Team USA Helsinki press conference excerpts

08-03-2005

Contact:
Tom Surber
Media Information Manager
USA Track & Field
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A Team USA press conference was held Wednesday in advance of the 2005 World Outdoor Track & Field Championships, August 6-14 in Helsinki, Finland. Athletes participating in the press conference included 2004 Olympic100m gold,4x100m relay silver and200m bronze medalist Justin Gatlin, 2004 Olympic men's long jump gold medalist Dwight Phillips, 2004 Olympic women's 200m silver medalist Allyson Felix and world indoor 400m record holder Kerron Clement, who owns the two-fastest times in the men's 400m hurdles this season.

Team USA men's head coach John Smith and women's head coach Sandy Fowler also appeared at the press conference. Excerpts from Wednesday's media event follow.

Kerron Clement, 400m hurdles:

Q: What's it like to come to your first Outdoor World Championships?

A: I'm very, very excited because this is my first one. I hope to do good things and hope there's more to come.

Q: What's been the difference for you this year that's made you so good and put you at the top of the world list?

A: I've been training hard, just staying focused and listening to my coach. Doing all my workouts and giving it everything I got.

Q: Are you amazed with what you have done so far since you are so young?

A: Not really. Once I had my steps together in the hurdles, I knew I could produce a fast time.

Q: Why did you choose the 400m hurdles and not the 400m dash?

A: The 400 hurdles is my specialty event. I came to college running the 400 hurdles. That's why I decided to do that event.

Q: Please give us the good point and the weak point of your race.

A: The good point is the first half of the 400 hurdles race, the first 200 to 300. As for the weak point, I'll say it's the final 100 because that's where the fatigue kicks in. You have to stay strong and be focused.

Dwight Phillips, long jump

Q: How are you feeling coming into the championships?

A: I'm feeling pretty good. I'm feeling very confident going into this championship. I feel like I'm the best jumper in the world. If anyone wants to win the championship, they have to go through me. I'm very excited about competing against my opponents. I'm looking forward to them bringing out the best in me. I'm just excited to be here to win my second world championships. I'm very excited about that.

Q: Last year when you jumped 8.60 meters didn't you hurt yourself?

A: I tried so hard to break the world record that I felt I banged myself up a little bit. It was nothing major. It was on the take off actually. In the air, I was trying to fight the rotation and I landed on my shoulder. I ate a little dirt. I think my pride was hurt more than me.

Q: You're a blunt character, but a very confident one. Where do you draw that confidence that you have in yourself?

A: I draw my confidence from winning, and from kicking my opponents' butts every time I compete against them. That really makes me feel good and gives me a lot of joy. That's why I train hard so I can win. It comes from working hard. I don't think anybody works as hard as me, or is more passionate than me about what I'm doing right now.

Justin Gatlin, 100, 200

Q: Could you talk about how you are feeling going into the competition in Helsinki this week?

A: I'm feeling very hungry. I want to add an Outdoor World Championship to my titles. I have a young career. I hope that it keeps continuing to be good for me, successful, and that I put on a great show for the audience.

Q: How disappointed are you that Asafa Powell had to withdraw from the 100 due to an injury?

A: I'm disappointed for the fact that I'm a true competitor and want to go up against the best of the best in the field. Track and field is the kind of sport where criticism is allowed. If I go out and win a World Championship, the first question will be "Well, Asafa Powell wasn't in the race. What would it have been if he was?" There're always going to be questions. May the best man go out there and win. At the Olympics last year, I proved to myself and the world that I was the best at the time and I'm still the best right now.

Q: What do you want the most, the world championship title or the fastest man in the world?

A: Right now, I think I'm going for the world championship title. The hardware, they can never take that away from you. You're always going to be the Olympic champion or the world champion of 2005. World records are meant to be broken. I want to go out there and hopefully have that under my belt as well. 9.75 is my goal and that's what I'm going for.

Q: Which is tougher, the 100 or the 200?

A: It's an even playing field going into the 100 for the fact we all start on the same day. As far as I know, I'm the only one that's going to be doubling especially, from America. Going into the 200, I think it will be a little harder because I'm going to meet people with fresher legs than me. I have to make sure that I strategize my races correctly and go out and run like a champion.

Q: Has Allyson (Felix) given you her secret to winning the 200?

A: Not yet. She hasn't given me her secret. She has to go out and win the gold then tell me her secret.

Q: What's your response to the IAAF not changing the false start rule?

A: I like it the way it is right now. If you have that rule and you are basically competing with computers to human error. Humans have the tendency to flinch. Humans have the tendency to be very overzealous and excited in the blocks, especially with all the testosterone building up inside of them. If they didn't have that rule, you wouldn't have as many spectacular races. You have to have room for error to make mistakes to be better the next time around.

Q: Someone at the IAAF Congress said, if that rule was introduced, the world record would never be broken again. Do you agree?

A: It would be harder to break for the fact that more patience would be involved in the race. You have to be a whole new athlete to bring that in. We know that the NCAAs and the professionals are totally different fields to each other.

Allyson Felix, 200 meters

Q: Could you please tell us about how your preparations have gone leading up to the championships?

A: I feel my preparations are going very well. I'm a lot more confident than I was last year. I feel that everything is really in place and where we want it right now. I'm really excited to come here and compete.

Q: Talk about your experience at the Olympics last year and how you're going to use that to prepare you for the championships here.

A: Just having competed in the Olympics last year, it was a great experience. I think I did get some confidence. I have a lot of knowledge about competing.

Q: Why not run the 100?

A: I have run it a little this year. I have to learn more about it. I have to be patient. I'm planning on running it more in the future.

Q: What about the 400?

A: I'm not necessarily in love with it. I ran it once this year. We have a 400-meter base strength. I run it a lot in practice.

