When he lines up in the starting blocks for the first time — at the Tokyo Olympics — in the qualifying heats for his specialty 200-metre race, Aaron Brown may take a nanosecond or two to simply savour the moment, differently, before turning his attention to the race ahead of him.
After all, it has been a decidedly different road to these Olympics for the 29-year-old, Toronto native. In the seven months leading up to the Olympics, Brown got married and became a dad, navigating a pandemic-proof training schedule in Florida where he lives, mixed in with the swirling uncertainty of COVID-19 on the world’s biggest sporting stage — all while experiencing the whole new world of life with a newborn.
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No problem at all.
I wanted to ask you speaking of schedules, what’s it like, you know, heading into the Olympic Games and training as a new dad, a father of a six month old?
Well, it’s tough, you know, because on one hand, you want to spend as much time you can with him, and soak up those moments, while they slow young and squishy and still, you know, so dependent on you and all that stuff and changing every day. But at the other end of the spectrum, you’re trying to prepare for one of the biggest races of your career will probably the biggest. So, you know, find that balance between taking care of myself, but also, you know, being a father and trying to support my, my wife being a husband as well. It’s a, it’s a juggling act, for sure. And there’s some days where, you know, I’m dead after practice, it’s, you know, really hot outside and I’m, you know, exerting myself and pushing my body to the limit, and then come home, and then, you know, there’s stuff that has to be done around the house. And, you know, that stuff gets challenging sometimes, but I have a good partner, and we work it out, and she understands my, my needs, and my, you know, the day to day obligations that I have, so she’s definitely there to support me. So definitely thankful for that.
And you’re so new into this whole world of parenting too, right? Like, have you always wanted to be a dad?
I did, you know, I always looked at my parents and our family dynamic, I have two sisters. So a family of three. And just being around that environment, I always thought, you know, one day I want to be married and have a family of my own. It just seemed like, you know, the natural thing to do. And, you know, I fortunate to have one child, and hopefully more in the future. But, you know, our little unit right now is is awesome. And it’s, uh, it’s great to have.
I like how you call it your little unit. So as an elite level athlete, you know, preparation, obviously, is such a big part of what you do on a daily basis in so many different ways. I’m curious what kind of preparation did you and your wife undertake, before you decided to become parents or, and also, once you found out that you were going to have a baby?
Well, we had to plan it according to my season, pretty much, you know, that’s kind of how you have to think when you’re an athlete, because there’s certain parts of the year where I’m in and out so much, which is like right now. And we didn’t want it to be a situation where she was pregnant, about to give birth, and I have to be on the go. So we had to strategically plan it so that I for sure would be in town, which is like the fall winter time, because that’s when bases in is I’m not traveling not competing. So at least then I for sure be there for the birth. And then a couple, you know, months afterwards where she’s still recovering and I could be there to help. And, you know, if I take some time off of practice, it’s not like detrimental to the season. So that’s exactly why I took a week off after the birth. And then she was she’s a trooper, so she recovered really fast. And you know, was able to get back on her feet pretty quickly. And, you know, handle the reins really quick is impressive. But yeah, we just have to be strategic about it. Because you know, the reality of is, this is my job. And this is how I provide so I have to be able to
be at my best.
It’s interesting for somebody who is, you know, always got to be so concerned about timing. It sounds like the timing and all that planning really worked out for both of you.
Yeah, worked out pretty well. Um, you know, we can, you know, tweak certain things here and there in terms of our timing now that we understand what it takes to raise a child and we’re going to it fresh the first time. So now if we go for a second child, we know exactly what to expect and what we’ll need. So we can even fine tune that timing even more. But you can’t it’s also hard to know when you’re going to conceive so you can have everything in plan and have a perfect strategy. But it might not just work out that way. Just because you know, that’s how human biology is. So yeah, we’re fortunate in that it worked out according to plan and, you know, just got to be meticulous about these things and have little luck on your side. Did you both enroll in prenatal classes? We did. Yeah. And because it was COVID, we had to do it. We had to do one online, but we actually found one because in Florida where, you know the different than how it is in Canada, there was one class that we found that will would allow us to come in as long as we social distance and had masks on. So we did that one with the Lamaze teacher.
