TRURO - The future is the only thing on Jared Baird's mind these days.
The 23-year-old Clifton native is at the Olympic track and field trials in Calgary this weekend hoping to throw his javelin far enough for a top five finish and to start the path to the 2016 Olympic Games.
"I'm really excited for this," Baird said over the phone from his hotel room. "They're saying this is one of the toughest fields in over 10 years, so to be a part of that is pretty special."
Baird will compete tonight at 9:45 p.m. local time. The event, featuring all track and field sports, will be broadcast live on CBC at 7:30 p.m. local time. By virtue of his performance already this year, Baird didn't need to compete in Wednesday's preliminary round.
Although tonight's qualifier is for this summer's Games in London, England, Baird doesn't feel he's ready to throw the 82m A standard required to crack this year's team. He threw a personal best and Big South Conference record 71.30m in his first NCAA Division 1 meet this year as a member of the Winthrop Eagles and his confidence was at an all-time high.
But two weeks later he injured his groin and has been plagued by it all season, knocking considerable distance off his throws. It was a disappointing turn of events for Baird, who was finishing his fifth and final year at Winthrop and had a chance at an NCAA title.
"It's about 90 per cent right now," Baird said. "Getting to 100 per cent is still quite far away but I'm trying to put it out of my mind for this weekend. I've got nothing to lose. Injuries can heal so I'm just going to go for it."
The 2012 Olympics may be just out of reach, but achieving his goals is definitely within his grasp. Baird enters the event ranked sixth and along with a top-five finish, he's hoping to throw anywhere from 68 to 70m.
"I would be happy with that and it would be a good way to end the year," he said.
But Baird sees no reason why he can't be hoping for an Olympic spot in four years and looks to use this meet as the start of that journey. Athletes must achieve a certain number of points to gain funding from Athletics Canada to support their training. Points are gained by competing at meets, achieving personal bests and other criteria.
Having to pay to travel and compete out of his own pocket has opened his eyes to how important gaining funding would be. Baird's flight to Calgary was about $800, while his hotel bill will be about $500 with meals and his entry fee to boot.
"It adds up so to get any kind of money would be amazing," he said.
The goal of one day representing his country on the Olympic stage is a relatively new one for Baird, who said the thought didn't realistically cross his mind until launching his 71.30m throw in early March. He later spoke with former Truro coach Larry Bridges, who suggested he train for another year to see how much he could improve on his personal best. Now, searching for more distance to compete at the Olympics is something he desperately wants to do.
"It would be the highest honour," he said. "There would be no better feeling than to compete for your country with 30 million people cheering for you."