Born in Germany and native of Panama. Yvette spent the majority of her childhood in the urban neighborhoods of Newport News, Va. aka “Bad News.” Growing up with her mother and a younger sister in a single parent home, Yvette was thrust into “real life” as a teenager. Balancing school, sports, a job to help ends meet around the house. Yvette is no stranger to multitasking and hard work.
Yvette is one of the most modest pro athletes you will ever meet. My classmate and teammate her humility is a virtue. I caught up with Yvette in Hampton,Va after an early morning track practice. Admittedly, I was hit with a rush of nostalgia as I pulled into the track parking lot at Hampton University. Boy how time flies. Yvette and I spent most of the morning reminiscing about our wild years at HU and also sharing updates on old teammates. Later we “toured” the campus. She showed me a few of the latest additions to our Home by the Sea. New Cafe, New Marquee Boards, New Greek Pavilion. The joke was, “Of course they tryna make things dope after WE graduate!” -Every college alum ever. No complaints though, its good to see our tuition at work. We finally entered Yvette’s office, pulled up two chairs, and got down to this week’s #ShineHard Conversation.
- Gold Medalist at the Pan American Games
- 2x NCAA Champion – Triple Jump
- 2x National Champion in High School
- 8x MEAC Champion
- MEAC Record for Most Points (48pts)
- 2 Athlete of the Year Awards
- You Won the Virginia HS State Meet by YOURSELF in 2003 (48pts)
Which one of your accomplishments are you most proud of and why?
Yvette: My 1st national title indoor. I was calm and humble in the moment. It didn’t really hit me until months later. I was more affected that day when I saw my coaches shed a tear. It felt so good to make them proud.
What have you learned from being a champion?
Yvette: Even success has its adversity. After winning the national title, there’s now the pressure of repeating that high level success. You’re expected to do it again and again. A lot of people can’t deal with success. Can’t cope with the fame. You have to raise your standards, train harder, and focus.
Before you were a High School Phenom, when did you personally know that Track & Field was your passion?
Yvette: In high school I found out my mother ran track and had a goal to make it to the Olympics. She had to put her goal on hold when she became pregnant with me. I became determined to fulfill those Olympic dreams. I told myself, “I’m gonna run track, I’m gonna get a scholarship to school, It’s my duty to fulfill what my mom couldn’t do.”
Who did you look up to for inspiration growing up?
Yvette: Well in high school I looked up to Ara Towns. Since then, it’s my mentor, heptathlete Jackie Joyner-Kersey. Its ironic that Al (Joyner), Kersey’s Brother, was signed as my pro track coach. A couple weeks later I get a call from Jackie insisting that I compete in the Heptathlon. “You’re the only one that can break my record!” Jackie told me.
Johnny: Wow! Talk about Law of Attraction. Jackie is probably right.
Yvette, What motivates you?
Yvette: The expression on my mother’s face when I run. Being the first to go to college in my family, and being a solid role model for young athletes.
What has been your greatest adversity?
Yvette: At a track meet a couple years ago, I came in ranked #2 in the world in the 60m hurdles. I was running at the top of my game. I had just qualified for the finals! Feeling eager and confident about my next race. Next thing I know adversity kicked in, I rolled my ankle stepping off the ramp, fell to the ground, and end up being ruled out for the SEASON with two torn ligaments. *smh* One wrong step. For 2 months I couldn’t even walk, my contract got restructured, and medical expenses were left all up to me. As I was going through my healing I truly learned to appreciate what I had. Everything and everyone. You really don’t appreciate what you have until you don’t have it. I healed, I grew.
You’ve always been a woman with strong focus, is there anything that Frustrates you?
Yvette: On the track, the 800 (800 Meter Run). It gives me anxiety hahaa. Off the track, trying to care for everybody. Learning how to say “No” to people that are close to me is really hard. What’s that song, by Biggie.. Oh, “Mo Money Mo Problems!!” That’s exactly how it is. *laughs*
Have you learned any life lessons throughout your journey as an athlete?
Yvette: A couple years ago, I was in Budapest with no cable or internet. I hadn’t been running my best and my attitude wasn’t in a good place. That day I had a heart to heart with my friend (Olympic Gold Medalist) Christian Taylor about self expression and being grateful. He really helped me snap out of my funk. I disciplined myself, “I’m in Budapest, France, Germany, Monaco for free and I’m complaining about a race”. I journalized my thoughts and the next day I PR’d! Always be grateful, its the most powerful human emotion.
So, what would Yvette Lewis be doing if she wasn’t a professional athlete?
Yvette: Obtaining a Masters Degree. I would love a leadership role in marketing with a professional team.
What advice would you give the young athletes that aspire to be the next Yvette Lewis?
Yvette: Track & Field is so mental. Take the positive out of every negative. Surround yourself with positive people, Be grateful for what you have and Don’t give up! Instagram, Facebook, Hit me up!
Johnny: Surround yourself with Positive people and be Grateful. You can drop the mic after that one. @ShineHardFamily