American sprinter looks back at the Tsikliteria International in Athens in June 1999 when he stormed to a 9.79 world record for 100m
I was a reigning world champion but I was really just coming into my own. Id gone to the World Championships in Athens in 1997 and won but I was still learning a lot about my race pattern and I really thought I could work on perfecting everything. Thats all I was really thinking of: perfecting the race. It wasnt about how to get a whole lot faster.
When I was going to Athens for the meet, I wasnt even supposed to run the 100m. I was going to go there and run a 200m but then, when I got there and I saw who was in the 100m, I was like: Man, something is about to happen. I dont know what it is, but I want to be a part of it.
So I called my manager Emanuel Hudson and told him: I dont care what you have to do, but you have to get me in this 100m race.
The night before he called me and said: I got you in, but youre only going to run one race [no preliminary heat] while everybody else is going to run two. I didnt care.
When we got to the track, everybody was warming up. I was sitting down on the track watching the prelim heats, knowing only seven people were going to make it through since they were leaving the lane open in the final for me.
So that let me prepare. I just warmed up nice and easy, taking my time, winding down and just trying to perfect the race. When I ran in Athens to take gold at the World Championships, it was a little rocky as a race it wasnt as smooth as it could have been. I told myself: Lets make this a lot smoother this time. Because I know hands down what Im doing is better than I did in the years before.
The more confident you are, the better. Even when Im coaching someone now, especially when Im starting to work with them, and theyre trying to hurry and rush things and asking why theyre not getting it, I tell them the more confidence you get in yourself, the more confidence youll have in your race pattern and the more patience that you can have so you wont rush things so much.
When you start realising that, and stop caring about what or whos around you, or anything else, thats when everything starts flourishing for you. Thats what it was with me. I could be more patient. I wasnt rushing my movements. I didnt feel like I had to hurry up to get there. I let the process unfold by itself to run smoothly and then everything happened on its own. Thats because of the confidence you have within yourself.
Ato Boldon was my training partner. The year before, all we talked about was breaking the world record and we didnt even get close to it. So then I just said: You know what? Im not even going to talk about it anymore. I was just going to run the best race possible and not think about times. Once I started that, thats when the times really started becoming faster.
Ato was probably my toughest competitor. We worked together almost every day so I knew I had to be a little bit more patient than him. He would think about everything, even during the race, whereas I would feel my way through it. I wasnt worried about anything else.
My way worked for me, his way worked for him and even though he was leading for most of that race, I was a lot more patient. That made me a lot stronger at the end of the races, where I was able to overcome him, and it got me to the world record that night.
I didnt even really see the clock when I finished until Ato came up to me and screamed: Look, look, look! My reaction was that finally Id done something that Id been saying I wanted to do for so long. I had finally done it.
And then, quickly, I thought: I want to go faster. I want to do more. That was just my way of thinking and how I did things. An hour later, I ran the 200m and Ato beat me. Id exerted a lot of energy, but we trained for that, to run two races at the top of our speed.
READ MORE: Ato Boldon ask the athlete
I think that night played into my getting the Olympic gold a year later in Sydney. I wasnt worried about anyone else or anything else but obviously my confidence was a lot higher, knowing what I was capable of.
Ive always maintained that I never ran the perfect race and thats what I was always wanting to do. If I had been able to finish the perfect race, who knows what that time would have been?