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Fiji Time: 8:20 PM on Tuesday 23 September

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Phillips here to inspire

Rashneel Kumar
Monday, April 21, 2014

DWIGHT Phillips has a reputation of inspiring the next generation of Olympic stars.

The former Olympic gold medallist is so influential that even one budding athlete who was inspired by his achievements went on to become one of his toughest opponents.

That was Panama's Irving Saladino, who won the gold medal in the long jump event at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China.

Four-time world champion Phillips, 36, is in the country alongside former middle distance runner Hazel Clark as part of the US Department of State Sport's Envoy Program.

The duo will conduct clinics for coaches and student athletes here preparing to participate in the 2014 Coca-Cola Games. The program is being conducted in partnership with Athletics Fiji.

On Saturday, the two were chief guests at the Easter Games held at the ANZ Stadium in Laucala Bay.

Phillips hopes he will be able to inspire budding Fijian athletes like the thousands he has in his 14-year athletics career.

"Being an Olympic champion leads you to inspire the youths all over the world," he said.

"I am able to go to China, to Russia, to all these great nations and share my story to them to inspire the next generation of Olympic athletes.

"For me it's awesome. I never envisioned me in this position but I thank God, number one, that I am in this position to be able to influence athletes to become better athletes. Many years ago there was a kid, he asked me to sign an autograph for him and I told him 'Hey, I think you can be good, just keep working hard'.

"Seven years later he became the Olympic gold medallist. His name is Irving Saladino, one of my major opponents.

"That's so satisfying that you can really influence people no matter where you are from to be the best they can possibly be."

With the annual secondary schools athletics meet starting this Friday at the ANZ Stadium, Phillips said it was not easy to become champions.

He said it needed a lot of dedication and hard work to achieve the desired goals.

"You have to have a great support system surrounding you to kind of like reinforce that you are good enough to be a champion.

"You just have to really believe in yourself more than anybody else in the world, more than your coach, more than your mum and your dad and you have to give that effort at practice each and every day like you want to be a champion.

"And if you can include those in your mind-sets, I think you can be a great athlete."

Meanwhile, Phillips, who retired in 2012 after suffering from a torn Achilles, is enjoying his first visit to Fiji.

"The only thing I knew about Fiji was the Fiji Water coming in and now I know that Fiji has great talent, great athletes, great people, amazing food and beautiful weather," he said.

"I am excited about sharing my experiences to influence the next generation of Olympians."


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