Men's and women's hurdles preview press conference excerpts

07-02-2008

Contact:
Vicky Oddi
Communications Coordinator
USA Track & Field
317-713-4670

USATF on Wednesday hosted a press conference with 1996 Olympic gold medalist Allen Johnson, U.s. indoor champion David Oliver, defending Olympic gold medalist Joanna Hayes and world indoor champion Lolo Jones. Below are excerpts from the press conference. For bios, visit the athlete bios section of www.usatf.org.

Allen Johnson

I feel pretty good for the most part. Like everybody else, I'm just here ready to run. I think what's happened before doesn't make a whole lot of difference. We're all here to make the Olympic Team and do whatever you have to do to make that top three.

ON DAVID OLIVER: I think the main thing I see in David is that he's really determined. I think that in his early years on the circuit, like me, there were some races he should've been in that he wasn't. I think that's given him a lot of motivation and drive to be better. He's telling the whole world that he belongs and that under no circumstances, when you're talking about the best hurdlers in the world, is he not included.

David Oliver

I've been feeling really good this season. I think it's all about confidence, as long as I am confident good things will happen. Practice has been going well so I can't really complain too much. I'm looking forward to getting each of these races out of the way and making the Olympics.

It's cool that [Dayron] Robles [of Cuba] broke the world record, but I'm not really concerned with anything the non-American athletes are doing right now. I'm here at the U.S. Olympic Trials so I need to focus on that right now. I'll worry about them later on this summer.

Going into last year, the races weren't really going that well at the time. My last race before USA's was in Oslo and I fell and I had been getting beat pretty soundly up until that point. I came into USA's with a whole lot on my wish list, you know get a good start, etc. And this year has been going good, I don't have anything on my high wish list. It's a different mind frame this year.

I got my [Nike shoe] contract last year. In 2005 and 2006 I didn't have a sponsor, I was working at FinishLine and Niketown and things like that. I figured I would just go to Europe and run some races and everything would be all right. But you know, we [Oliver, Joel Brown and Aubrey Herring] live in Orlando and we never run the air conditioning. I had an old raggedy car that I couldn't drive to and from practice without it breaking down. I told everybody that I was going to go to Europe and make it and get an Impala when I came back. So that's what I did. But the support from my sponsors and appearance fees and all that have helped and now I've got a Jaguar. It's just hard work and perseverance that will take you to the top. When you work hard for things, you appreciate them more.

I remember the first time I met Allen [Johnson] was at the 2004 USA Indoor Championships, and I asked him for his autograph. He wouldn't give it to me because he said he was going to see me at every meet. And I didn't know what he meant by that. But now it's kind of funny how things work and I do see him all the time.

On choosing track over football in college: I wanted to concentrate on track and field [at Howard] because I like individual sports. You know I don't play well with others. You know, losing games because the kicker missed the extra point and stuff like that is just frustrating. I want everything on my own shoulders. Professional wise, I thought I would end up with a 9-to-5 job, so I went to Howard to get a good degree and things just fell into place with track.

On his mom, Brenda Chambers (who competed in the 400m hurdles for the University of Colorado), and getting into track and field: She ran track and I didn't really know about it too much until I found all her stuff in some boxes. I remember the first conversation we had about track and I was like what's the shortest event. She said the 100 and I was like they don't have a 40?

I would take the city bus to and from school and I got tired of going to my grandma's house where she was just watching her stories [soap operas]. My friends were going to track practice so I figured that I would just go out there with them and talk to the coach. And that's how that started.

Joanna Hayes

I feel really good. The last few years have been pretty bad, I've had a lot of injuries so I'm just trying to get ready and make a go of it. I'm pleased with all times because with every race, I keep dropping my times but about a tenth of a second so I think as long as I keep dropping my times I should be ready to go.

In 2007, I sort of ran (at Outdoor Nationals). I came in with an ankle injury and left with that same injury and a hamstring injury. And in 2006, I didn't even show up. I had torn my hamstring a couple times in 2006 and had a chronic hamstring injury for two years. And then just the fluke accident with my ankle at practice one day and I ended up tearing ligaments and bone contusion and swelling and inflammation, I heard all the things you don't want to hear when they came back with my MRI results. It's been a pretty bad last couple of years and this year I just tell myself you're going for something important, trying to defend my [Olympic] title. It's never been done before. If I can do it, it would be just awesome. But at this point I'm going for it all. I'm here and that's a lot more than I can say the past couple of years. I'm just happy I'm here and I'm thankful to God that He's brought me here.

On training with Michelle Perry and Ginnie Powell: I just have to put my blinders on and focus on myself. It can be frustrating to watch them or any of the top hurdlers in the world run these races. I run with these women and I train with them and I should be out there with them and you want to say it's not fair and why me, but I've taught myself over the years that those are questions that you can't ask because there's no answer to them. I never asked myself why me, why did I win the gold medal. I didn't question that and I don't question the injuries I've had. I'm just thankful I was able to come back and I wish the best to all the hurdlers when they step on that line.

Lolo Jones

My fitness is excellent. I've had a decent amount of races and my worst race of the whole year, including indoors, I finished third. So I think I'm ready to go.

I have more experience this year (than last). But not only that, in my younger years I was more worried about the financial aspects because I didn't have a solid contract so I was also working two jobs and I was just trying to survive in this game of track and field. Now I have a great sponsor and I don't have to worry about those things. My complete focus is just track, that's my sole job. I'm very grateful that I can focus all my attention on running.

I worked at Home Depot and I was a cashier, a personal trainer and a hostess at a restaurant, just a lot of jobs where you're on your feet.

I think my contract helped me to be able to relax. I was able to pay my bills. At one point when I was starting off, I wasn't using my air conditioning because I couldn't afford to pay my electricity so I was dying after I would come out of practice. I've also been able to afford the other things that athletes need, I was able to get massages and get my chiropractor to work on me. Those things are things your body needs as an athlete. Now I'm living life, I got a car now, before I had a scooter. It's amazing what a little bit more support can do for you.

USA Track & Field were my main sponsors coming out (of college). I got the grants that they do for athletes and I just think that's a wonderful thing because without that USA grant my first couple of years, I probably wouldn't be sitting here. I know I wouldn't. I'm just very thankful (for the USATF grants).