By Anthony Foster, writer 

She won the high jump at the Jamaican Senior Championships in 2012 and 2013, but very few knows anything about Saniel Atkinson-Grier or the fact that she has won medals for her country, Jamaica.

In 2012, Atkinson-Grier narrowly missed the Olympic Games qualifying standard, after clearing 1.89 metres, to win at the National Trials, however, the following year she went on to take bronze at the CAC Senior Championships in Mexico., in this Up Close interview with Saniel Atkinson-Grier, decided to find out more about Grier herself, in and out of track and field. And if you are wondering why the 22-year-old is Atkinson-Grier, it's not because she is married, but because, two years ago she decided to add the name of her stepfather (who has being in her life since she was 9-yr-old).

TA. Before you start the run-up for your next jump, please tell us in no more than 150 words, who you are, where you're from (born and live now), and about your Jamaican background?

SAG. My name is Saniel Atkinson-Grier. I am a high jumper whose passion and purpose is to be the best athlete that I can be through working hard every day and giving my very best. I was born on Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland and was raised in Upper Marlboro, MD.

I live in Athens, Ga. and train at the University of Georgia. Both of my parents were born and raised in Jamaica. My mother, Sandra, is from Clarendon and my father, O’Neill, is from Montego Bay. I grew up dreaming of competing for Jamaica because of my heritage and have been honored to do so in two international meets.

TA. I'd also like to talk to you about your career so far, titles, persons best, teams represented, and your career goal in track & field?

SAG – I’ve been jumping for the last 13 years and my biggest achievement  was to a member of the University of Georgia Women’s Track and Field Team.

Three years ago, my coach George Cleare (Head Coach of the 2013 Bahamas World Championship Team) changed my perception of what it takes to be an elite athlete as well as what it means to be an elite athlete.

On that day we began planning out the necessary steps and phases I would have to go through in order to successfully progress through the rest of my collegiate career as well as transition into a professional career.

Fast forward to 2014, I have not only accomplished my collegiate goals, I have also come literally an inch away from achieving one of my top goals, which is making it to the Olympics Games.

My indoor personal best is currently 1.87 (6’1.5) and my outdoor personal best is 1.89 (6’2.5). So far I have represented Jamaica on the 2012 NACAC team and the 2013 CAC team (Bronze Medalist). My career goals is to set a new Jamaican high jump record as well as qualify and have a strong performance at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, and qualify for all of the upcoming national teams. My ultimate goal is to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

Other accolades include:- 2013 CACAC Bronze Medalist, 2013 Jamaican Senior National High Jump Champion, 2013 SEC Outdoor High Jump Champion, 2013 Drake Relays Collegiate High Jump Champion, 2013 NCAA Indoor & Outdoor High Jump All American, 2012 Jamaican Senior National High Jump Champion, 2012 NCAA Indoor & Outdoor All American, 2012 SEC Indoor & Outdoor High Jump Runner – Up, 2011 SEC Outdoor High Jump Runner – Up, 2011 NCAA Indoor High Jump All American, 2x Second Team All SEC, 1x First Team All SEC.

TA. What are your three favorite things about being an athlete?

SAG. (1) being an athlete makes you more disciplined and goal oriented, (2) begin an athlete helps you promote a very healthy lifestyle, (3) as an athlete I am afforded the opportunity to travel the world and meet new people and mentor younger athletes, all while doing something that I love.

TA. What is your least favorite part about being an athlete?

SAG.  My least favorite part about being an athlete is not being able to see my family and friends very often while I am training and competing.

TA. What is your favorite training session?

SAG.  My favorite training session is my jump sessions because it gives me a chance to work on my approach and mechanics.

What about your least favorite training session?

SAG.  My least favorite training session is definitely cardio/distance running.

TA. What is your favorite training venue?

SAG. My current training facility at the University of Georgia is my favorite venue; I’ve been training there for the last 4 ½ years.

TA. Do you do anything special during training to stay relaxed?

SAG.  During training when it gets a bit intense, I would sometimes joke around and talk to my coach to help me relax and get settled down to execute his instructions.

TA. Where is your favorite place to relax?

SAG.  My favorite place to relax is in Jamaica. I love being able to spend time there with my family. I also enjoy spending time at the track, especially on a beautiful sunny day.

TA. What is your favorite stress reliever?

SAG.  MUSIC is my escape whenever I need to relax. As soon as I put on my headphones I zone out and nothing else matters.

TA. Describe your perfect non-training day.

SAG.  My perfect non-training day would start with me sleeping in and then either going shopping, or going out to eat at one of my favorite restaurants or going to see a movie and if I am in a really good mood all of the above.

TA. What is your favorite type of music to chill to?

SAG. Based on how I am feeling at that specific moment, when I am picking a playlist can determine what genre of music I listen to; it could either be Gospel, Reggae, Old School R&B and Hip Hop/Rap.A. 

TA. What is your favorite book?

SAG.  I carry my Bible with me everywhere I go. I also tend to gravitate towards motivational books, for example, “Relentless” by Tim S. Grover and “48 Laws of Power” by Robert Greene.

TA. What is your favorite video game and why?

SAG.  Honestly I am not really an avid gamer, however I have played a few games such as Call of Duty and 2k13. But I am willing to try any type of game as long as I am playing with my best friends.

TA. What is your favorite movie?

SAG.  I actually have more than one favorite movie but my favorite types of movies are really interesting action movies such as Gladiator, Django, and James Bond Movies.

TA. If you could pick an athlete to relax with, who would it be and why?

SAG. I would have to pick my best friend Torrin Lawrence. We have been friends since my freshman year at the University of Georgia and no matter what we do; we always have a great time.

TA. What is the best piece of coaching advice you’ve ever received?

SAG. “Sometimes goals can seem insurmountable and larger than life, and sometimes you feel like you’re so far away from them. The key is to focus on the short term and intermediate goals. Fall in love with each accomplishment and before you know it you would have reached your goals.” – George A. Cleare


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