Chasing the Olympic dream

Feb. 8, 2023, 9:56 p.m. | By Alex Feingold-Black | 1 year, 3 months ago

Following the story of Blair’s co-head track coach Demetrius Lindo and his accomplished track career

Demetrius Lindo and his family were visiting Minneapolis again, which meant one thing: it was time to race. The kids in the neighborhood met up at the street corner and prepared to run to the end of the block and back to see who the fastest kid was. As the youngest of the group, Lindo had never won the race, yet he came back every time more determined to win. Everyone lined up at the corner, and after one of the kids yelled, “ready, set, go,” they were off. This time, Lindo was the first one back.

After winning his first race against the neighborhood kids in Minneapolis, Lindo had made his talent for sprinting clear. Hence, after returning back home to Silver Spring, five-year-old Lindo decided to join the local track team with his sisters. Here, Lindo was met with immediate success, with much more on its way. 

The start of a track career

For the next few years, he sprinted events such as the 55 meters (m), 100m and 200m. Already, parents and coaches who saw him running knew he could be something special. “From the get-go, coaches and other parents were like, ‘Yeah, he’s going to be pretty good,” he recalls. After a few years of training when Lindo was nine years old, he made his national debut in the 2001 Junior Olympics in Sacramento, Calif. From then on, Lindo would almost always place in the top three for his races.

Two years later, he was finally able to try something new in track: the hurdles.

“Hurdles was just something that I had seen, and I just knew that I could do it,” Lindo explains. Evidently, he made the right choice as that same year, Lindo went to the Junior Olympics and made it to the finals in the 80 meter hurdles (mh). However, during that race, he was leading until the final hurdle – destined to win – but lost focus and fell down, finishing in last. This blunder was Lindo’s first major experience with difficulty in track. “It was devastating. That was my first introduction to adversity, of course…Like woah, that can happen,” he says. 

Nevertheless, he used that introduction to adversity as motivation for training. He came back the next year and won his first national championship both in the 80mh and the 100m. Winning these races was huge, as Lindo was one of the very few kids in the Washington Metropolitan area to win a national championship. 

While his performances were already impressive, Lindo also faced challenges where he grew up. In 3rd grade, he moved to northeast D.C, a region in the capital known for violence and financial disparities. “I came out of a pretty rough side of town…Family-wise, I come from more of, like, the have-nots,” Lindo says. Despite these circumstances, Lindo was able to compete at one of the highest levels in track.

For the next couple of years, Lindo competed in the Junior Olympics and consistently placed near the top in each event. When he reached high school, Lindo had already established himself as one of the top runners in the nation. 

While Lindo had already proven his success as a youth, he still needed to show his dominance in high school. For two consecutive years in a row, he was just tenths of a second away from winning national championships in high school. Finally, Lindo broke through and won his first high school national championship in 2011, placing him at the top of the U.S. high school leaderboard at the time. “I got second [place] two years in a row outdoors in the 110mh…I look at second place as the worst. I would rather get third than second…I ended up breaking through indoor season and winning the 60mh,” he says.

Not only was Lindo winning national championships, but in 2011, he was selected to represent the U.S. in Japan, where he placed third in the 60mh. 

Continuing track into college

After such a successful high school career – winning multiple national championships and representing the U.S. internationally – Lindo received offers from every big track school imaginable. However, he was not able to attend any of the top D1 schools for track. While Lindo was locked in on the track, he had trouble applying himself in school.

For Lindo’s first two years in high school, he did not focus on achieving good grades. It wasn’t until 11th grade that he realized grades were key to scholarships and getting into the best schools.

“What I lacked in the classroom was more of an effort thing, something [that] I didn’t grasp early enough,” he says. By his junior and senior year, he was academically focused, but by then it was too late. 

Consequently, Lindo instead attended Barton County Community College. Although the school was a junior college, it was certainly still very competitive for track. “Over maybe 10 Olympians went there, it’s a big track school…On the track level, we’re not even looked at as a junior college,” he explains. 

While Lindo still received great training from his college, what the school really lacked was resources. Compared to the top schools in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), they did not receive nearly as much treatment for recovery and sports medicine. After a successful season at Barton County, – ranked top five for nearly every sprint event – Lindo transferred to the Academy of Art University, then to Stillman College in hopes of furthering his academics and track career. Unfortunately, after his freshman year in college, Lindo had trouble staying healthy and avoiding injuries. Nearly every season afterwards, he repeatedly encountered injuries that either had him out for a few weeks or the entire season, essentially ending his track career.

Despite his accomplished career, Lindo did not reach his goal of competing in the Olympics. Photo courtesy of Bitanya Hailu.

Looking forward and reflecting

After finishing his running career, Lindo decided to become a coach at Blair for the track team to give back to the sport and his passion. Additionally, the mistakes Lindo made during his running career motivated him to be a better coach to prevent athletes from repeating them. “It’s just something that gives me all the more motivation in my coaching, to not have my athletes make the same mistakes that I made…From academics to training to recovery to everything,” Lindo explains.

Like his own career, Lindo has ambitious goals for the track team at Blair. He will take the team to another level of competitiveness and bring them to the national stage, and does not plan to leave until he has accomplished it. “My goal right now is to turn Montgomery Blair into a national powerhouse,” he says. Afterwards, he plans to coach collegiate and professional athletes in track.

Words of advice

Finally, Lindo leaves his three most important words of advice for anyone wanting to succeed either in track or any activity that they participate in.

First, don’t quit, and see it all the way through. While Lindo faced his own challenges both on and off the track, he kept going and used his situation as motivation. He hopes others do the same so that they don’t leave with regrets. “Use your situations to fuel you, to go that much farther,” he says, “you never want to leave a situation in doubt.”

Secondly, he explains that in order to achieve success, you have to become nearly obsessed with what you do and be 100 percent committed. “It has to be on your mind 24/7. You have to live, eat and breathe it,” he explains. 

Finally, Lindo reminds people to have fun with what they do. “If it’s not fun, don’t do it,” he says.

Overall, Lindo is proud of his career, yet was always shooting for more success. “I did a lot. I ran for Team USA, I went to Japan, I won national championships, I got to travel all across the world and across the nation…but my goal was always to make it to the Olympics,” Lindo says.

Despite not reaching his goals of becoming an Olympian and a professional athlete, Lindo looks back on his running career as a bittersweet journey. While he didn’t accomplish everything he wanted to do, he achieved far more than anyone would expect considering his position.“How many people from your position and where you come from have done what you have done? Not many,” he says.

Last updated: Feb. 8, 2023, 10:02 p.m.

Alex Feingold-Black. Hey! I'm Alex [he/him] and I'm the Feature Editor and External Manager for SCO. Outside of school you can find me running laps around a track and eating from Potbelly's Sandwich Shop. More »

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