By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - Teray Smith didn't realize his picture had just been broadcast around the globe until he returned to the Olympic Village in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil last August.
"The opening ceremony was amazing," said Smith, a senior on Auburn's track and field team. "I didn't know it was live on TV. When I got back to the Village, I had a bunch of people sending pictures of me on TV."
Smith ran the 200 meters in the Rio Olympics for the the Bahamas, despite injuring a hamstring three months earlier in the SEC Championships.
"I wasn't able to compete at regionals because I got injured at the SEC meet," Smith said. "It was a blessing to know that even though I didn't make it to nationals, God had something different in store for me, which was something bigger, the Olympics."
Everywhere Smith looked in the Olympic Village, he saw famous faces such as NBA stars Carmelo Anthony, Kyrie Irving and DeMarcus Cousins.
"What really amazed me is when I got to see the US basketball players," Smith said. "I was like, `Wow. These guys are at the same place as me. I guess I'm great as well.'"
For Smith, the Olympics were part competition, part reunion.
"My teammates from the Bahamas, then my friends who run college track and field who made teams for their country. We all linked up," he said. "It felt kind of like home."
Home, for Smith, is Freeport, Bahamas. He attended high school in Miami and holds dual citizenship. Where Smith grew up, track is a big deal.
"You know how ya'll view football? That's how we view track," he said. "Track is very big. When the Bahamas is running, every bar, every restaurant, every place that has a TV, they're watching. They're really supporting their athletes."
That notoriety makes Smith something of a celebrity.
"I get love when I go home," he said. "I've been on a lot of national teams. I won a few medals as a junior as well."
Smith ran a 20.66 in the 200 meters in Rio, close to his season best of 20.62.
"It just motivates me going into my senior season to work hard," he said. "No days off. It motivates me. Because when the World Championships come, I want to be in the finals. I want to be in contention to represent my country to get a medal, and to represent Auburn."
So far, so good. Smith won the 200 in last week's Commodore Invitational indoor meet in Nashville in 21.22
"I'm in the best shape of my life, thanks to my coaching staff at Auburn and the trainers," he said.
Smith wants to take aim at his outdoor best of 20.34, hoping to qualify for the World Championships in London in August.
"My personal goal is to become the first Bahamian to run sub-20," he said. "If I run sub-20, I'll be in the finals. That's a big goal, to be the first Bahamian athlete to ever run 19 seconds, and I know I can do it."
Speaking of big goals, Smith, a public administration major, has one away from the track.
"I'm going to run for prime minister of the Bahamas one day," Smith said. "That's my goal. People might laugh at me but that's a goal I have. I just want to help the people. Do it for the people."
Before Smith trades in his tracksuit for a politician's suit, he plans to return to the Olympics in 2020 in Tokyo.
"I'm just getting started," he said. "I'm just putting my foot in the door."
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer