I Am Yohan 'The Beast Blake'
"I am a dreamer that's why I dream big!"
“I am a dreamer, that is why I dream big!” That is the mantra that Yohan Andre Blake goes by. A man that has overcome many adversities even with odds stacked against him and has placed his family and loved ones on his back on his rise to international stardom. His ‘never say die’ mentality, that he describes as ‘beast mode’, has seen him transition from running down buses to get to school in Montego Bay as a boy, to setting records and representing Jamaica including his family and friends to the fullest on the international scene.
Standing at 5, 11”, chiseled from head to toe, with biceps that could rival Thor, is an accomplished young man in several aspects of life and isn’t done yet. Born and grown in Montego Bay, his childhood was not pretty, he was not born with the proverbial ‘gold spoon’ in his mouth. Whatever he wanted or has achieved is a result of his hard work, great sacrifice and dedication to pummeling his body to get maximum results from it.
Yohan came from humble beginnings and born to parents – mother, Veta Blake (domestic worker) and father, Sheryl Blake (Hotel Bartender and Tailor). By example, they instilled a good work ethic in Yohan, as he witnessed how hard they worked to provide life’s necessities for him and his 11 siblings. But his childhood he says his filled with fond memories. He remembers his father introducing him to cricket. Whenever watching he would invite Yohan to watch as well and taught him the game, and he developed a passion for the sport and played it a lot with friends or even on his own as a youngster. Yohan enjoyed the simple pleasures of the rural city, that he describes as a “nice place to grow up, no violence, just me and my siblings”. His siblings included his older brother, whom he called a hard worker and laughingly described him as “stingy at times” but someone he could always count on and as one who would not make him go hungry. He was very into his Christian faith growing up and was big part of the church and was on track to becoming the youngest deacon, but he then moved to Kingston.
Interest Shift: The rise of Yohan The Athlete
His Uncle Norman, who he calls “best uncle ever” took him and few of his siblings to Kingston, seeking a better life. This presented Yohan with the opportunity to showcase his alethic abilities on bigger stage. He started from playing cricket, to being a goalkeeper and ultimately blazing the track. After leaving primary school, he went to Greenpark Junior High, where he met Principal Ankle, who took a keen interest in Yohan’s athletic abilities and decided to place him in races.
He was placed in the Parish championships (Red Cross and Blue Cross), SDC Development races and then Junior Champs. His success on these levels garnered him more attention, and further convince Mr. Ankle of his ability, to the point he thought he needed a bigger platform to showcase and harness his talents. That’s when he linked Yohan with St. Jago High School’s Danny Haughton, a man he was confident would propel Yohan’s athletic growth and career.
Mr. Danny Haughton did not disappoint. He pushed Yohan, to get the best out of him and was relentless in his efforts. Although Yohan, did not taste success in his first Jamaican Boy and Girls Athletic Championship, Mr. Haughton, did not relent. Employing the assistance of Mr. Mendez and Mr. Trail, he instead cranked up Yohan’s training. He focused on building Yohan’s stamina and endurance, by having him run from St. Jago High to Flat Bush (approximately 10 miles) and back every morning before school and from St. Jago High to GC Foster and back after school. This new training regimen, helped and led to improved performances at the Local High School Championship, as he dominated the next 2 years winning the triple.
His stellar performances were noted by international sports company Adidas, who offered him a sponsorship. At this time Yohan was struggling with one thing “my mother was hungry, and I feel I am supposed to be the breadwinner and take her out of that situation”. With this weighing heavily on his mind, Yohan forfeited his last year at school and started seeking opportunities, including a try at an acting career. Again, Adidas called, and said “listen, you have to come back to the track”. He did but didn’t yet sign with Aididas. He made 2 attempts at the World Juniors, placing 3rd (year 1) and 4th (year 2). Following those performances, Mr. Cubie Segobin (his international manger) and Mr. Timothy Spencer (Local Manger) assisted him finally taking up the offer from Adidas and inking a deal. After that, Yohan said “all hell broke loose”.
