February 1, 2018 — Anthony Watson is soon to become the first EVER Skeleton Athlete to represent Jamaica in the Olympic Games. He is an incredible athlete not only for his physical abilities, but for his heart and determination–for his ability to stare adversity in the face and keep going.
These are the two words that come to mind when we asked Watson to sum up his Olympic Journey. “It’s a surreal feeling that I still haven’t quite wrapped my mind around. For every time I thought this was the last injury and pushed through it, it was worth it. The mental obstacles were worth fighting through. It was all worth it.”
Stories of suicide caused by bullying prevail in the news today. Young people that cannot find help or a sense of purpose, who find no other way out. Children lost who never dare to dream. There are those, though, that fight through the worst to become the best. Anthony Basil Watson is an elite athlete on his way to the Olympics, an accomplished musician – and a survivor.
Anthony Watson’s story of determination and resiliency – against bullying, poverty and learning disabilities – has brought hope to children and adults internationally. His father immigrated as a teenager to the United States from Jamaica, his mother from Puerto Rico. Anthony began his life watching his father work through difficult times in the U.S. due to his strong accent. The young family moved to Jamaica when Anthony was a small boy before settling permanently in New Jersey.
His parents worked hard to send Anthony and his three sisters to a religious school for as long as possible. Though a safe environment, Anthony was physically and verbally harassed beginning in elementary school and throughout high school for what was much later found out to be dyslexia. Anthony turned to sports and music as his way to escape his harsh reality.
Immediately gifted on the track, Anthony began his middle-distance running career in high school, and continued in college at Roberts Wesleyan College in Rochester, New York. He was a Junior Olympic national finalist for track and field in the 100m 200m and 4x100m relays. When an injury made track running at a high level impossible, Anthony transferred to the University of the Arts in Philadelphia to continue with his music education. His ability to hear music and repeat what he had heard on seven different instruments kept him going after his career-ending injury.
But Anthony still wanted to compete. And he found a way by petitioning to tryout at the U.S. Bobsled Team’s combine, earning himself a spot to train with the team. He trained, he traveled, and he learned to race Skeleton, a winter sliding sport in which a single person rides a small sled, known as a skeleton bobsled, down a frozen track while lying face down. But Anthony didn’t want to be a “member” of the team. He wanted to be an Olympian. And, while at an international competition, he learned that he was eligible to compete with the Jamaican Bobsled Team because of his family’s heritage.
“In my high school yearbook, my senior quote spoke of how I wanted to compete in the Olympics one day,” said Watson. “Here I am ten years later and that dream has become a reality.”
Injuries are always a part of the story in any athletic endeavor–and at the elite and professional levels overuse injuries are almost always a guarantee. But for Anthony Watson, it is injury that was the catalyst for change that helped him to achieve his Olympic goal.
In the summer of 2017 while training with the Jamaican team in Kingston, Anthony had a chance meeting with Drs. Todd Riddle and Derrick Raymer who were in town teaching a FAKTR hands-on training course. After training hard for weeks in hot, humid conditions with little to no proper nutrition; Watson was in bad shape.
“When I first met Anthony, he was dealing with nagging knee pain in the midst of daily training for the upcoming season,” says Dr. Todd Riddle, Director of Education for Southeast Sports Seminars and Master FAKTR Instructor. “We were on lunch break from our FAKTR course, so I was only able to do a brief assessment and mild soft tissue work on-site. I invited Anthony to travel to Houston for more in-depth rehab and training because I knew that if I had more time with him, I could really help him.”
Anthony found relief after the short treatment, but re-injured himself while completing his last days of training in Jamaica. “I was at the point where I couldn’t even walk normally, says Watson. I was on crutches as I boarded the plane to Houston, but I knew I needed help and I was willing to do whatever it took to get better.”
After limping out of Houston’s Hobby Airport, Watson began a month of intensive rehab and sports performance training with Dr. Riddle. Prior to becoming a sports chiropractor, Dr. Riddle had owned a sports performance business for more than a decade–training amateur, elite and professional athletes, including his friend Brock Kreitzburg who went on to slide with the Men’s US bobsled team in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torinno, Italy.
“My career began with winter sports and I’ve always had a soft spot for these athletes,” says Riddle. “Since Anthony was still in a great deal of pain, we started out with static FAKTR treatments before he was ready to take on more active rehab. When he was moving better, we began pool workouts and began working on more strenuous activities in the gym.”
He worked hard and did the extra reps even when they hurt. He did the extra sprints even when he didn’t feel like it. He carried on at event after event for the slim chance of making the Games. And on January 28th, at the eleventh hour only days before Opening Ceremonies, his dream became a reality as he received the call from the Jamaican Bobsled and Skeleton Federation announcing that they had accepted a bid from the IOC for him to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.
Anthony’s story is not just about being an athlete. It isn’t about how, even at an Olympic level, because his sport is not a major event, Anthony is not sponsored, funded, and had to fundraise to pay for a new sled before his first competition of the season after his was cracked at World Championships last year.
His story is about Hope. Dedication. Trust. And most definitely Perseverance.
Anthony’s story reminds us that elite athletes are not just who we see on TV with multi-million-dollar contracts. They are people like him, who tell their story to inspire and allow the next generation to realize they can dream.