Sports have been around for about 3,000 years, since the first Olympic games in 776 B.C. For so long, athletes have traveled to different countries to showcase their skills in their specific sport. Jesse Hernadez and Ackeem Hanna are international athletes who came to AU to showcase their athletic skills.
Hernadez is a sophomore musical theatre and marketing major from Trujillo, Perú. He is also part of the AU men’s tennis team. Hernadez, like many athletes, started learning his craft at an early age.
“I initially had tennis lessons when I was 6 years old because my father really liked the sport and it was just something new for me to try, but I only had those lessons over the summer and then didn’t play until I was older,” Hernadez said.
His experiences from his home country shaped him to be the athlete he is today.
“I lived in a big city, but tennis wasn’t very common,” Hernadez said. “Once I decided to learn tennis at a higher level, I was able to find a very small public academy where I could learn tennis. I often had to play with small kids because all we had was that one court and there were about 20 of us who wanted to learn and play tennis.”
Hernadez’s journey to AU was different than most AU athletes because he was recruited internationally.
“I was introduced to AU through the tennis coach here, Bryant Beard,” Hernadez said. “He reached out to me and invited me to come and visit the university. I really liked AU and was even more interested in coming to AU because of the opportunity I had to play tennis here. I decided to be a Raven because this university offered me everything I wanted to do from academics to athletics.”
Hernadez is not the only international athlete here at AU. Ackeem Hanna is a junior mechanical engineering major from an island called Grand Bahama, one of the islands that was devastated by Hurricane Dorian.
Hanna’s passion for sports started at a young age when he participated in different sports.
“In high school, I played multiple sports,” said Hanna. “I played basketball from middle school until I graduated. I also played volleyball, for two years, soccer for a year and I threw the javelin.”
He found basketball to be his first love in the Bahamas.
“Back home in the Bahamas, I played basketball the most, whereas it was really physical,” Hanna said. “To play basketball in the Bahamas, you have to be tough and willing to play with people who trash talk.”
Here at AU, Hanna spends most of free time playing basketball in the KWC.
“Playing basketball in the U.S. is very fun because you get to play against people who have been training for one particular sport their entire life, and also I do not know what some players are capable of doing because I have never seen them play before,” Hanna said. “Also, back home when playing pickup basketball, the gymnasiums are usually small, and they are way bigger here in the U.S. compared to the Bahamas.”
Hanna was also a member of the men’s track and field team his freshman year.
“When I decided to try out for track and field team to throw javelin, the coach really loved me and trained me well,” he said. “So I decided to play for a year and do the best that I can do and have fun with it. I was always a person to represent my school and community, so representing AU was an honor.”
Hanna had impressive marks as a freshman, winning multiple meets. He is still one of the top 20 Javelin throwers in AU history. Even though his schedule has caused him to stop playing sports for AU, he is still always around it. Currently, Hanna is one of the staff members of the IM department, having the responsibility as the equipment manager for all AU IM sports.
Whether it’s tennis, basketball or javelin, sports are very important to many people all across the world. Athletics are global; it is something that can connect two strangers together no matter their background.