By Shelby Horton
Gowans Stadium casts a long shadow on the track field as track athletes practice intensely to improve their skills.
Na’uier Jaishawn Thompson, 20, explodes out of the starting blocks, pushing himself to his limits as coach Pat Becher looks on, evaluating his technique. If you blink, you could miss Thompson as he shoots past.
Born in Colon, Panama, Thompson moved with his family to Bridgetown, Barbados, at the age of six. His family is involved in the military.
Currently, he resides in New York City, after moving to the U.S. about six years ago.
Thompson is the eldest of 10, including his twin, and he has a five-year-old daughter.
Thompson has been running for seven years, and considers himself as a “build-up” runner, whose speed increases as he accelerates through a 200 meter race.
“Each year I’ve been doing well, but I’ve had setbacks because of my injury. But I’m trying to enter this year with a bang,” Thompson said.
He suffered a left ham string injury during his senior year of high school, which led to his pulling his right ham string later, in college. In high school, he had broken a track record and was preparing to win at state.
“We had a time trial practice for our first indoor. I had started to feel my leg hurt but I continued running anyway. I was winning and as I came around the curve, all of the sudden the pain hit me,” he said.
“I screamed and fell to the floor. That was one of the worst feelings in my life.
“At the time there was a high chance that I was going to beat the state record in track that year. Everyone was betting on me to win state that year.”
His doctors tried to help heal his leg by administering controlled shocks to it. But his healing process didn’t go as fast as he wanted. In college, his right hamstring suffered the same fate during nationals.
“I’m a Christian, so I prayed for it to get better, but to be honest my leg is still not at its full potential. I can feel it,” he said.
“It’s a downfall and upsetting, but at the end of the day you just got to keep our head up. Believe in God and pray about it, then keep going on about your business.”
Despite his injuries, Thompson continues to strive for excellence, and pushes himself as hard as he can during his practices. Becher admires his dedication.
“He’s very intense about his craft, which is what you want in a track runner,” Becher said.
“Outside of track, he’s this real fun-loving guy, but once he gets on the track it’s like two different people.”
Thompson has a double major, in biochemistry and biotechnology, but he also has his cosmetology license and has worked in salons.
Thompson is also involved in the Gay Straight Alliance club at HCC, and attends the club meetings as much as he can, between his track practices and regular class schedules.
“Me being a Christian, I know that it’s wrong to be gay, but at the end of the day people are going to do what they want to do because it’s their own body,” he said.
“I’ve dated men and women; that is my personal struggle because I lean towards my religion more than my flesh.
“I don’t have a problem with what people are going through, because at the end of the day you’re going to do what you want. I’ll wish you nothing but the best.”
Thompson had a daughter at the age of 15, while the mother was 17. He had planned on having her at a young age since in his country it is not shameful to have a child at a young age.
The mother of his daughter passed away two years ago while in the military in Afghanistan. Thompson doesn’t see himself as a single father, because his mother and brother are helping raise his daughter.
“Being gone 10 months out of the year, it’s hurtful to not be able to see your child grow up,” he said. “She’s not close. Currently she’s in North Carolina with my mother, but my brother takes care of her when I’m not home. I love having a daughter. She will always be my little one.”
When asked if there was a message he would like people to know, he said, “I’ve received a lot of criticism based on the way I dress, perceive myself, and speak to other people,” Thompson said.
It is not easy being different from many of his fellow students, he said.
“People call me names, and say things that have nearly come to fights, but I could defend myself,” Thompson said.
“I feel like people shouldn’t judge you based off what you do or what you’re going through.
“At the end of the day, if you’re not doing anything to harm someone, why should they say anything to you?”
Thompson wishes people had more respect, and were less judgmental when it comes to meeting someone different.
“I feel like you should get to know someone before you judge them, no matter what. Don’t do something that you don’t want done to you, to others.”