His running career has taken Brandon’s DeLohnni Nicol-Samuel across Canada, the United States and the Caribbean. Now he gets to stamp his passport with a trip to Scotland for his biggest competition yet.
The 22-year-old distance runner is preparing to race for St. Vincent and the Grenadines in this year’s Commonwealth Games, slated for July 23 to August 3 in Glasgow.
"It’s pretty awesome and I’m excited for it," said Nicol-Samuel, who is training in Brandon before heading overseas on July 26 for the start of the track and field events. "I’ve done the Commonwealth Youth Games before and the world juniors, but at the senior level, this is the biggest competition so far, so I am really looking forward to it."
Nicol-Samuel, a graduate of Vincent Massey high school, will be one of two Brandonites competing in this year’s Commonwealth Games, joining 16-year-old Brandon Eagles gymnast Isabela Onyshko, who was recently named to Canada’s women’s gymnastics team. They will be the first Brandonites to compete in a Commonwealth Games since local gymnast Jenna Kerbis in 2006 in Australia.
Nicol-Samuel is also believed to be the first local runner to race in a Commonwealth Games since Neelin high school graduate Angela Chalmers — now Angela Doyle — won a gold medal and served as Canada’s flag bearer in the 1994 Games in Victoria.
Nicol-Samuel, the son of Brandon’s Dane Samuel and Lynn Nicol, holds dual citizenship through his father, who is a native of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Nicol-Samuel is scheduled to compete in the 1,500 metres at the Commonwealth Games, an event he geared up for by racing to a first-place finish at the Manitoba track and field championships in Winnipeg on July 4-5. The competition in Glasgow, however, will be decidedly different.
"I don’t want to count myself out of anything, but I know it’s not going to be easy at all," Nicol-Samuel said. "The first hurdle will be getting through the heats and if I can do that, great. I just want to go there and get some experience and perform the best that I can. It will be a perfect set-up in those heats to run a personal best, so I am just going to go out there and do the best I can."
A former provincial high school champion in the 1,500m and 3,000m in his senior year, Nicol-Samuel’s resumé also includes competing in two Canada Summer Games in 2009 and 2013. He turned his success on the track into a full NCAA scholarship to Campbell University in Buies Creek, N.C., running both track and cross-country for the Fighting Camels during his college career while earning a double degree in accounting and marketing.
He plans to return to North Carolina in the fall to start a track club and help train young prospects for Campbell University’s program. His focus right now, however, is on taking his track career to the next level, with the Commonwealth Games hopefully the springboard to bigger and better things internationally.
"At the senior level, this is definitely the biggest event for me and I am really excited for it," he said. "It’s going to be a fast meet and there’s going to be a lot of superstars there, too, so hopefully I get the chance to meet them and hopefully get some knowledge from them and see what I can incorporate in my own training. So I am really excited."
Nicol-Samuel believes the Commonwealth Games will put him on the fast track to running in an Olympics one day for St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
"That is the goal, yes," he said. "I wasn’t too far off (from qualifying) for the London Olympics ... but I ended up getting injured, so that didn’t help my case. But for the next Olympics coming up I will just be training hard and if everything goes the way I want it to, hopefully I will be there. It all just depends on how my progress goes and it’s just a matter of putting everything together."