Donald Brown: “Sport is a powerful vehicle to develop life-skills”

Exclusive interview with Gold Medallist & 2011 European Masters 60 Meter Indoor Champion

In 1990, at the age of 27, Donald Brown decided to further his career as a sculpture and left Wolverhampton to live in Manchester. This resulted in the end of a great training partnership with his athletic coach, Joseph Caines, former international athlete and father of the 2004 Indoor World 400 Meter Champion, Daniel Caines. 

In 1997, Donald moved to America and found international success as a renowned sculptor. It was during this time that Donald was introduced to the world of Masters Athletics for athletes aged 35 and above and he contemplated returning to the sport.  However it was not until 2006 that he finally decided to return to athletics and tried his hand at the multi events.

With only a few weeks of training he entered the USA National Masters Indoor Heptathlon Championship; the 60m dash, long jump, shot put, high jump, 60m hurdles, pole vault and 1000 meters. Donald surprised his competitors, who had never seen or heard of him, by winning the Gold Medal and becoming the USA National Heptathlon Champion. 

Two weeks later he entered the USA Masters Pentathlon Championships, five events in one day and again won the Gold Medal for his second USA National title.

Donald then returned to the UK to be reacquainted with his former coach, Joseph after 16 years. It was a great reunion. After going on to win a series of British National Medals in the Decathlon and Pentathlon, Donald decided to switch events and compete against fellow athletes who specialised in the individual sprint and hurdle events. In 2009 at the European Masters Championships in Ancona, Italy, Donald again surprised competitors and onlookers by winning the Silver Medal in the 60 meters sprint missing out on the Gold by 2/100th of a second to fellow Brit, Dalton Powell. Donald who had also entered the Pentathlon, brought home the Bronze for Great Britain. The next big event would be the World Championships in Finland later that year. 

In the 100 meters Donald was ecstatic to make it through the rounds, to the finals and then to win the Silver Medal, finally beating his great friend and rival, Dalton Powell.  The roles were reversed in the 200m with Dalton taking Silver and Donald taking the Bronze. In the 4 x 100 relay, Donald ran the second leg to help Great Britain bring home another Bronze Medal.

Donald has just returned from the 2011 European Masters Indoor Championships in Belgium.  He made it through the heats and semis of the 60m hurdles and went on to win the Bronze Medal and along with fellow Brit, Greg Dunson, they both broke the British record. 

But it was all eyes on the Cinderella event of the championships, the 60 meters sprint. Even though Donald won his heat and semi final, he qualified for the final with a time of 7.42, just 2/100th off his personal best. French athletes, Claudeon Philippe and Launey Jocelyn and British athlete Rohan Samuels all qualified for the final with faster times of 7.38, 7.34 and 7.33.  Donald would have to run a personal best just to win the Bronze. 

The final was an epic race. It began with the sound of the starter’s gun and Donald shot out of the blocks and found himself within touching distance of the three favourites.  Surprised and encouraged by this he began to believe that just maybe he could sneak in for the Bronze Medal. With every stride he drew closer and closer and within seconds the race was over. The three favourites ran 7.33, 7.33 and 7.34.  Donald ran a blistering 7.27 to smash his personal best, win the Gold Medal and become the new European Masters Champion. Rohan Samuels won the Silver and Launey Jocelyn of France took home the Bronze.

With a further Silver Medal in the 4 x 100m relays, Donald Brown ensured that Wolverhampton was very well represented at the Championships and reaffirmed that Great Britain is a force to be reckoned with. Here’s an exclusive interview Donald granted The AfroNews.

Donald, you’ve won several Gold, Silver and Bronze Medals. How does it feel to make such great achievements?

I feel totally elated. To know that all of the hard work has paid off has given me such and mental, physical and spiritual boost. I can’t stop smiling. I was already confident that I could be successful if I put my mind to a task but to achieve it is simply incredible.

For you to win all these medals you must be practicing a lot. Now, how do you manage to find time to practice and dedicate yourself to your career as a sculpture?

I make time. I know that sounds simple but time management is very important. It means less time in front of the TV and not socializing as much as others might. It’s about prioritizing. If you are truly passionate about something you will find the time to pursue it with commitment.

