Calgarian Akeem Haynes basks in a bronze glow after Rio 2016
Raised by a single mother, sprinter credits her for his work ethic
When Akeem Haynes joined the Crescent Heights High School track team, he was simply looking for a way to get faster on the football field.
Today, he's an Olympic bronze medallist.
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Haynes won bronze in Rio along with teammates Aaron Brown, Brendon Rodney and Andre De Grasse, with the foursome also breaking a 20-year-old Canadian record in the process.
"I'm a little tired, but I'll be able to rest soon," Haynes told the Calgary Eyeopener on Monday.
Anchored by De Grasse, the Canadians initially finished fourth in Saturday's 4x100 metre relay final, but a lane violation disqualified the American team, bumping them up one spot.
"Prior to that, it was kind of bittersweet. We broke the Canadian record that's been there for 20 years and when we looked up and saw we got fourth, we definitely weren't content," said Haynes.
"We were a little upset but we were trying not to show it too much, but when we found out we got the bronze that changed everything. Anybody who competes at a major championship, especially at the Olympic Games, no matter what, you want to come away with a medal."
School offers help solidify switch
As a teenager, the now 24-year-old sprinter was more focused on football than track and field.
"I didn't really want to do track at the beginning, honestly, but my high school phys-ed teacher and coach, Ken Rose, he told me to come out after football season in the 10th grade," said Haynes.
"I was like, 'Man, I just made the under-17 team so I don't really want to risk anything.' But he told me it would help me train to get faster. Then I went out there and didn't do too bad."
The teacher told Haynes he could have a future in the sport. But even when Haynes went on to win city and provincial meets, he still didn't entertain the idea.
"I didn't really pay attention too much until I started getting offers from schools in the States."
'She sacrificed a lot'
Raised by a single mother in Yellowknife and Calgary, Haynes said it was his mother, Carlene Smith, who instilled his work ethic.
"She sacrificed a lot for me," he said.
"She's never really asked me for anything, I've never really felt any pressure from her. She just wants the best for her kids and I try to always remember that I have her as a supporter no matter how good or how bad I do."