“All Hell Broke Loose”
He was then introduced to Mr. Mills (trainer/coach for Racers Track Club), by his managers, and Coach Mills took him under his wings. Coach Mills “redesigned and recreated Yohan Blake” according to Yohan, by spending a lot of one-on-one time with him going over races and strategies. The first race he ran under Mills coaching, he froze in the blocks, to which Coach Mills told him “Yohan you need to wake up, this is big boy time”. Took another shot at the race (B) the following year and won. Then took a shot at the ‘big race’ and when he saw he was winning, started celebrating early, waving his hand in the air, to which coach Mills said “Yohan, listen it’s not over till it’s over”.
Yohan enjoyed his time with Racers Track club, calling it “fun”. HE is especially grateful to have been training with fellow greats Usain Bolt along, Daniel Bailey, Warren Weir, Kemar Bailey Cole, who all pushed him every day to higher greatness. He remembers Usain encouraging him, especially on race days saying ““Yohan, you are not doing this for the people, you are doing this for you”. The benefits of his coach and training team could be seen on the track as he went on to stack up accolades including becoming the youngest ever World Champion at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea. The moment he describes as “when I announced myself to the world”.
His accolades do not stop there. Yohan has dominated the Jamaican High School Boys and Girls Championship having won 5 titles. He is a 2X winner of the Austin Sealy award at the Carifta games, Pan-Am games silver medalist, 2X World Championship Gold Medalist, 2X Olympic Gold Medalist, 2X Olympic Silver Medalist along with a few Diamond League titles. Off the track, Yohan has won The Prime Minister Youth Award, The Golden Peace Award from the Gleaner, 2X runner up for Sports Man of the Year award for 2011 and 2012 and to top it off he has been given the keys to the city of Montego Bay. Although not done, Yohan says “I have accomplished a lot in the sport, and if today was my last in it, I wouldn’t be disappointed”.
Off the Track…YB Afraid Foundation
The late great, Michael Jackson, “King of Pop” who is featured heavily on Yohan’s musical playlist is a big inspiration to Yohan. “Considering all he has been through and still be so talented and kind if definitely and inspiration” touches Yohan to his core. Once of the many reasons why he is bent on making a difference in the lives of the less fortunate. This led to him starting the YB Afraid Foundation (to aid children with education access and sports exposure) in collaboration with Food For The Poor and his endorsement partners Adidas and Rihcard Mille whom he describes as “a wonderful team”.
“Michael Jackson says it starts with the man in mirror and every day, I look in the mirror, it’s me. I see a lot of kids out here suffering. From deplorable living conditions to being physically and sexually abused by adults and I want to help”. As a man of faith, Yohan, sees himself as being placed on earth by God to help and care for the sheep like a loving shepherd. That mindset has made him into the kind, self-sacrificing individual he is today. A man who believes no nurturing the youth, because they are the future and someone who loves and loves to love.
No wonder Yohan is so highly regarded by the woman he describes as the “love of his Life” Laura Pearson, whom he has been with for almost 4 years. He describes her as “go-getter who is very bright, humble and an overall great human being”. He cherishes her support and is strongly encouraged by how much she believes in him and often looks forward to her encouraging messages after grueling days of training. Yohan values her as a big part of his life and is looking forward to forever with her.
He loves his movies. On a given day, Yohan may watch up to 8 movies, when not busy training or pursuing his philanthropic endeavors. Movies such as “The Notebook”, “Rambo” or “The Time Traveler’s Wife” are a few of his selections. If not movies, he is often entertained by the music of Michael Jackson, Isley Brothers, Celine Dion, Babyface and Vybz Kartel to name a few.
He works at hard at his craft. Refuses to say never. A man not afraid to push his body beyond its limits. Ignoring his body when it tries to tell him no. A man driven by faith in God and fueled by kindness. A fearless competitor and lover at his core. Yohan Andre Blake is an athletic great, a champion, a trailblazer for Jamaica, motivation to the hopeless and winner for the people. He will always be remembered for his accolades on and off the track and be known by many the world over as “The Best”. We await the next chapters of his book of life.