So what would you say has surprised you the most about being a dad that you know, the prenatal class, maybe books that you read people you’ve talked to none of those things, prepared you for what you’re facing. Now. What surprised you?
Um, I think the biggest surprise is just that he’s an actual human, you know, because humans are unpredictable. And we go through a range of emotions, we all have our needs, and, you know, whatever it is, on the day, you just probably wake up on the wrong side of the bed, you know, and you forget that like this child that you’re preparing for, you’re like, Okay, you can expect this to happen, this stop this stop. And it’s not going to be as like planned out. And, you know, orderly like that, in when you’re practicing with the dolls and dressing them up and whatever. Like, for example, I practiced putting a diaper on a doll, because we had a diaper and wipes party. So I’m, you know, with my dog, getting it ready, and I’m like, Okay, I think I’ve got the technique down, but you don’t anticipate the baby’s crying or kicking and moving around, and all that stuff, like, your dog doesn’t do that. So it’s not, you know, hands on as it is, with having actual baby, the other stuff that’s just practical, that you can prepare for use tough to get in the trenches, and, you know, experience it with a live baby with your son. And they all have different personalities, too. So like, they all have their own quirks and different things that they, you know, do for themselves that you might not anticipate, because it’s not what a typical baby may do. So, these, it’s just learning your baby and being in tune with them and what they like, what they don’t like, you know, he hates to have his face washed, you know, like, we need to take the cloth and wipe his face, he hates that. So, you know, some babies might like it. You know, he used to hate the bath, but now he loves it. So it’s like just learning your baby and adapting to them as a human and understanding that, just like yourself, there’s things that you may like, and grow to hate, or things that you may hate that you grow to like, and, you know, do we just grow and evolve every day, and they’re actual human beings. So some things are just just about the human development.
Well, and you know, it’s interesting, because someone like yourself, you know, at the level of obviously, being an Olympian, as you are, predictability certainly has a great level of comfort that comes with it. And parenting is anything but predictable, as you’ve just pointed out. So I’m curious, how is that forced you to change how you approach, you know, your daily, your daily routine or anything like that with this baby?
Yeah, you know, when you’re an athlete, there’s a lot of things that you have structured and planned out, and you know, exactly, okay, today, I’m going to do this, and I’m going to sleep for this amount of hours and eat this, I’m going to practice here. And it’s like, repeatable and you predicted, and it just built into your schedule. So it’s almost like you don’t even think about it, just go through the motions. with being a father. Everything is kind of about flexibility and patience. You know, sometimes things may take longer to get ready for an event or if they’re just trying to put into bed, they might not be tired yet or they might not run Read, read their book tonight or, you know, things you just have to be flexible and open to what they want. And you have to kind of be patient enough to know that okay, even though this will work for me. This is not what’s going to work for him. So you have to adjust and adapt on fly.
For sure. Now, there are a few other babies born among some of your teammates on Canada’s national track team. Do you guys swap or share stories at all?
So it’s funny because I actually have two teammates on my team that I trained with. They’re both American. Justin Gatlin, Kyrie Kay, I had my son on January 26. They had their child’s in December of 2020. So we’re all within a month or so. And we all come to practice each day like Oh, how was your night? How’s the baby had a sleep all survived on no sleep or all he actually slept really well, or today he tried to crawl or you know, today, he was cranky or whatever. And it’s just like, we share war stories. And that’s pretty cool to be able to experience that with, you know, my immediate teammates that are I’m training with every day. As far as people like, you know, Andre who had his kid or Brandon Ronnie who had his kid a couple years ago and Gavin, you know, I could share stories about like, what they went through when they first had their kid. I’m like, Yeah, I experienced the same thing. Or, you know, no, my child didn’t do that. That’s crazy that yours did or whatever. And it’s kind of cool that like, you know, for a long time, the common denominator between us was just track, but now it’s like fatherhood and something that everybody else can relate to.
