Jamaican track and field athletes have become household names in the U.S., but for Elmont native Chelsea Hammond, they are simply athletes she’s competed with and against since childhood. Hammond, 29, graduated from Elmont High School in 2001 and attended the University of South Carolina on a track scholarship; she currently lives in Atlanta, Ga.
Many Elmont residents might not realize that the Jamaican track and field star is one of their own. Hammond competed for Jamaica at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where she finished fourth in the long jump. Hammond was training to compete in the Olympics earlier this month in London but her quest for a medal was cut short by a career ending stress fracture in her spine. Though her dream to make a second Olympic appearance ended, Hammond said she is still proud of having put her names in the record books.
Deciding to compete in Jamaica’s green and yellow was an easy decision Hammond said. The New York native had been traveling to Jamaica to compete in the country’s Track and Field National Championship since she was 11. The track and field culture is completely different in Jamaica, Hammond said. “Track and field is very big in almost every country other than U.S.,” she said.
From a young age, Hammond knew that she was a good sprinter and dreamed of one day making it to the sport’s biggest stage. She was pulled up to run varsity track as a seventh-grader where she shined in the 100 and 200-meter sprints. In college, Hammond competed in the heptathlon where she began to forge a love for the long jump. “I always loved the long jump,” she said. “The long jump and the high jump were always my favorite events.”
Following graduation from USC, Hammond turned professional and decided to turn her focus on the long jump. She tracked down Dwight Phillips, the 2004 Olympic gold medalist in the long jump, and started training with him in Atlanta.
Her time in Atlanta was a whirlwind. Hammond was training four-hours a day and working 50 hours at night to pay the bills. In 2006, she was ranked the sixth best jumper in the world and things began to take off. “That’s when life changed,” she said. “All the hard work ended up paying off.”