In preparation for this weekend’s Prefontaine Classic, reigning World Indoor 60m hurdles champion Aries Merritt and American discus record holder and 2008 Olympic gold medalist Stephanie Brown-Trafton joined USA Track & Field Wednesday for a national media teleconference. Below are excerpts from the teleconference.
Being held Friday and Saturday at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., the Prefontaine Classic is a stop for both the Visa Championships Series and the Samsung Diamond League. The meet will be broadcast live Saturday on NBC from 3-4:30 p.m. (Eastern).
Give us an update on how you’re feeling. How is your preparation going into the Pre Classic and the Olympic Trials?
“My preparation is going excellent. My training is going well. I’ve been hitting benchmarks that I haven’t hit in past years. I’m probably going to taper with my training after Pre and get ready for the Trials.”
The 100m hurdles is loaded this weekend. What is it like competing with a field like this?
“We’re so even that if one person makes a mistake then the other person is going to win. For us to race each other is an honor. Sprinters tend to avoid each other but (hurdlers) always go heads up against each other. We don’t mind lining up. I think it’s really exciting.”
With the Caliber competition, is it important not to get too excited for a race like this when the Olympic Trials are coming up?
“My mindset going into the race is executing what I do in practice. If I execute everything I do in practice then it’ll be fine. I’m really confident that I can go into any race and run well but it’s just a matter of running my own race.”
You said you like to take each other on head to head. What is it like taking on these hurdlers week after week?
“We like competing against each other. It always pushes us into best performance possible. We know each other. We know each other’s strategies, weaknesses, strengths, etc. The key is when you face your competitors head on is to play into their weakness and strengths.”
Do you feel that you are under the radar?
“I’m sure my competitors know my presence. I like being the underdog though. Hopefully I’ll be able to pull out a victory at the Pre Classic but if I don’t then I’ll keep plugging away.”
How excited are you to get on the track at Hayward Field?
“I’m really excited to get on the track there because in the past year every time I step on the track I run a season best. Having the confidence going into Pre then coming back for Olympic Trials it’ll be like magic. Hopefully everything goes as I planned it and I can give the fans what they want to see.”
What can fans expect to see at the Pre Classic this weekend?
“I think it’s going to take a time in the 12.9s to win so the fans will be able to see it in the flesh instead of watching it on tv.”
What’s coming up on your competition schedule?
“I’ll be at the Prefontaine Classic this weekend then the adidas Grand Prix and in two weeks the Olympic Trials.”
What are the chances of you bettering your American record?
“When it comes to the American record I can’t say I was disappointed. I wanted to break it by 10 feet. I know that if I can put together a throw where the beginning, middle and finish is just excellent it could happen. That is what every athlete aspires. With my strength and fitness level I’m more fit than I’ve ever been before. I’ve been known to put things together at World Championships and Olympic Trials. Other than a few times in my life I know at the Olympic trials and Olympics my throws are a lot better. I run better on adrenaline. Pressure helps my performance. I’m going to be nervous stepping out on my first throw but it’s a good thing. When it comes to the Olympics it’s going to be pretty awesome to just walk onto the track in London, step into the ring and let it fly. I’m going to be excited to compete.”
Stephanie are you working on anything specific in your training to help your technique.
“Yes. I am working on a few things on the technique. My technique this year I felt was better in February than it is now. I’m not sure why that is. It goes to show you if you push through the times of doubt and uncertainty you can come and have some awesome performances. By sticking with my plan I got passed it and have the American record. Going into the Prefontaine Classic I believe I’m heading back to the top of my technical peak. The intensity level will be great. The top girls competing for medals will be at Pre.”
You seem to perform better under pressure. This year you will be the Olympic champion and the target will be on your back. How will you respond?
“I feel good. I usually like being the underdog but since 2008 I’ve had to change my story because I’m no longer considered the underdog. I’ve had to adjust to a new normal of being the one with the target on my back. This has been a good year for the pressure meets I’ve really been able to shine. I’m so excited about competing at the Olympics because this is the one time where I’ve felt like it’s going to be fun. It’s a lot different going into London.”
How do you prepare yourself mentally in your training?
“In training there’s not necessarily an emotional mindset I have to be in. When it comes to being an inspiration for young girls coming up in the sport that’s one of the biggest benefit that comes from all this. I’m able to inspire people to reach after their dreams. My sport is not necessarily glamorous. My sport is definitely one that sits in the background a lot. Being about to help kids find their passion and work hard for it that is something I go out and try to talk to the kids about. Find out what your passion is. Try a lot of different things then go for it.”
Talk about your community involvement
“As the athlete representative for the Pacific Association I have a unique opportunity to have a voice for athletes and field athletes who don’t get enough opportunities to have enough competitions. “
What are you looking forward to most about the Pre Classic this weekend?
“ I’m looking forward to competing against the field of excellent athletes. I’m looking forward to competing on Friday then having time to relax and watch the rest of the meet on Saturday. Eugene is such a great place to compete. Being able to run a victory lap and have the crowd cheer and being able to win the meet would be awesome.”