Even if Haiti Olympic track star Jeffrey Julmis had a chance to do it all over again, there is nothing the American-born Julmis would change in his compelling journey from alternative school to the London Games.
Born to Haitian parents in Fort Lauderdale, the former Kansas State 110-meter hurdles national champion and Fort Lauderdale High School All-American, hopes his personal turnaround can lift the spirits of a Haitian nation rebuilding following a devastating earthquake two years ago.
Ive been wanting to represent Haiti ever since I was a kid, Julmis said. I definitely feel a special connection with the people there. All you hear about is the turmoil and what a negative place it is. I just want to go to London and make Haiti proud.
From Port-au-Prince to Pétionville and Cap-Haïtien, national pride will be stirred throughout Haiti on Friday when Julmis leads Haitis five-athlete contingent in the opening ceremonies at the London Olympic Stadium.
Julmis opens his bid to become the first Haitian since Dudley Dorival to reach the Olympic 110-meters hurdles finals and supplant Dorvils national record 13.25 in the prelims on Aug. 7.
A personal-best 13.50 Julmis set at last years NCAA championships met the Olympic A standard 13.52 needed to qualify. Julmis season best is a 13.53 he ran in the Bahamas on June 23.
The 6-1 Julmis said the wake-up call he needed for a track career now headed to the professional ranks came after poor grades and a lack of focus at Fort Lauderdale High School led to him being enrolled at an alternative school.
I wasnt the ideal student during my sophomore year, Julmis said. My name started coming up on the list to be kicked out of school. Kids dont usually make it out of alternative schools but I was determined to make it. I told the counselors Im going to make something of myself.
In what has turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, Julmis re-enrolled at Fort Lauderdale High and signaled his arrival in the 110-meter hurdles with a silver medal at the 2006 state finals.
Julmis became the No. 2 junior college hurdler in the nation at Cloud County Community College (Kansas) before moving on to Kansas State, where his list of honors includes winning the 2012 NCAA Big 12 Indoor 60-meter title, finishing second in the 2011 Big 12 Indoors and fourth in the 2011 NCAA Outdoors.
Julmis is considered a long shot to make the Olympic finals, which makes him all the more hungrier to prove the experts wrong again.
At the 2011 Big 12 Outdoors championships Julmis was counted out after missing most of the season with a blood clot but used that motivation to shock the field with a second-place finish.
All of us on the team has a chance to medal, Julmis said. Haiti needs a turnaround. People look at us as the place with the earthquake. Athletics is what brings people together. If we do something big, it would give people something good in Haiti to talk about.