Olympic and Commonwealth Games athlete, Vernon Samuels OLY, joins the BRIT Ambassador family
We are delighted that Vernon has joined our BRIT Ambassador family.
Vernon represented Great Britain in the Men’s Triple Jump in the 1988 Olympic Games and represented England at the Commonwealth Games in 1990.
“Having been involved in elite sport for over ten years, working with the Renewal Choir for over fifteen years and volunteering within the Bristol community for over 30 years, I have had the privilege of learning from young adults and understanding the many physical and mental health challenges they face.
With the impact of COVID-19 on their lives, there is an increase in young adults and students experiencing feelings of isolation, loneliness and struggling with mental health issues. I am also aware that many charities and support services are seeing an increase in demand for their vital support. I am therefore delighted that BRIT are partnering with PAPYRUS – Prevention of Young Suicide, Nightline Association, Student Minds and the Charlie Waller Trust, so that all donations raised by the BRIT 2021 Challenge will be shared equally between five mental health charities who support students and young adults.
The BRIT 2021 Challenge is an inspiring opportunity to help support and improve young adult mental health and fitness throughout the UK. The challenge has been designed to be inclusive and enables students and staff of all abilities to take part. I hope every UK university, college and student union embraces the BRIT 2021 Challenge, promotes the opportunity within their community and encourages their students and staff to take part at home or on campus.
Young adult mental health is vitally important right now and we need to do all we can to help support students and young adults. I urge my fellow retired and current Olympians, Paralympians and athletes to join our BRIT Ambassador family and unite to both encourage and inspire young adults and students at every university and college to take part in the BRIT 2021 Challenge.
I look forward to supporting students and staff at the University of the West of England and South Gloucestershire and Stroud College as they take on their BRIT 2021 Challenge.”
Vernon attended St Mary Redcliffe & Temple School between 1976 and 1983.
Vernon’s success in athletics was in the Triple Jump and this began at a very young age. He earned the title of All England School’s Champion when he was just 14 years old, and then represented England in the British School’s Championships. The big influences in his life were his parents, his Christian faith and his school PE teachers, Pete and Clive Smith. His father had been the first African-Caribbean person to become a bus driver in Bristol and his mother became the first Black manager of a residential home for older people. Vernon was inspired by their success through honest work and their words of encouragement.
By the age of 19, Vernon was an international athlete representing Great Britain. He performed alongside famous British Sporting Icons including Tessa Sanderson, Linford Christie, and Kriss Akabusi, who became friends. His success as an athlete led to him being invited by several American universities to train and study in the USA.
Vernon accepted a place at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas and between 1984 and 1988, he completed his degree in Psychology and Business Studies.
Whilst at the Southern Methodist University, Vernon was a member of the 1986 NCAA Division 1 Track and Field Championship Team, and the All American Track & Field Team in 1985, 1986 and 1987.
During his ten year career as an elite athlete, Vernon represented Great Britain in the Men’s Triple Jump at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea, and represented England at the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland, New Zealand.
After winning a GB vs US international competition in 1992, Vernon decided to retire from athletics in pursuit of other life goals like getting married to his wife Kim, buying his own home and raising a family. In addition to his full-time work, Vernon became involved in trying to improve the life chances for Bristol’s Black and inner-city communities and supported many projects that helped young people.
This led to Vernon being invited by BBC Radio Bristol to host Black Echo; a radio programme aimed at the City’s Black community. Vernon hosted the show for three years.
Even as a retired athlete, Vernon still pursues many enriching personal interests like been Chair of the Renewal Choir for 16 years. The Renewal Choir is a community gospel choir based in Bristol that was founded by Kim and Vernon in 2005. There are over 70 choir members who bring their special touch to various civic, festivals, community and social events in and around the South West of England. Under Kim’s leadership as Choir Director, the choir has performed in events including BBC National Music Day, Leona Lewis’ UK Tour and the Bristol Harbour Side Festival. Vernon and Kim are also members of the Kingdom Choir who performed at the Royal Wedding of HRH Prince Harry and Megan Markle under their conductor, and Vernon’s Sister-In-Law, Karen Gibson MBE.
For more information about athletics in Great Britain, please visit the British Athletics website.