US Olympic Track and Field Stars Allyson Felix, Wallace Spearmon, Sanya Richards-Ross, and Others Talk 2012 London Olympics
Allyson Felix, Wallace Spearmon, Lashinda Demus, Trey Hardee, Jillian Camarena-Williams, Brittney Reese, Hyleas Fountain, and Sanya Richards-Ross Address the Media
May 13, 2012
On Sunday, 75 days before the start of the 2012 London Olympics, the three day 2012 USOC Media Summit kicked off in Dallas with some of America's 2012 Olympic hopefuls telling their stories to over 500 members of the international media. Swimmer Michael Phelps may have been the headliner but track and field stars Allyson Felix, Wallace Spearmon, Lashinda Demus, Trey Hardee, Jillian Camarena-Williams, Brittney Reese, Hyleas Fountain, and Sanya Richards-Ross started the summit off by addressing the media.
We'll have more in depth on some of the individual athletes, but first some quick general highlights from each of the track and field stars.
Felix Says the 100/200 Olympic Double a Real Possibility
Allyson Felix first priority is still getting Olympic gold at 200. Felix got Olympic silver at 200m as an 18 year old in 2004, then followed that up with a silver four years later. Felix is still interested in doubling at the Olympics, and said she may seriously consider the 100/200 double instead of the 200/400 double.
Last year at the World Championships Felix attempted the 200/400 double and got silver in the 400 while she slipped to bronze in her marquee event, the 200. In London, both the 100 and 400 are before the 200, but Felix believes doing the 100 will leave her fresher for the 200. Ultimately, her coach Bobby Kersee will decide. She said, "The 200 is my priority and that's what I'm really focused on at the (Olympic) Trials... Bobby will make that decision as we get close."
Nearly 10 Minutes with Allyson Felix
Felix was in Dallas after an around the world trip that saw her go from LA to Japan to compete last Sunday in the Kawasaki Grand Prix where she won the 100m in bad weather in 11.22. She then flew to Doha, Qatar where on Friday she won the 100m at the Diamond League meet in a personal best 10.92 defeating Olympic champs Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Veronica Campbell Brown. Two days later she was in Dallas, somehow smiling and addressing the media.
Whereas Allyson had talked about doing the 100/200 double before she said the great results in the 100m in Doha changed things not for her, but with the media. She said, "It's (the 100/200 double) definitely one of my possibilities that I talked about from the beginning. Until my last race I don't think a lot of people believed me....I want to call the 200 my baby. It's my favorite. I've had the last eight years to think about being a silver medallist."
If the order of events were reversed Felix would likely try the 200/400 double saying, "I do feel comfortable I can do two events... The hardest thing is the 400 comes first. If the events were reversed it wouldn't be a question for me." When asked if Felix thought she said she could run 10.7, she laughed and said she needs to take care of running in the 10.8s first.
Felix's Rival Sanya Richards-Ross Has Put Misdiagnosis of Behcet's Disease Behind Her, May Do 200/400 Double
Felix's main rival in the US, Sanya Richards-Ross also does not have an individual Olympic gold medal. Richards-Ross, the 2009 World Champion at 400m, missed most of the 2010 season with various injuries including a thigh injury, then came back last year to place 7th in the World's 400m final. 2012 started off well with a win at the most recent World Indoor Champs. The big thing for Sanya Richards-Ross is being healthy again. Not only are her injuries gone, but her overall health is better. Richards-Ross in the past thought she suffered from Behcet's disease an immune disease that causes fatigue. She confirmed what she said earlier this spring, that she now believes the diagnosis of Behcet's disease to be incorrect and she is off the Behcet's medication. She and her coach Clyde Hart however do not want to say what the new diagnosis is.
Nearly 9 Minutes with Sanya Richards Ross
Sanya said, "Being able to run and feel 100 percent healthy is the greatest feeling. I started off well, but it's a long season. I just try to be patient and hope for the best." Richards-Ross opened up the possibility of attempting the 200/400 double saying, "I'm definitely going to run the 400-meter. If things are going really well, I may try to run the 200, but at this point I really want to focus on my 400."
Richards-Ross' husband, Aaron Ross, two time Super Bowl champion with the New York Giants, recently signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Richards-Ross is so focused on training, she let Aaron pick out their house in Florida, only seeing a virtual tour herself.
Richards-Ross outdoor season started to a 50.11 loss to Novlene Williams-Mills at the Jamaican Invitational last weekend. When asked if getting beat was a good motivator, Richards-Ross said she thought she beat herself in Jamaica with a few mistakes in the race.
Wallace Spearmon Training Harder Than Ever, No More Pick Up Basketball Games with NBA Stars
Wallace Spearmon, a Worlds silver medallist at 200 in 2005 and bronze medallist in 2007 and 2009, missed most of 2011 with an achilles injury. In order to get healthy and with the encouragement of his old coach, Alleyne Francique (two time World indoor 400m champion) of Texas A&M, Spearmon has switched coaches in 2012 to Monte Stratton in Arlington, Texas and put a tremendous emphasis on rehab work to stay healthy.
