This past weekend I had the opportunity to travel to Daytona Beach and to capture photos as my beautiful and talented god-daughter Sydney Holden was honored as the youth athlete of the year at the Jesse Owens Awards ceremony presented by Nike. When Sydney called me last month and asked me if I could attend, there was no doubt that I’d be there. I’ve known Sydney her entire short life, and while we are separated by a great distance since she and her family live out in Los Angeles she is always close in my heart.
Even with a table in a prime location, and a magazine with a whole page talking about her, Sydney played it cool. I loved seeing her read the article about herself, she sat there at the table and read it intently for quite a while.
Sydney shared the stage with both present and former Olympic Athletes, and showed an unbelievable amount of poise for an 8-year-old. She was excited to be there, and I believe she was initially caught off guard by how excited some people were to actually meet her and take pictures with her, but as she does just about everything she took it in stride.
If I hadn’t seen that deer in headlights face right before she approached the stage and gave her acceptance speech, I might begin to wonder if she was superhuman. Even with that face, I cannot imagine addressing a room of 800 people at her age. To be honest, I can’t imaging addressing a room with that many people right now!
I warned her mom that she might need to be prepared to stand up with Sydney, at least on the side of the stage, as she stood up in a room with close to 1,000 people and gave her acceptance speech. Boy was I wrong. Even though she was tired. Sydney marched up there like she’d done this dozens of times and gave an amazing speech that she wrote herself, receiving a standing ovation.
Afterwards some of these same Olympic Athletes that she had just graced the stage with sought her out. They shared with her words of encouragement to keep on running, some even told her that she was inspirational to them, and she wrapped up this amazing weekend by signing autographs.
Kevin Young was such a smooth dude. He asked Sydney if he could take a picture with her, and of course she nonchalantly said yes. He is the world record holder for the 400 meter hurdles, and he wears the time on his lapel 46.78!
I have always known that little Sydney was an amazing young lady but I must admit she might have outdone herself this weekend. I couldn’t be more proud of her. She capped off the weekend by signing autographs. Sydney (In cursive) Holden (printed)- just in case you forgot she was only 8!
Thank you Sydney for allowing me to be a part of what I know will be one of many big days for you. I’m very blessed to be a part of your life.
Be sure to check out Sydney’s acceptance speech. Best advice from Sydney given in her speech, “If you go for what you want, you will always accomplish it”.
Sydney is off to run in the Junior Olympics this weekend in New Mexico. I can’t wait to hear all about it.
Visit my online gallery to view more images from the USATF Jesse Owens Awards Ceremony.