Do you find your two careers in conflict?

My sculpting and sporting careers complement each other. My third career is that of an Inspirational/Motivational Speaker. I use my art to promote positive messages of inspiration and empowerment. I also address health and wellness. To have the sporting accolades that I have achieved lends even more credibility to my public speaking. It can be easy for many people to talk about struggling with obesity or the dangers of living a sedentary lifestyle.  However, to speak on these issues as a multiple National, European and World Championship Medallist allows me to drive my messages home to far more receptive audiences. 

What keeps you going?

I am very passionate about life, living it to the full and giving back to others. I believe the Creator has a purpose for me and I want to make that calling a reality.

You left Wolverhampton for Manchester to further your career as a sculpture, then moved to America where you found international success as a renowned sculptor. You were unsuccessful in running away from athletics. What’s your reaction to this?

Athletics took a back seat for quite some time as I pursued my career as a sculptor and public speaker. However, I always had the intention to return to athletics at some point. It was not until I went to a National Masters Athletics Championship in America and saw the amazing performances by athletes my age that I decided to return to training. I knew I had a talent for athletics and I did not want to lose it so I decided to use it.

What’s your advice to the people, both young and old who would like make it in athletics?

If you are truly passionate about athletics then find a local club and join it. They will have coaches to guide you through the sport. With that said, if athletics is not for you but another sport is your passion then pursue it. For me the medals and accolades are incredible but more important, it is a way of life. I want to be as fit and healthy as I can for as long as I can.

How does one become a successful athlete?

I apply Life Principles to sport and vice versa.  To be successful in life you need to nurture such principles and humility, discipline, patience, respect, honesty, dedication, determination, confidence and punctuality to name a few.  All of these principles are also nurtured through sport, thereby positioning sport as a powerful vehicle to develop life-skills.  This in turn helps to create a strong mental approach to life, a more successful athlete and a more complete person who is capable of applying life principles to various areas of their lives in order to achieve success.

Now that you’ve just won the Gold Medal and become the new European Masters Champion, what’s your next move?

The World Masters Championships in Sacramento is the most prestigious event of our athletic calendar. That takes place in July. I hope to be ready for that.

Please share with us something about your sculptures and career in this field.

I have been blessed to meet with Presidents and Government officials from South Africa, Ghana, The Gambia, The United Nations and The Nigerian Embassy in Washington DC to name a few.  Part of my objective is to create economic empowerment throughout the developing world via my art and inspirational speaking. The art industry is a multi-billion dollar industry and tapping into this wealth of revenue will enable my company to build schools, hospitals and homes and do so much more for my fellow brothers and sisters around the world.

What’s your philosophy of life?

I have many philosophies that I can better express in the following quotes.
“Don’t take your talents to the grave. They were given to you for a reason.”
“Wait not for the hour of bereavement to then speak words of kindness.”
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” 
“When blessed with success, reach back and pull someone up.” 
“Be careful who you step on, on your way up.  They might be the very same people you need on your way down.”

Please share with us something about your family life?

I am the younger of two boys.  I have a 19-year-old son whom I love dearly.  I am currently single and attend to my parents who are in their 80s and 90s.  I am very close to my family and hope to be a success for them as well as for others and myself.  Like many families we had to struggle financially to make ends meet. That journey helped me to develop the determination to survive and a desire to help others.  

Any other comment?

I welcome the opportunity to conduct seminars for your readers and to share my economic empowerment project with them. The recession has hit everyone.  However, through art I have created way to economically empower individuals and communities. Readers are welcome to contact me for more information. Thank you for the opportunity to be in your publication. 

Donald has just launched a new social network titled “The Global Gallery”. This is a premier social network for visual artists, performance artists, authors, poets, community empowerment groups and all who want to be part of a universal movement that will bring about positive change for all people. Visit www.theglobalgallery.org and become a member free of charge, browse the site and post your comments.

DONALD BROWN’S LINKS AND CONTACTS
www.thestruggleforchange.co.uk
www.theglobalgallery.org
E-mail: artistadmin@gmail.com 

By Stephen Ogongo Ongong’a