When Georgia Powell moved to Canada from Jamaica she never imagined that one of her three sons would become an Olympic champion.
Powell is the mother of sprinter Jerome Blake. Her other sons are Jason and Jhavoun.
She came to Canada, on her own, in 2008 through an employment program so she could give her boys better opportunities in life.
“After two or three years if you work enough then you can take your kids there,” said Powell.
When Powell first arrived in Canada she started working in Penticton and then moved to Revelstoke.
All that time she was without her children (they were cared for by their grandmother), but she did have a friend who was in the program with her.
“It was hard at first,” she said.
In 2013, Powell married her husband, who is also from Jamaica and was finally able to bring her boys to Kelowna.
“It was so good, you couldn’t believe it like you’ve won the lotto,” she said of reuniting with her sons.
Powell and her husband divorced four years later, and they remain friends.
As they settled into their new home, Jerome and Jhavoun discovered track and field and football at Rutland Senior Secondary (RSS), while Jason attended Okanagan College. He is now a plumber and pipefitter in Calgary.
Jhavaoun is currently attending Gannon University in Pennsylvania on a football scholarship, and Jerome played for the Okanagan Sun before dedicating himself to track.
“I wouldn’t think Jhavoun would be playing football. Jason was doing carpentry, mason work, and construction before (in Jamaica). I didn’t think he would actually be going to school.”
While Jerome was first drawn to football at RSS, Powell said it was track and field coach Peter McCall who recognized his potential as a world-class sprinter.
“That man is amazing. He played a vital part in Jerome’s and Jhavoun’s lives.”
The pair would also hone their sprinting skills on the running track at the Apple Bowl.
Raising three boys on her own was difficult, Powell said, and there wasn’t always the money to pay for sports-related fees and equipment. She said support from RSS faculty and staff, friends, and co-workers helped tremendously.
“I’m really grateful for all the help and support Jerome gets from everybody in Kelowna.”
Powell noted that her sons never complained, but were instead satisfied with whatever they had.
“Because we got love and that’s the thing I think that kept us going. We had each other.”
The day Jerome won a medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (held in 2021 due to COVID-19) is one that Powell will never forget.
It was around 6:30 a.m. when she walked into the theatre at Heritage Retirement Residence in West Kelowna, where she works, and every single resident and staff member was there to watch him race.
“I started crying because I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “It was a celebration in there I’m telling you. They’re like my family away from home.”
Jerome, and teammates Aaron Brown, Brendon Rodney and Andre De Grasse won bronze in the 4X100m relay. Those medals were upgraded to silver last year after a positive doping test on the British team.
The Canadian team will receive their new medals at the 2023 Bell Canadian Track and Field Championships in Langley July 29 where Jerome is competing in several events.
Powell, who doesn’t get to see her son run very often, will be in the crowd.
“I never expected he would go to the Olympics. He never gives up. I’m so proud of him.”
So what advice does a mother, who took on adversity and triumphed, give to her sons?
“Always remember that you can’t do nothing without God,” said Powell. “I tell them be grateful for what you have, respect others, have manners, be honest, and give everything you do 100 per cent. “It doesn’t matter where you come from, it matters where you’re going.”