Kelli White on her way to winning the 200m gold medal (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News Paris, France

'I can only be Kelli White'

Last night, Kelli White became only the third woman to ever claim the sprint double at a World Championships. But if you thought that her win in the 200m was as easy as it was dominant, you'd be sadly misinformed.

Consider this:

After her quarter final on Tuesday, White hurried through the (athlete/media) Mixed zone, troubled by a migraine headache.  After Wednesday's semi-final, she said she was short on much-needed sleep. And after winning her final in a PB 22.02, White became physically ill.

That's what eight rounds of intense sprinting over a span of five days does to a person.

"I told (coach) Remy (Korchemny) even before I stepped on the track that I had no energy left," White said. "I was totally spent.  I walked down the hall into the second call room, saying that 'this is time No. 8, and I'm tired.'  After that, I just didn't have any more energy, not even to celebrate. Even holding up the flag took a lot of energy."

To remphasize the point, the 26 year-old added, "I was just tired."

Appropriately, much of the race was but a blur to White, but not only for it's speed.

"The energy at the start, those 12 or 15 steps, was all I had left.  I guess it gave me enough umph to get down the track."

Even after her win in the 100m on Sunday, in another PB 10.83, White said she felt no pressure prior to the final of her favourite event. "Just fatigue.  Just body fatigue."

But she said she was fully prepared for the task at hand.

"Coaches train us at practice to go through fatigue. We do train hard to go through the times when we are tired. We just dig into our bags of what we know and put everything out on the track."

But just six months ago, it seemed for a fleeting moment that White wouldn't find herself exhausted on a track in Paris.

After her disappointing performance at the US Indoor Championships, where she failed to earn a spot on the US team for Birmingham, White said she had a difficult time bouncing back.

"It took me about a week to actually have the confidence to step back on the track to train again," she said. "And even in April, I didn't think that I would be able to continue the whole season because my foot started hurting me again." 

She returned to rehab, where she hoped "that they'd be able to patch it up and I'd be able to hold it together as long as I could."  A month of rehab meant minimal training for three weeks, precisely at the time where she needed to prepare for the US outdoor Championships to punch her ticket to Paris.

The patching job seemed to work. She bounced back with a double win at the national championships, running PBs of 10.93 and 22.21. Two months later, she would lead the world in both events as a double world champion.

After injuries set her back in 2002, White changed her core preparatory training.

"My Fall training changed this year," she said, with a greater emphasis on distance thinking that her primary event would be the 200m. "I had alot more strength. We've continued to do distance and not as much speed work, and it worked out well for me."

All season long, race after race and even win after win, White has often been asked about the absence of Marion Jones, or whether she is hoping to be "the next" Marion Jones.

And White has given the same courteous reply. "I can only be Kelli White," she said yet again last night after completing a double that eluded Jones after three attempts. "I don't think I can become anybody else. I think that I've finally made a mark for myself and hope that I will now be appreciated in the track & field world."

Kelli, you are appreciated.

Now, please get some rest.