When 17-year-old senior Gabriel Thai spent a few weeks at SPIRE Institute & Academy (IA) this past summer, the Vietnamese athlete knew he had found a place to turn his dreams of training for the decathlon into reality. With no real training facilities in Vietnam, Gabriel’s future was very limited until he visited the elite athletic boarding school in Ohio. Once he visited SPIRE, he was struck by the amazing coaching team and world-class facilities.
Although there are many sports academies throughout the United States, Gabriel quickly realized that only SPIRE has the “total package.” Gabriel explains, “I truly believe SPIRE has the most complete and sophisticated track program, with the encouragement of highly decorated Olympic medal-winning coaches.” He adds, “I doubt you’ll find any academy with a coaching staff of this caliber. It’s impossible not to improve at SPIRE.”
Gabriel’s parents, Julie and David, have been supporting Gabriel’s athletic journey since he started training in track & field in the seventh grade. When he set his sights on the decathlon in his junior year, however, they knew they needed to find a better training facility to help him achieve his goals. David explains, “SPIRE was ranked as one of the high schools with the best track program. After getting in touch with the school, it was clear that this institution was the right place for Gabriel.”
Gabriel is very excited to officially start training at SPIRE. “I can’t wait to meet the students at SPIRE and my teammates. My coaches are super supportive and incredibly smart. I’m super lucky to have the opportunity to work with such an amazing set of coaches.”
Gabriel is balancing remote learning as an international student in Vietnam with his SPIRE training, studying online from 9 pm to 2 am each night before beginning his training. “Because I have school at night and training during the day, I don’t have a lot of time for breaks. I either train or study.” Both he and his parents are confident that his dedication will pay off in a big way. Gabriel explains, “After SPIRE, I hope to attend UCLA as a track athlete. I want to continue my athletic career by competing in university and potentially competing in the Southeast Asian Games as a decathlete.” He acknowledges that his schedule can be pretty stressful. “It’s very intense, but having the opportunity to train at a world-class facility makes it all worth it.”
Gabriel plans to stay at SPIRE through the first semester of school and potentially a couple months into the second semester. Julie and David admit that while they worry a little about being separated from their son, they are very excited for the experience. “We are very excited to give him the chance to tap into his full potential and open up more great opportunities. In fact, we are considering sending his brother Samuel to SPIRE for basketball.”
For Julie and David, the decision to allow Gabriel to train at SPIRE is all about his next steps. “We believe Gabriel’s future will be fabulous as long as he is happy and fulfilled.”