No More Basketball with NBA Stars
The first thing Spearmon does when he wakes up now, before he even has breakfast is go into the "training room" in his home in Cedar Hill, Tx and start his rehab work. Spearmon says he doesn't get back from the track until 2:30-3:00 now and that even after that he'll be doing some rehab.
When asked if he was training harder than in the past, Spearmon the son of 20.2 Pan Am Bronze Medallist Wallace Spearmon Sr, shook his head, laughed and said, "I used to train hard. I thought I trained hard. Right now my eyes are opened. Honestly, a lot of people told me 'You're just so naturally talented' and I used to get frustrated when they told me that because I felt like I worked extremely hard to get where I was. But now I kind of realize after I missed a whole season (last year) and I came back in the first race and ran 10.0 and came back in the 200 and ran 19.9, there is a lot of natural talent there, but now I'm putting hard work into the equation as well."
When pressed on why he got injured last year, Spearmon finally said the reason may have been too many pick up basketball games with NBA stars Mike Conley Jr, Ronnie Brewer, and Joe Johnson. We'll have more on that later. Spearmon's injury is now behind him and the man chasing Usain Bolt had this to say, "This is the first time I've actually been healthy leading up to our Trials, so I really have no idea what I'm capable of." Spearmon said if the Olympic Trials were tomorrow he thought he'd be ready to make the team.
Trey Hardee: He Won't "Fold Under Pressure", US Decathlon Medal Sweep a Real Possibility
Trey Hardee is the two time World Champion in the Decathlon. The US also has 2008 Olympic champion Bryan Clay and world record holder in the heptathlon Ashton Eaton. With that firepower, a medal sweep is on his mind: "It's a really special time in the U.S. to be a decathlete. You don't want to get ahead of yourself; the whole Dan & Dave thing is precedence for what can happen if you get ahead of yourself. We're all collectively encouraging one another to stay focused on the Trials. If the three of us can get through the Trials, make all of our bars, get some marks and make the team, I think the possibility of a medal sweep in London is really attainable."
Trey acknowledged having great physical skills saying, "When I first started I was good at the things you couldn't coach. I was tall and fast." Hardee who no-heighted in the vault at the last Olympics, believes the mental side is what sets him apart now. "I think my number one asset is what I bring to the decathlon on the mental side. It goes unseen. I think we saw in Daegu what can happen if you fold under pressure."
LaShinda Demus: "Everytime we step on a track and perform we know we're competing in a dying sport"
World 400m hurdle champion Lashinda Demus who is now coached by her mom and represented by her husband as an agent, was the athlete willing to tackle the question by Amy Shipley of the Washington Post as to whether track and field was playing catchup to the glory years of Carl Lewis and Jackie Joyner Kersee. Demus gave an assessment a lot of people in track and field don't admit to or don't agree with saying, "Everytime we step on a track and perform we know we're competing in a dying sport. We're always trying to rebirth that sport." She added, "We're always for bringing our sport back to what it used to be. We're the original sport."
Jillian Camarena-Williams Credits the Diamond League for More Opportunities in the Shot
Jillian Camarena-Williams got a surprise bronze for the US at the World Championships in the shot put last year. One reason she gave for her improved performance on the world stage was the start-up of the Diamond League, which highlights nearly all of track and field's disciplines, and lets athletes in less marquee events like the women's shot have more competitive opportunities. She said, "The last few years have been awesome with the Diamond League. We've been able to see our competitors that are the top in the world at every meet and that was something we didn't have before. Just seeing them every week and being able to see what I needed to do to get to the next level has really pushed me to decide what I want to do. Do I want to top of the world or not?"
Camarena-Williams husband is already going to be a physio for Team USA, so she has the added pressure of joining him as an athlete.
Hyleas Fountain Healthy Again, Now with a New Coach
Hyleas Fountain, the silver medallist in the heptathlon at the Beijing Olympics has had a tough few years since then with injuries. This year she has moved from Ohio to Florida and switched coaches. Believe or not, Fountain got a silver in 08 the heptathlon while training by herself. Now she's healthy and coached by Rana Reider, the 2011 USATF Nike coach of the year, who coaches World Long Jump Champion Dwight Phillips and World Triple Jump Champion Christian Taylor, plus world hurdles silver medallist Danielle Carruthers.
Hyleas said of the change, "I've been battling severely different injuries, I've had a back injury, a neck injury. Right now I'm doing really well. ... The whole move has been really good for me."
Brittney Reese Focused on Gold
Brittney Reese has won the last four world titles in the long jump, two indoors and two outdoors. The only "problem" is that time period started in 2009 and does not include an Olympics. At the Olympics in 2008, she led the qualifying but was fifth in the final.
The focus in 2012 is obviously on the Olympic gold. She said, "My season is going great. So far, I've jumped two 7-meter jumps in my outdoor year. I'm headed in the right direction. My training is going good. My weightlifting is going great. I feel like I'm right where I need to be at this given time." Reese mostly trains by herself in Oxford, Mississippi but does do some sprint work with the University of Mississippi track team.