Q: Talk about your relationship with Justin (Gatlin).

A: He's a good friend of mine. It's good to have him here, just for his support and in seeing him in the village to have someone to hang out with.

Q: Being two years out of high school, do you miss running the 200, 100, 400 and both relays?

A: I think at times you wish you could go back. It was a great experience. But I'm really enjoying what I'm doing now. I love competing against the best athletes in the world, and that's what I get to do.

Q: How's college going?

A: College is good. It's busy. I get back on the 27th and start school on the 29th. No real break, but I like college.

A separate session with the media was held featuring Team USA men's head coach John Smith (JS) and women's head coach Sandy Fowler (SF). Excerpts follow.

Q: How is Maurice Greene doing?

JS: He's training with the relay team. He's part of the pool. At the appropriate time to select the team, everyone will be informed including myself.

Q: How is Shawn Crawford looking in his workouts?

JS: I see him work out everyday. There's no indication to me that there's a problem which is a good thing for us. I see him running turns right now and it's not bothering him. I know he's going to be in the 100 meters, so he may have made his decision before seeing the situation and he's very confident he's going to do well.

Q: How does this team compare to other World Championships teams?JS: It's hard to compare certain teams and certain eras. This is one of our better teams. We have a mixture of young and inexperience and some older and more experienced people, both on the male and female side. I think this is probably one of our better teams that we've put together.

SF: I feel that it is one of the better teams. What's nice to see is some of the more developed, more experienced athletes working with the younger athletes that are new on the team. I think that development of them together is going to help them both. The team is very, very strong now.

Q: What's it like working with some of the younger members of the team?

SF: They're still new, they're still learning, they're still developing. There are a lot of things still out there that they have yet to experience and they're going to get ready to experience. If they utilize all those experiences, it's going to be a very positive experience for them which will help them in the actual championships. Then they'll have a lot of belief in themselves and belief in the system.

Q: Could you compare the experience of working with the athletes in your club and working as a national team head coach?JS: It's usually much the same. I've coached some other athletes who haven't been from the U.S., so I've always been in the championships. That experience over the years is actually making me feel very comfortable right now. It's not as overwhelming as I thought it may be. The experiences that I have gotten from some other athletes that I've worked with brings me here today, it makes me feel somewhat comfortable, at least that I can handle the circumstances of the job that's been handed to me.

Q: What do you see in the most successful athletes that gets them to be better than everyone else?JS: There's always exceptions to every rule. There will be someone to change things. I can say that there are some similarities in past of some athletes who have run fast. There's some similarities between some guys who have run fast, some similarities of some guys who have run .98's and there are similarities with the way they run, regardless of their height, regardless of whether they're male or female. There are similar things that they do and they're real close together. The other thing you can't miss is their desire and passion to run. That's something you can't see. You see the expression of it in the consistency over the years. As Sandy said, the younger and older athletes are bringing the experience together. You'll see these athletes competing over long periods of time. The starting age is younger. Hopefully they'll stay around through their mid-30's.Q: To what do you attribute the number of talented athletes on Team USA compared to other teams, like Britain?

SF: There are a couple of things that are called into play. One is population. Our pool to pull from is greatly larger. The other is identifying that talent and working with them as they're developing, as they're coming out of high school going into the college ranks, and then up until the national and international level.

Q: What makes the U.S. Team so successful?

JS: I've been involved with the system. There's expectation to perform well under circumstances. You ask me a question about how we're going to do. I'll give the most optimistic point of view. I'll never affirm a negative. Our culture is basically like that.We want to be the best, bar none, no exceptions.Q: Other than the size of the country, is there something in your system that makes your pool of talent so large?SF: The whole thing comes down to the rapport between the athletes and coaches and making sure that system works, and making sure it's positive. It has to be positive. Even if they have a bad day, you have to pull something from the bottom wherever it might be and give them something positive to pull from. That's going to be different from athlete to athlete. That's my number one thing. Once they start to buy into and believe in the system, miracles happen.JS: As coaches in America, we share our information. We talk about workouts, we talk to one another. I'm not afraid to tell someone what I do. The only way the athletes can learn is from the coaches.

SF: Always being able to learn is a tremendous help. I always learn things from our athletes.Q: Does the exposure athletes receive in the U.S. motivate athletes and make them hungry to win?SF: I think our top athletes are the ones that have the exposure. I think as our young athletes have the exposure, as the athletes are developing they get exposure and then another level of exposure in college, then competing at the next level of national competition on with USA Track & Field, then they jump into the international level. That makes them competitive.JS: Our age-group system is one of the best in the world. They're friends with each other. They've been competing against one another since they were 10 or 11 years old . They are teenagers ready to blossom. They're motivated because within track and field they have their own heroes and they want to be like them. As our sport has gotten younger, and our stars have moved up, it's also helping the youth come together. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. The young ones can look at each other and touch each other.

Q: What do you see in Justin Gatlin and Jeremy Wariner that makes them special?

JS: (Justin) Gatlin is a championship runner. He's learning to be more consistent. He's learning what it is to be a marquee athlete.Jeremy (Wariner) is another big-time runner. He pays attention to Michael (Johnson) and also has a teacher in his coach (Clyde Hart). The fruit doesn't fall far from the tree.

Q: What do you see in Sanya Richards and Allyson Felix that makes them special?

(SF) I see that Sanya is hungry. She really wants to develop and she wants the success. She's starting to really develop under Clyde Hart.Allyson (Felix) is a special young lady. She's getting a lot of leadership and guidance from Joanna Hayes and Michelle Perry, who she trains with. She's willing to do everything possible to succeed. Both are big-time young ladies and the future of USA Track & Field.

For more information on Team USA at the 2005 World Outdoor Championships, visit www.usatf.org.