Felix Sanchez is Just Like You, Ryan Wilson Never Quit, The 100 vs Hurdles, Jeter, Montsho and More Lausanne

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By Weldon Johnson, LetsRun.com
July 3, 2013
Lausanne, Switzerland 

Tyson Gay is the number one headliner at the Lausanne Diamond League meet on Thursday. As a result, we did a full story on the American sprint king’s press conference today. You can read that piece here: LRC Tyson Gay Talks About Usain Bolt, Being Healthy, And Jon Drummond’s Absence As He Begins His 2013 European Campaign On July 4th. Tyson told the media he is finally healthy, training even with Rio in mind, and no longer with coach Jon Drummond.

Besides Gay, a slew of other Olympic and World stars addressed the media as well. Hurdlers Felix Sanchez (two time Olympic champ 400m hurdles), Jason Richardson (World Champ 110 hurdles), Sally Pearson (Olympic champ), Javier Culson, and Ryan Wilson (surprise US champ at 110 hurdles), pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie (Olympic champ), and sprinters Amantle Montsho (World 400 champ), Carmelita Jeter (World 100 champ), and Kimberlyn Duncan (US Champ over Allyson Felix), all went before the media. The IAAF has a recap of the press conference here.

Below we give you our 6 Takeways From The 2013 Lausanne Press Conference.

1) Unsponsored Ryan Wilson is 32. He not only just won his first national championship, but he made his first Worlds team in the USAs toughest event

Ryan Wilson acted like his win at USAs was not a big surprise, but it was. The US dominates hurdling like no other event on the men’s side. Coming into this year, the US had world record holder Aries Merritt, world champion Jason Richardson and beast David Oliver, who all not only were significantly faster than Wilson but 1.5 – 6 years younger than him.

Even though he had been as ranked as high as #3 in the World at one point, there’s a very simple reason Wilson had never made a US team for Worlds - it’s incredibly hard to do in the US. If you make the team, you have a shot at a medal.

Now at 32 he not only made the US team, he won the national championship and acted like he expected it all along. The cerebral Wilson said, “To win the US Trials was not much of a surprise for me as it was merely for other people. I have been competing against them for some time now and I know what they are capable of and it was no big surprise.”

Ryan Wilson at USAs. He actually switched Saucony shoes between his semi and final.

It was a big surprise to just about everyone else, as Wilson still does not have a shoe contract. He ran for Saucony last year, but got dropped this year. He wore Saucony shoes at USAs this year but was unattached. Wednesday he was wearing a non-sponsored shirt.

Congrats to Wilson for sticking with it. Wilson said quitting the sport he loves never crossed his mind, “I never thought about quitting…Even though I’m 32 and it’s my first time (to make Worlds), it’s not like I’m chopped liver.  I’ve been third in the World (before).”

Now Wilson wants to join the exclusive sub 13.00 club and help the US sweep the medals at Worlds. No matter what happens he can say he was the best in the USA at something.

“One year to the be the best on the US that day is a great feeling,” he said.

Front Page NY Times Sports Profile on Montsho. Click on Image

2) How many Amantle Montshos are there in the World?

Montsho, who will be celebrating her 30th birthday on July 4th, hails from the rural country of Botswana and she was their first World Champion in 2011.

Botswana has essentially no resources to spend on developing athletes. Fortunately the IAAF has a program to help athletes from under developed countries, and in 2006 at the age of 22 or 23, Montsho was placed in their training program in Senegal as a 52.83 400m runner. Five years later she had developed into a World Champion.

Montsho’s transformation from a 52.83 runner to a 49.56 World Champion may not seem totally remarkable but it’s a lot of improvement.

Even more incredible is that before Montsho ran the Olympics in 2004 as a 21 year old, her best in 2003 was just 55.06. She ran 53.9 prior to the Olympics –  a full second and a half slower than the Olympic qualifying standard was 52.6. However, she got to go to the Olympics because Botswana didn’t have any other athletes to send so Montsho didn’t need to qualify.  She ran 53.77 at the Olympics. That got her another year in the sport, and then the next year she got picked up for the IAAF program in Senegal.

55 second 400m runners from rural counties often don’t get the opportunity to keep training. Why should they? I went to Botswana this past winter (great trip, highly recommend email me if you’ve got questions) and the last thing I would think was that some 55 second 400m runner on some dirt track is going to be a World Champion. Montsho showed it’s possible.

Thanks to the IAAF Montsho got the opportunity. How many people are like her and don’t get the opportunity. Hundreds? Thousands?

*The NY Times had an excellent profile on Montsho in Botswana and Senegal last year here.

3) What if the 100m Sprinters Raced Each Other Like the High Hurdlers?

Jason Richardson and Ryan Wilson raced each other for the first time in 2010. Since then, in a little over 3 years, guess how many times they’ve raced each other at 110 hurdles?

Go ahead and guess.

….

32

That’s almost 10 times a year. Lausanne will give one of them bragging rights as they are 16 – 16 versus one another.

Tyson Gay and Usain Bolt have been racing each other in two events for much longer, since 2005. Counting the 100 and 200, they’ve raced each other a total of….

12 times over 7+ years.

That’s less than twice a year. And 8 of those races came in the 200 prior to Tyson Gay being World Champion in 2007. The next year Bolt became a force in the 100m and they’ve raised each other 4 times ever in the 100m.

The four races have been incredible:

We didn’t know this photo was going to be a rare collector’s item. Gay and Bolt after Bolt’s first WR.

1) The first one was Usain Bolt’s first World record in the 100m in New York City in 2008.

(Pause for a moment to realize that Bolt’s World Record then was only 9.72. Gay has almost beat that this year.)

2) The second time they raced was a World Record by Bolt at the World Champs in 2009 – 9.58.

