News01 May 2015

IAAF Ambassadors Boldon, Fredericks and Johnson meet the media in Nassau


Michael Johnson, Frankie Fredericks and Ato Boldon at the IAAF/BTC World Relays, Bahamas 2015 press conference (© Getty Images)

IAAF Ambassadors Ato Boldon, Frankie Fredericks and Michael Johnson were present at the traditional pre-event press conference ahead of the IAAF/BTC World Relays, Bahamas 2015 in Nassau on Friday (1).

The championships take place on Saturday and Sunday (2-3) in the Thomas A Robinson National Stadium and the IAAF website will have results, reports, a live blog and streaming live radio commentary, which can be accessed here.

Below are the edited highlights of the question-and-answer session which revolved mainly around the famous 1996 Olympic Games 200m final, in which all three ambassadors got medals.

Michael Johnson (USA)

Q: What are your memories of the 1996 Olympic Games 200m final (Johnson won in what was then a world record 19.32)?

A: The memory I have is that there was a great deal of joy and relief. There was quite a few different emotions at that time because I had stated at that Games that I was going to make history and I had won the 400m and I always knew that the 200m was going to be much more difficult.

I was in a competition in Lausanne, I was running the 400m, and I saw Frankie just miss the 100m world record because he did something that all of our coaches tell us not to do – don’t celebrate too early. So I knew that Frankie was ready.

I knew that for the Games I was absolutely going to have my work cut out.

Q: What is your opinion on Usain Bolt’s chances of defending all three of his titles at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing?

For Usain, health is going to be his biggest issue going forward. As you get older, it’s much more difficult to remain healthy. I think he’s done a good job of managing the number of races he runs.

I’ve said this before that no one can beat Usain when he’s at his best, but he has to be at his best. I marvel at his ability to remain motivated given that he is world champion, Olympic champion and world record holder in all of his events. It took me 11 years to do that but Usain did it a lot quicker.

Frankie Fredericks (NAM)

Q: What are your memories of the 1996 Olympic Games 200m final?

A: I think Michael brought the best out of me. I’m from a small country where not many people know where it is, and to become one of the fastest men in the world is quite an achievement.

I was training hard every day because I was sure somewhere else other people were training hard.

Michael was a 400m specialist, I was a 100m man so I had to find out what he was doing and that’s why I started longer runs. I could have been content to just have been the African record holder and not work as hard so that’s why these two (Johnson and Boldon) brought out the best in me.

The other thing about Atlanta I remember is that they made us walk to whole 200m, I don’t know why; and everybody was chanting “Michael”! They were killing us mentally.

I was ready that day but that’s when I realised it’s always good to run in front of a home crowd. When I came off the bend, Michael found another gear. I don’t know where he found that gear and I think it was probably those 80,000 people that pushed him.

At that point, I knew the race was finished and just worried that Ato was going to come past me. I’m happy to have been part of that race and to have been someone who made him think the night before that there was someone in that race that could give him some problems. I was had

(Michael Johnson interrupts: “So, the translation of what Frankie said is, if the Olympics were in Namibia, then he would have won!” Cue much laughter.)

Q: As part of the IAAF Council, you were part of the decision-making process that lead to the birth of the IAAF World Relays, so you must be proud of the event?

A: The relay is something special and this was a unique chance for the IAAF to do something different, take a chance and get out of our comfort zone. We also took a chance with The Bahamas and last year was an exceptional success.

I think will now it will become even better as people realise that it is serious. Perhaps we now have to take much chances like this with our sport.

Ato Boldon (TRI)

Q: What are your memories of the 1996 Olympic Games 200m final?

A: My memories are completely different to these two (Johnson and Fredericks) as I was in my last year of university. I was also a fan of the sport even before I became a competitor and I had even been introduced to the sport watching Michael and Frankie.

I went into that race intending to run the best that I can but there was a part of my brain which said, “These two guys you are running against are two of the best ever in the history of this event.”

I had been running at a world class level in that event for all of about 11 months so I knew that I had to have something extraordinary to happen and these two had to have a very bad night just to be competitive.

This is true, I came off the turn and I’m in pretty good shape but I was in lane six, the guys on my outside didn’t run a good first 100, and Michael and Frankie are inside me. At 90 metres I’m like “I don’t see anybody, I’m doing well.” Then the gold shoes go past me and the rest is history.

But I don’t look back on that race with any regrets. I know there is nothing I could have done that night to change the colour of my medal. In my whole career I never ran as fast as 19.32 or 19.68.

Phil Minshull for the IAAF