American 800 meter record holder Johnny Gray on Duane Solomon: "I guarantee you he’ll medal if he gets to the finals"

The Amazing Thing About Gray's Prediction For Great Things For Solomon Is That It Came One Month Ago When Solomon Was Still A 1:44.65 Guy

By Silver Lumsdaine
August 9, 2012

Editor's Note: We here at LetsRun have always said the best thing about the website is you - our knoweldgeable visitors. Proving that point is the email we found this morning in our inbox. LRC visitor Silver Lumsdaine conducted an interview with 800 American record holder Johnny Gray on July 12, 2012 and sent it to us to use as we please. Gray now coaches Olympic finalist Duane Solomon and in the interview he predicts an Olympic medal for Solomon. The interview really is incredible as the interview is it was done before Solomon had run 1:43.44, and yet it was clear back then that his coach was VERY confident in Solomon's abilities. When you hear the specifics of his workout, you'll see why.

Everything else below is courtesy of Silver Lumsdaine.

This July 12, 2012 interview was conducted trackside at UCLA with Johnny Gray, 4-time Olympian and 800 meter bronze medalist at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona,Spain. Gray holds the U.S  record in the 800 meters (1 minute, 42.60 seconds), set in 1985.

Gray coaches 27-year-old Duane Solomon Jr., who is racing in Thursday’s 800 meter final at the 2012 London Olympic Games. On July 20, 2012 at Monaco, Solomon ran the 800 meters in 1:43.44 to become the 5th fastest American of all time and the 5th fastest in the world for 2012. Solomon is a graduate of the University of Southern California(Los Angeles,Calif.) and Cabrillo High School(Lompoc,Calif.).  

Tell me about working with Duane.

Johnny Gray: Duane is a respectful young man. He’s a classy, coachable, loyal, kind young man. You have to have morals and values. Your character speaks volumes about who you are as a person and Duane’s character speaks volumes about him not only as a person but as an athlete. It’s a pleasure for me to coach an athlete like Duane because of his loyalty and because he’s willing to go through the journey. It’s a lot of ups and downs. Last year he traveled so much, he wore his body down. This year, we didn’t travel, we picked our races smart and kept faith in our training and we did the things necessary to make the team.

Johnny Gray (referring to Duane’s recently completed workout, which included a hard 700 meters to emulate race pace followed by a hard 300 meters, which were run in 1:27.72 and 34.21, respectively): He’s in big shape. He can run with Rudisha….I guarantee you he’ll medal if he gets to the finals…with Rudisha in the race. Because Rudisha’s going to be his Charles Jock. But the difference is, he was passing Charles Jock with 250 to go [at the U.S. Olympic Trials]. He won’t pass Rudisha. Rudisha will pretty much take him to the promised land, and hopefully he’ll be the next American to break 1:43.

What do you think Duane’s biggest challenge is going into the Olympics?

Johnny Gray: The rounds and the confidence….All we have to do is focus on what we need to do, and if he goes out and executes the race plan, and that’s what today’s workout did, it gave him confidence he can go into the first round and go 1:17 or faster [for the first 600 meters] and hold it. He’s got shape and fitness to go 1:45 the first day, 1:44 the second day, and 1:43 the third day.

Do you modify your tactics based on who’s in his heat?

Johnny Gray: Our tactic is we want to at least go 50 point through the quarter, regardless of who’s in the race, and we want to go sub-1:17 through the 600 regardless of who’s in the race….1:16 doesn’t necessarily eliminate guys, but it keeps them honest. If you go 1:18, 1:19 you get those guys who have kicks, they’re going to have more speed, they’re going to outkick you, but if you take them through 1:16 or faster, and in the finals we’re going to have to go faster, we’re going to have to go at least 1:15, and if he can do that and they’re not near you, then they’re giving up ground that they’re going to have to make up, and trying to make it up off of a 1:15 will cause them to fatigue. I know because I used to do that. That was my tactic. He’s trained to do it.

Who do you see for gold, silver, bronze in London?

Johnny Gray: If Duane can get to the finals. WHEN he gets to the finals, then I see Rudisha, of course, gold. I see Duane silver, no worse than bronze.

What’s the most challenging thing about coaching Duane?

Johnny Gray: An athlete like Duane, there’s no challenges. He’s the perfect specimen to coach because not only is he everything I mentioned he was earlier, but he’s talented, he has speed, he has strength, and he’s conditioned. I’ve always preached that proper preparation prevents poor performances. He’s definitely properly prepared, and his performances haven’t been poor this year, and I look for better things now because we’re getting better at the end of the season.

Do you see your American record going down anytime soon?

Johnny Gray: Yes, I hope to see it go down, and if anybody gets it, I’d like it to be one of my athletes. That way, not only would I be losing the American record, but at the same time I’ll be gaining the American record because that American record holder will be my athlete that I coached to break my record.

© 2012 A.S. Lumsdaine. All rights reserved.

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