see my talent. People always tell me, but I don’t see it.
How did you overcome this challenge?
My coach, my mother, my teammates motivate me and tell me that I am talented and I am a star. Now I believe it more since I see myself improving in high-school track and field, because honestly, I didn’t think I would ever make it back in Class Four when I just started.
What are the personal goals that you have set for this season?
This season, I just want to run better than last year, make another national team or two, and, again, hopefully, I will be on the podium at Champs.
What subjects do you do in high school, and which is your favourite?
Well, right now, in upper sixth [form], I do Caribbean studies, geography, sociology, and environmental science. I think I like geography sometimes, and environmental science because I think my teacher is nice and encourages me to like the subject more.
Do you have any other interest or hobbies outside of track and field?
So, my other hobby would be dancing. I like to dance, but I can’t dance. Other than that, if I am not dancing, I am probably listening to music or reading.
What do you like to read?
I think right now, I fall in the young-adult category, or romance.
Who is your favourite artiste, and which of their songs is your favourite?
My favourite artiste right now, even though he is not an English singer, but a Spanish singer, is Ozuna. I really like his voice; it’s just smooth. The music, the beat, everything, it is just great. Right now, I think I like Devuélveme.
Which athlete is your greatest inspiration, and why?
Wayde van Niekerk. Well, I think that run that he did at the Rio Olympics out of lane eight, that was a world record to me. That was such a stellar run. It was beautiful and from then, he has been my favourite athlete.
What qualities do you possess that enable you to be successful?
My determination. Sometimes people try to put me down, but I try to rise above that and stay determined to do my best always.
How do you balance your athletic life and academic studies?
To be honest, it gets hard sometimes. The work keeps piling up, and I have training, but I try to do the work in a timely manner, most of the time, to get everything done. You know, I am training every day, so I try to do the work when I go home or sometimes in my free sessions.
Who has supported you during this time, and what has been their impact on you?
I would say that my biggest supporters are my mother and my coach. They made me a better person, made me believe in myself and want to achieve more.
What advice do you have for students who want to achieve the same level of success?
I would want to encourage you to keep doing your best. Stick to it. Sometimes it may not start out how you want it to, but it is just the determination to keep going. Just do your best, and that will take you places.
Contributed by David Salmon.