3) The third time they raced was in Stockholm in 2010 and Gay won in 9.84.

4) The fourth time they raced was last year at the Olympics where Bolt ran 9.63.

So after Bolt’s WR they’ve raced one time ever when they didn’t have to at a Worlds or Olympics. How is that good for the sport?

Now them racing 32 times in 3 plus years wouldn’t be good for the sport either because we need some intrigue between the two. One thing that distinguishes the hurdles is that each athlete is first and foremost racing the hurdles. There is more variability in the event because you can always smash a hurdle to equalize things.

Hurdlers aren’t as expensive as sprinters to gather, they can race and recover a lot more often, and there is more variability. The combination of those three factors leads to them racing each other at almost every big meet.

Jeter

4) The 100m is Harder on the Body than the High Hurdles

The high hurdles is one of the more dangerous events on the track. At any moment, an athlete can clip a hurdle at high speed and be face first on the track. That doesn’t happen in the 100. Yet, paradoxically because of the hurdles, the hurdles are an event that is easier on the body.

Hurdlers race the hurdles way more often than 100m runners run the 100. Sure money is one of the reasons, but also the hurdlers can recover quicker because they’re not running as hard as they have to deal with the hurdles. Hurdling is a craft. Ryan Wilson said it best, “We are always trying to perfect our craft more than being faster than the other guy.”

Sally Pearson has torn her hamstring twice this year. She didn’t do it hurdling, she did it running on the flat. She’s back running strong again and says all she needs now is race sharpness. One thing that she said she has had to scale back because of her hamstring concerns is her all out sprinting. To protect her hamstring, she’s focusing more on the hurdling part (less stress) than the sprinting part.

Tyson Gay talked today about how hard on the body one 9.7 race is and how he doesn’t mind winning some races in 9.9 because it’s not going to leave him injured. Hurdles are out there blasting it nearly every week.

Felix Sanchez Just Like You

5) Felix Sanchez Is Just Like You: He Used to Run 6-7 Mile Runs and Psych Himself Out

Felix Sanchez is the double Olympic 400 hurdle champion. He earned his titles 8 years apart (2004 and 2012). His goal now is to become the first long hurdler to win three World Championships, something the great Edwin Moses never did (For the record if there had been a Worlds in 1985 Moses would have won it).

The 35 year old Sandhez talked about getting older and how he has to change some of the things he does with age. He said now instead of going on 6-7 mile runs, he bikes 35-40km. LRC had no idea that any hurdlers ran that much. We guess it’s time for Felix to move up to the 800…

(Editor’s note: Speaking of hurdlers running distance. At the adidas Grand Prix in May, we interviewed 2013 US Champion Michael Tinsley about his distance running and he said he runs some (like up to 30 minutes).)

And if you don’t think even the best can lose it mentally listen to Felix:

“They say athletics is 90% mental, which is not exactly correct, but still, the mental is very important. I first took confidence for granted, as for the first 4 years on the circuit I remained unbeaten. Then I did not win one single medal for 8 years. I started to lose confidence, to be scared: of the line, of the race, of the one who would do a better time than me… Once I realised the effects these mental games had on me, I started implementing little tricks and things, mind games in order to stay focused, relaxed.”

So a guy who was undefeated for four years, soon was scared on the starting line. Plus he was running 6-7 miles at a time. Don’t feel so bad the next time you’re psyching yourself out nervous before a race. Felix Sanchez sounds just like you.

On an unrelated note, Felix Sanchez winning Pan Am gold before his crazy hometown crowd in 2003 is in my top 5 coolest things ever to witness on the track. 

6) Carmelita Jeter is Still Intense

Last year, Carmelita Jeter strongly answered my questions when I asked her about her association with convicted doper Mark Block at the Olympics. I wish audio was allowed at the Olympic press conferences so you could have heard her response. Jeter does not back down.

In Lausanne, a woman asked Jeter and Kimberlyn Duncan what they could learn from Usain Bolt. Duncan gave a nice generic response, and then Jeter said this, “Well right now myself and Kimberlyn Duncan are here so Id’ like to pertain only to questions about myself and Kimberlyn Duncan.”

More Lausanne: LRC Preview Another Great Men’s 5,000 (Gebremeskel Vs. Alamirew) Plus Nijel Amos Returns Versus Mo Aman In The 800 Tell the family the July 4th cookout can wait as this meet is going to be great. Dejen Gebremeskel returns to the 5,000 after his stellar 26:51 to clash with Yenew Alamirew in an unofficial Ethiopian Trials race. Also 1:41 teenager Nijel Amos races the 800 for the first time in 2013. Americans Brandon JohnsonAshley HigginsonDiego Estrada and four 1,500 women all race on the nation’s BDay.

More Lausanne:
 LRC Preview Another Great Men’s 5,000 (Gebremeskel Vs. Alamirew) Plus Nijel Amos Returns Versus Mo Aman In The 800 Tell the family the July 4th cookout can wait as this meet is going to be grea
t. Dejen Gebremeskel returns to the 5,000 after his stellar 26:51 to clash with Yenew Alamirew in an unofficial Ethiopian Trials race. Also 1:41 teenager Nijel Amos races the 800 for the first time in 2013. Americans Brandon Johnson, Ashley Higginson, Diego Estrada and four 1,500 women all race on the nation’s BDay. 
Press Conference:
 LRC Tyson Gay Talks About Usain Bolt, Being Healthy, And Jon Drummond’s Absence As He Begins His 2013 European Campaign On July 4th
America’s best is looking for a big performance on his nation’s birthday as he is healthy for the first time since 2007 and dreaming of beating Usain Bolt, whom he hopes is at his best in Moscow. Gay also reveals he no longer is working with Jon Drummond.

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