TAMPA, Fla. – As a baby-faced freshman, Vinh Le was already the best triple-jumper in Canadian university track and field.
He wasn’t satisfied with that.
The Mississauga native captured the Ontario University Athletics gold medal in his first year with the York University Lions before transferring to Long Island University Brooklyn three years ago.
“I didn’t think I was really being challenged enough, I wanted to go NCAA Division 1, which I am right now,” he said following a third place finish on a blazing hot Friday afternoon at the University of South Florida Invitational.
“I think I now have more than enough competition to reach my goals, and to drive me, and to push me to where I want to be.”
The place where the St. Marcellinus alumni wants to jump to is to the top of the NCAA in his competition, and a selection to this summer’s upcoming Pan American Games in Toronto.
Le has a strong belief that with the guidance of his coach, university, and himself, he will reach his goal of 15 metres—the approximate qualifying mark currently for Canadian triple jumpers—and ultimately reach his dream of competing internationally for Canada.
“I think 15 metres is definitely within my range if I tap into that aggression and that competitive mood that brings me those big jumps,” said Le, whose personal best at LIU is 14.20 metres.
“I think that I can compete with the best of them — there’s no doubt about it. I believe that I’m here for a reason and I have all the resources to excel so I have to do it now.”
The resources that Le spoke of were one of the other main reasons for him taking his talents stateside.
The 22 year old-jumper noted that American universities are able to hand out full athletic scholarships to students while Canadian universities aren’t, resulting in a distinct cultural difference.
“As a student-athlete, there is a big difference. I think the emphasis in America is a lot more on athletics than it is with education,” said Le, who currently holds a 3.6 grade-point average and also gave high praises for the Canadian university educational experience.
“In Canada, education is a lot harder so students are more pressed in their school work but when you’re an athlete in the States, you’re treated a lot more differently,” he said.
“You have a lot more opportunities, and a lot more leeway as a student.
“In Canada when you’re a student-athlete, you’re looked at the same way as everyone else.”
Le, the winner of the gold medal in the triple jump at the Ontario high school championships in 2012, believes that this is the reason why so many Canadian athletes choose the NCAA route rather than the home grown system: the Canadian Intercollegiate Sport.
It is obvious that Le has now finally found the competitive environment he always wanted.
“I know that I am progressing based off the feedback I get from my coach,” he said with beads of sweats rolling down his face.
“When you get very competitive and you can finally execute, it looks so fluid. It’s like an art – it’s so beautiful when you put it all together.
“I want to get that feeling, that’s what drives me.”
Follow Jose Colorado on Twitter @coloradourb.