That is really neat. You mentioned your childhood. You’re the middle of three children. And I’m wondering, in what ways do you think that your childhood is going to impact the way you parent?
Yeah, I mean, I think if people have positive experiences from when there were a child, they’re going to use those as guidelines for when their parents and that’s certainly the case for myself, you know, there’s a lot of things that I remember as a child that I was very fond of, and, you know, I get say, okay, the way they parented, this was the reason that I’m this way. And I like that. And I would like love to instill that with my child. And even the things that you didn’t like, you could take those and like, okay, I that negatively impacted me. So let me try and do it in a better way, or a different way that may yield better results. And it’s all about, like I said, flexibility with your child and understanding who they are as a person and their personality. Because what might have been good for you might not work for them. So even if you have that roadmap of what worked for you and what you liked, you can try it and use that as a guideline, but then at the same time, be flexible enough to say, okay, that might take on a different personality, let’s try something different. And the cool thing about it is that I have my own experiences, and my wife has grown. So we can kind of blend in taking pick and choose, which is the ones we want to implement as new parents. So it’s an interesting map, and we just kind of are forging our own path. But at the same time, we have the guidelines from when we were kids, for reference.
So on that note, is there anything in particular that you are grateful for now, as a parent yourself, that really you probably didn’t even think about till you became a dad, right? Something that you’re grateful for, from your childhood that now you’re thinking about, wow, you know, what, I was really lucky to have that.
Yeah, I’m just grateful for all the experiences I had growing up, like, everything that they exposed me to at an early age, you know, especially with like sports and stuff, like, I got to taste different sports, you know, I played pretty much everything across the board. And I got to figure out what I liked and what I didn’t like, they put me in all kinds of summer camps and different activities and stuff like that, that I’m looking forward to when Kingsley’s old enough to put him in and see what he likes and what he enjoys. You know, just being exposed to different things growing up in Toronto, there’s a lot of opportunity and you know, similar things down here in Florida, for him that he’ll be able to try and be able to say, okay, at least I got to experience it and know what I’d like to learn I didn’t like so it’s all about just finding your, what suits you and be exposed to different things. And I think I was very fortunate for my parents to do that at a young age, and that’s something that I’m going to pass on to my kids.
It sounds like you’re going to be really busy. Aaron, with all of those different activities going on. Good for you. I want to talk a little bit about adversity and certainly the adversity that you’ve experienced, and many others over the last sort of, you know, two years or so, whether it’s the Olympics being delayed, obviously the pandemic you know, on top of it, it’s not adversity, but your your becoming a dad adds a new layer to your life, what what in general, would you say is your approach and has been your approach to overcoming obstacles that really have come in handy during this particularly, you know, extraordinary time?
Um, I think it’s all just about your mindset and how you internalize things when they happen. You know, with regard to like, the pandemic, and having Tokyo delayed and you know, all the different hoops and things we have to jump through in order to you know, adhere to safety protocols, and making sure that we can still get adequate training, but at the same time, be safe and not knowing and all the uncertainty if certain events are going to happen if they’re not and preparing for it. No, it was challenging at times and finding the motivation, especially in 2020, early on when, you know, Canada first pulled out of the Olympics, and then it was postponed, it was kind of like, Okay, well, how do I still stay motivated each day, knowing that that big goal that I was working towards is pushed down the line. And you just have to really understand that like, you’re going to face challenges in this, this the inevitability of the sport, and you don’t know what it’s going to manifest into and look like on the day. But when you meet that challenge, you have to be able to adapt to it, especially in something like this because everybody’s dealing with it. So it’s not just you. And the people who go on to be successful are the ones that can understand that there’s challenges but still be able to mitigate them and know that they have to do things to still be at their best and no matter what challenge they will be facing. They’re not going to use that as an excuse and a reason And not to go persevere. And so that’s something that I’ve been trying to really work on and, you know, understand for myself is that no matter what happens and what I face, I’m going to be able to go, Well, at least I tell myself, I’m going to be able to rise up on the moment and be prepared no matter what. And so it’s just having that self discipline and, and finding your why, and what motivates you, and really reinforcing why you’re doing it and leaning on that when when times get uncertain, and you’re not really sure what you’re out there training for when it’s, you know, the events could be uncertain, and you don’t know what could happen, you just have to really lean on your motivation levels and why you’re out there trying to perform and who you’re doing and representing, you know, for me, that’s a big one is I do this for, you know, my country, I do it for my family, I do it for the love of the sport, and I do it for you know, I have my own personal goals that I really want to achieve before I retire. Um, you know, I’d love to leave a nice legacy for my son to try and live up to if he so chooses to. So I am out there every day working hard, just, you know, for those reasons. And even though I might, you know, have a bad race here and there or event might be canceled, or, you know, there’s uncertainty here or whatever the case may be. I’m always keeping inside of that. And just making sure that that y is always instilled in me.
