Written by: Matt Johnson for Sask Sport
Scott Joseph has all the makings of a budding star.
The Niger-born, Swift Current developed long-jumper has quickly made his name known on the national stage.
Despite a long-lay off of nearly a year and half with cancelled track events across the country as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Joseph finally had the opportunity in the early summer of 2021 to compete when he jumped at the Canadian Olympic Track and Field Trials in Montreal.
The long-lay off didn’t seem to affect Joseph.
He finished second in long-jump at the Trials, trailing only the eventual Olympic gold medal-winning decathlonist and Canadian Athlete of the Year Damian Warner, and missed the Olympic standard by only 0.41 metres. The result helped him be named a finalist in the Male Athlete of the Year category for the 2021 Saskatchewan Sport Awards.
If the opportunity to represent Saskatchewan at the Olympic Trials wasn’t an experience in itself, the chance to compete against someone like Warner was. He was able to have a conversation with Warner during the trails, who he views as a role model.
“It was kind of crazy,” admitted Joseph. “Just to be competing against a pro athlete was amazing to me. I was a big fan of his. I follow him on social media and through all these competitions. He’s really made me love this sport even more. He said he’s grateful that I think of him like that and that put a big smile on my face.”
Joseph’s rise to where he is today has caught the attention of many, including Bob Reindl, the executive director of Saskatchewan Athletics.
“His growth has been amazing,” said Reindl. “The sky’s the limit, as long as he trains hard and works hard.”
Joseph moved to Swift Current for Grade 10 after previously living in Winnipeg — a city he initially moved to from Niger in Grade 5.
The opportunity to come to Canada is one Joseph’s extremely thankful for.
“To me, it’s kind of amazing. At a young age, I didn’t really know much. It was like coming to this big country where everything is a lot different from where I was. I was like ‘while I’m here, I’m in my happy place.’”
But that’s not to say he didn’t struggle. Joseph notes that the transition from a bigger city centre to a smaller one was a lot to get used to, but he believes sport was a way to help him settle in and get comfortable.
“I made some good friends and made some good memories down there,” said Joseph. “That’s where I found the sport I’m in right now, so I’m really thankful.”
Part of what makes his growth so impressive to Reindl is his relatively recent introduction to the jumping discipline. First a sprinter, his coach at Swift Current Comprehensive High School Gerod Wiens, convinced him to try long jump.
That’s worked out pretty well.
After graduating from Swift Current, Joseph made the decision to move to Regina, where he joined the University of Regina Cougars track and field team — which is where his career really started to take off.
In his first year with the program, Joseph broke a 45-year-old Canadian U20 record at the 2020 U SPORTS Track & Field Championship, jumping 7.73 metres to win gold in men’s long jump and ultimately winning U SPORTS Male Rookie of the Year, an award Joseph didn’t see coming.
“I was not expecting that,” said Joseph. “Going into that year and I was just expecting to just listen to my coach and what he has to say and just to learn. Having that happen down the line, it was just like, wow.”
“To this day I’m still shocked that it happened. I’m very grateful for it.”
He has since improved his personal best to 7.80 metres — a mark he set this past summer in Edmonton.
And while Joseph is no longer a member of the Cougars, he is still based in Regina, where he continues to train under Wade Huber, the head coach of the Cougars track and field team.
“I really want to keep chatting with him. I trust him. I trust his work. He also used to be a long jumper, so that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to work with him. He knows what he’s doing and I trust everything he says, and I’m willing to do anything just to train under him.”
Joseph is currently taking a year off of school. He’s focusing on training but has plans on going back to university to study education, as he pursues his goal of becoming a teacher. He currently works at a daycare centre.
As for his goals in sport, Joseph is building toward the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, which are now only two-and-a-half years away.
“Everything’s building toward that. That’s one of the biggest goals I want to attain. I’m really working hard just to get there, hopefully in the future, and just to represent Canada.”
Joseph’s family still resides in Swift Current and it’s where he considers home. He says representing the town on the world stage would be an honour.
“That’s literally where I found the sport and this sport has gotten me to where I am right now, which I’m very grateful for. That’s really one of my goals, is to make my town proud. I think that would be a big achievement me for me.”
And Reindl believes that goal is definitely achievable.
“Basically he’s only got to jump 40 centimetres more and the potential is there, with training and everything else, to go to the World Championships or the Olympics.”