Barbados born Saluki sprinting back to action

By Brent Meske, @brentmeskeDE

SIU track and field has a sprinter back on his feet after suffering an injury freshman year and sitting out his whole sophomore season.

Junior sprinter Nikolai Gall was the outdoor Missouri Valley Conference champion in the 400-meter run in 2013 with a time of 47.55, which also qualified him to be a member of Team Barbados at the Pan-American Junior Athletics Championships. He was unable to attend the games because of the injury.

Gall ran half of 2013 with a torn labrum in his right hip. The injury required surgery in April 2014 to remove extra tissue that was causing inflammation. He said doctors told him he has an uncommon body build with straight hips. Gall’s doctor told him running the curves on the track contributed to the injury.


Gall redshirted last year to save a year of eligibility and still has three years remaining. He said he is ready to come back stronger than ever.

“I’ve gotten a lot stronger,” he said. “I just need to put the pieces together at conference and run as fearless as I can.”

Gall said he has been doing therapy every day to stay in shape and watching old videos of himself to keep his head up. He stayed in Carbondale last summer to workout with the team and was weight lifting three times a week to rebuild his strength.

Gall said his speed and explosiveness has improved since the injury, but his endurance, form and arms are still places to improve.

Training became longer and more strenuous for Gall after coming to SIU. He said the humidity is worse in southern Illinois than in Barbados and that has affected his conditioning the most.

Workouts were shorter at home in Barbados and included beach training, hills, stairs and circuits. Here, Gall said he is pushing himself harder and using diagonals, a type of workout, to improve his fitness. 

Sprints and hurdles coach Anthony Acklin said he has been slightly impressed with Gall this year but he needs to regain his self-confidence. He said running Gall hard in practice is the way to get his confidence back up.


“The more [Gall] is comfortable doing it in practice, the more confident he’ll be in the races,” he said. “He can be good if his confidence is there and he’s strong mentally.”

Gall came to SIU from Brittons Hill, Barbados, where he was born and raised. He attended Combermere School, a secondary school in Barbados. Gall visited the United States for various competitions previously, but coming to SIU was his first time in the Midwest.

The change in school size was also a surprise for him, but he said he has grown used to SIU’s large-school atmosphere.

Gall said his biggest athletic challenge was competing in the indoor season. In Barbados, Gall never ran on an indoor track, so he had to adapt to the tighter turns.

“Indoors was like hell,” he said. “I had to adjust to the curves and the technique; it’s a learning process.”

Gall said his choice to come to SIU was because of coach Connie Price-Smith, who was the only coach to visit him in Barbados. He was also looking at Kansas State, Mississippi State and Illinois State.

“She did a really good job of talking to me and making me feel like I was welcome here,” he said. “I had other schools, but they never came across like she did.”

Price-Smith discovered Gall through coaching connections. Price-Smith made a stop in Barbados to visit Gall and his family while she was on vacation. She said she was not surprised to see Gall win the MVC Championship his freshman year, as he had already run that fast in Barbados.

Gall said he is focused on returning to championship form and being invited to represent his country again, either in the World Championships in Athletics in Beijing, or the Pan-Am in Mexico this year.

“There’s a bunch of us scattered across the states,” he said. “We’re building an Olympic team and that’s the goal.”

Gall will compete at the MVC Indoor Championships beginning Saturday at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Brent Meske can be reached at [email protected] or at 536-3311 ext. 269.