Well, it clearly seems to be working for you, because you had a terrific showing in the Canadian championships with to first place finishes in the 100, 200, you won a bronze medal in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, what are you looking forward to most as you head to Tokyo?
You know, this is the stage where I’ve been training for five years now. Since 2016, the minute I ran my last race, I was already looking forward to the next one, just you know, in some ways, it’s a redemption tour for me, and trying to show the world what I can do in the individual events, because I didn’t have my best showing in 2016 individuals, um, but at the same time is about just proving to myself that I know I can be the athlete that I believe I am. And my small support staff, you know, like, my family, my agent, my coaches, my teammates, the people that have been riding with me, no matter what, from thick and thin, I’d love to have a good showing just to, you know, as a thank you for them for sticking with me and for believing me, you know, I’d love to prove them right? and prove myself right. You know, so I just want to go out there and have a great showing and be able to show exactly what I can do. And whatever place that puts me at, I’ll be positive with if the performance level is up to where I think it should be. And then in terms of the relay, we’d love to upgrade our metal from bronze and you know, see how far we can take?
How different is it going to be for you potentially running without fans in the stands?
It’s gonna be weird. It’s gonna be weird, for sure. Because, you know, I’ve been running at tracks locally and stuff with no fans. So that’s not new. You know, from 2020 to 2021, there’s been certain events where there’s been no fans, and the atmosphere is kind of dead. It’s not that I mean, the Kenyan championships there was it was like that there’s no fans and contrasting that with 2019 when there was rocking, and you know, it was the 100 meter final and everyone’s loud and cheering and, you know, is one of the best fields that we’ve ever had a Canadian champion that I’ve been a part of, and then you got 2021 where there’s nobody there and it’s kind of like, you know, it’s it was different. But yeah, you know, I like I said earlier if if you’re able to adapt to no matter what the circumstances, you’re going to tell yourself, you got to get it done no matter what. And if some people may rely on the fans to get them up and pump them up and get their adrenaline going, whatever the case may be. You can’t use that as your excuse like oh, there’s no fans, that’s why I didn’t show up. Because at the end of the day, you have to be able to perform on demand. And that’s just the same thing. So I’m going in there knowing that there’s no fans it’s not gonna feel the same as the first two Olympics where you know let’s jump in and it was great as great atmosphere great event is gonna be different but at the same time, I’m not gonna let that hold me back from what I am trying to accomplish.
I guess it’s safe to say that your your baby son Kingsley, one day we’ll be watching it on video because he’s too young to watch it but I wonder Kingsley is named. He’s named after your grandfather. And I wondered what the impact of your grandfather has been on your life?
Yeah, so I he’s named after my biological grandfather. his middle name is Kingsley. And that’s actually my middle name as well. So he’s kind of a junior, after me and my grandfather you know, He obviously hadn’t had a chance to meet him because my biological grandfather passed away before Kinsey was born, but, you know, just seeing the positive impact he had on my my mom, you know, it’s something that I am very grateful for, because my mom speaks very highly of him. And, you know, that’s something that I’m going to tell my son about when he’s old enough to, to understand and, you know, just to live up to that kingsley name and try to represent it the best way he can.
Finally, Aaron, what would you say that you have learned about yourself? In the last, you know, couple of years, even five years, as you talked about the last Olympics, you’ve been training since then to get to this day? And now with being a dad, what would you say that you have learned about yourself in the recent past?
