Twins Josh and Jesse Bailey, graduates of Hoy Names High School in Windsor, Ont., are off to NCAA schools on scholarships this fall, a stepping stone, they hope, toward representing Canada at the Olympics. Photos courtesy the Bailey family

Olympic dreams inch closer for twins

By 
  • July 18, 2021

For teenage sprint hurdlers Josh and Jesse Bailey, the goal of one day competing for Canada in the Olympics is much more than a distant dream.

The 18-year-old twins from Holy Names Catholic High School in Windsor, Ont., are steadily moving toward realizing that dream, with both earning athletic and academic scholarships to attend and compete at schools in the United States this fall. Josh will be attending the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and Jesse at Central Methodist University (CMU) in Fayette, Missouri.

The pair has been training under the tutelage of Border City Athletics Club head coach Kurt Downes, who has coached some of Canada’s top athletes to the highest levels of international competition, including the nation’s 800-metre record holder Brandon McBride, currently ranked sixth in the world. McBride will be competing for a spot on the Olympic podium in Tokyo when the Summer Games take place July 23-Aug. 8, with Downes right by his side.

The Baileys say they have been inspired by their coach and McBride’s success and they hope that by 2024, when the Paris Summer Olympics come around, it will be their time to shine.

“It’s really cool to see someone of that athletic calibre being coached by the same person I’m coached by,” said Josh, a soon-to-be biology major, about his Olympic-bound club mate. “During university I’d like to make some national teams. There’s World Athletics U20 Championships in Colombia next year and the Olympics in Paris in 2024. My end goals would be Team Canada of course and after university, hopefully med school.”

“We want our young athletes to be around older athletes that have gone and done other things on an international level,” said Downes. “That’s important because I do believe that when they see top athletes and they’re around them, they understand the type of work capacity that they have, the type of dedication that they have and the type of diligence they have, and it starts to rub off.”

Josh began running track in Grade 9 when he was cut from his AA hockey team and decided to transition into the sport. Jesse, who also played hockey, began running at the same time. Less than two months after starting in the sport, Josh earned a silver medal at the Ontario high school championships (OFSAA) in the 100-metre hurdles with Jesse finishing seventh overall in her respective events. The pair was hooked.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, like most athletes, the siblings had to spend a lot of time doing workouts on their own this past year being coached by correspondence, but are grateful to have always had each other’s support.

“It’s always good to have my sister there,” said Josh. “I couldn’t ask for a better training partner. We are always in the same car going to practice together. We’re always watching each other’s runs. Even when we had to practise alone, we would record each other and critique each other if we had to.”

“I like how sometimes our coaches will pair us together for our runs,” said Jesse, who will be majoring in exercise science. “It’s definitively pushing me further.”

Despite pandemic interruptions to the competition schedule, the twins, with the help of their parents Terry and Jack, have been working diligently to come out of the down period faster and stronger. Throughout their careers they have also had plenty of support from Border City support coach Rob Moore and their high school coaches, Paul Boots and Craig Poole. It has been the siblings’ focus and work ethic that Boots says has brought them to where they are today.

“Through COVID, in my opinion, there was two ways of looking at it,” said Boots. “You could see it as a horrible bummer and do nothing or you can do what (the Baileys) did which is recognize it as one of the greatest opportunities to excel in sports because hardly anyone’s doing it. They’ve chosen to work extremely hard and that’s why opportunities are happening for them right now.”

Though Downes, who is also a teacher at St. James Catholic Elementary School, has been away quite a bit over the past couple of years supporting the club’s elite athletes training down south and at international competitions, he says it has been a pleasure to coach the Baileys from near or far. With their work ethic, he saw early the twins have all the ingredients for success, so he’s been happy to go the extra mile for them.

“They definitely have really good work capacity, and second thing is they’re both just really coachable kids,” said Downes. “I heard a lot of good things from their high school coaches, so it made it a lot easier to want to work with them and to go a little bit extra for them.”

Josh will be transitioning from 39-inch hurdles up to the 42-inch senior men’s high hurdles, but at 6-foot-6, the new height is unlikely to be an issue for him over the 110-metre event. Jesse will be focusing on the women’s 100-metre hurdles as well as the 400-metre hurdles. 

Due to the pandemic, neither has been able to visit their respective colleges, but have begun building relationships with their varsity coaches virtually. In September they will embark on the next chapter of their athletic and academic journey.

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