IOWA CITY, Iowa — Troy Doris made a decision in 2015 that if he wanted to compete at the 2016 summer Olympics, he would first have to move home. But not just his hometown of Chicago, Illinois. If Doris was going to make it to Rio, his road would travel through Guyana, the native country of his parents and generations before them.
The Republic of Guyana is a tropical country on the northern coast of South America. It is known for being the only South American country that offers English as its official language. It is not known, however, for filling the Olympic village with track and field athletes.
When the Olympic Games open Aug. 5 in Rio de Janeiro, 126 track and field athletes will represent the United States. The Guyanese delegation? Four, including Doris, the newly adopted son who competes in the triple jump Aug. 15-16.
“Gaining citizenship in Guyana provided a better opportunity for me as a track athlete,” said Doris. “With the potential I have, it gives me a chance to compete in the Olympics while representing the country my parents are from. It’s a better overall situation.”
The decision to represent Guyana was not made in haste. Doris first applied for citizenship in 2012, the year he graduated from the University of Iowa with four Big Ten Conference championships. By chance, or maybe a bit of luck, his passport never arrived from the embassy.
“That’s when I decided to remain a U.S. athlete and train at the Olympic Training Center,” he said. “I was invited to train with coach Jeremy Fisher and I found out that if you’re a U.S. athlete, you’re going to have a high (World) ranking. There were no complaints. I received the best training.”
The OTC program is a four-year cycle that includes world-class preparation and gold medal competition. The 2016 United States Olympic team includes triple jumpers Chris Benard, Will Claye, and Christian Taylor. Claye medaled in both the long jump and triple jump at the 2012 London Olympics. Taylor is the reigning Olympic and World triple jump champion.
“The United States is the hardest team to make in the world,” said Doris. “They pride themselves on that.”
Doris spent three years eating, sleeping, and training with the best athletes in the world at the OTC in Chula Vista, California. Then, in August 2015, a long-awaited opportunity resurfaced.
“My passport arrived in 2015 and I had to talk to coach Fisher about my options,” Doris said. “I wanted to go back to Chicago, and from there it was a life-changing moment. I switched allegiance.”
One month after leaving the plush OTC campus, Doris was in Chicago working as a physical education teacher by day, and training for the Olympics at night.
“Monday through Friday I’m a teacher,” he said. “I would wake up at 5:15, get done with school at 3:30, go straight to practice and train until 7 o’clock at night. I’d be home by 8 and do it again the next day. It was tough.”
Doris took a vacation in May to visit Guyana for the first time. The country was celebrating its 50th year of independence, and his mother was returning home for the first time in 40 years. His father, brothers, aunts, and uncles also made the trip, but Doris was the star.
“We had a news conference introducing me to the people on national television,” he said. “It was amazing. They were really supportive and happy that I’m in a position I’m in now. I’ve received a lot of Facebook messages and email from the people of Guyana. The support has been crazy.”
Doris is ranked seventh in the world heading to Rio. His summer training schedule included international competitions in Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Greece. He failed to place in his first competition, but finished the trip with silver, gold, and gold.
“I’m heading in the right direction,” he said. “I have to stay consistent and not let the grand stage give me any fear and I’ll be all good. There is no pressure. I know I have a full support system behind me and that gives me confidence. It’s an honor to see all the love I’ve received.”