Just that I can be resilient when you know, I can focus in on getting the job done. facing adversity is nothing new to me. I’ve had my challenges over my career, my ups and downs and I’m pretty much you know, prepared to deal with anything that could come this way. You know, if you can deal with the pandemic and staying motivated and you know, finding a way to go out there and work hard each day even though you don’t know if you’re going to have a season has pretty much the most uncertainty you’re going to have in a career that I can foresee. So I learned that I’m able to weather the storm when challenges come and I can still have that laser focus on my goals. And you know, I’m prepared for any type of ups and downs now because I’ve been battle tested.
Aaron Brown, we wish you all the best in Tokyo as well as on your parenting journey.
Thank you so much for your time.
“Well, it’s tough, because on one hand, you want to spend as much time you can with him, and soak up those moments, while they are young and squishy and still so dependent on you and all that stuff and changing every day,” Brown told Lianne Castelino during an interview for Where Parents Talk. “But at the other end of the spectrum, you’re trying to prepare for one of the biggest races of your career — probably the biggest. So [to] find that balance between taking care of myself, but also being a father and trying to support my wife, being a husband as well. It’s a juggling act, for sure.”
Still, the winner of an Olympic bronze medal in the 4 x 100 metre relay at the 2016 Rio Olympics would not change one thing about his life, especially when it comes to being Kingsley’s dad. Brown says he has always wanted to be a dad.
“I always looked at my parents and our family dynamic, and just being around that environment, I always thought, one day I want to be married and have a family of my own,” says Brown, the middle of three children and the only boy in his family. “It just seemed like the natural thing to do. I feel fortunate to have one child, and hopefully more in the future. Our little unit right now is is awesome!”
Judging by his pre-Olympic ‘tune-up’ results winning both the 100 and 200-metre races at the Canadian Championships in Montreal in June, Brown continues to find new ways to balance a full plate, while staring down adversity and persevering through it.
“It was challenging at times and finding the motivation, especially in 2020, early on when, Canada first pulled out of the Olympics, and then it was postponed, it was kind of like, okay, well, how do I still stay motivated each day, knowing that that big goal that I was working towards is pushed down the line,” he says. “And you just have to really understand that you’re going to face challenges in this. This the inevitability of the sport, and you don’t know what it’s going to manifest into and look like on the day. But when you meet that challenge, you have to be able to adapt to it, especially in something like this because everybody’s dealing with it. So it’s not just you.”
A radically altered training schedule, fewer competitive races leading up to the Tokyo Games, adherence to pandemic health and safety protocols — are among the changes Brown had to accept and adapt to — to keep his dream alive. What made some of these changes palatable though was the ‘mini baby boom’ he was part of among his track and field teammates.
Two American sprinters he trains with including Justin Gatlin, also had babies, as did two of his Canadian track and field teammates — Andre DeGrasse, who became a father for the second time in May, and sprinter Damian Warner who also had a baby boy with his partner. In June of 2021, eight-time Olympic gold medallist — widely considered the greatest sprinter in history — Usain Bolt, announced the birth of twin boys, making him a father of three.
Bolt, who is the only man in history to win gold in both the 100 and 200-metres in three consecutive Olympic Games will not be in Tokyo.
For his part, Aaron Brown has decided to race exclusively in the 200-metre discipline, dropping participation in the 100-metres. He will also compete in a relay event.
“Since 2016, the minute I ran my last race, I was already looking forward to the next one,” says Brown. “It’s a redemption tour for me, trying to show the world what I can do in the individual events, because I didn’t have my best showing in the 2016 individuals, but at the same time is about just proving to myself that I know I can be the athlete that I believe I am.”
And with his new little family watching and cheering him on — perhaps some extra good luck and deeper inspiration — this time around.
During his interview with Where Parents Talk, Canadian sprinter, Aaron Brown also discusses:
- His childhood
- What he is looking forward to most about fatherhood
- The story behind his son’s name
- The impact of competing at the Olympics without fans in the stands