Series17 Oct 2016

First impressions – Johnny Dutch


Johnny Dutch in the 400m hurdles at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015 (© Getty Images)

Johnny Dutch is among the world’s best 400m hurdlers. Here the 2014 US champion answers our first impressions questions.

First race

I started track when I was aged 10 in 1999. I recall one of my first races was running the 100m for my summer track team – Junior Striders in Raleigh – at the same track I train on today at St Augustine’s University, Raleigh. I was so nervous and then all of a sudden I start peeing on myself. The guy besides me was laughing, it was so embarrassing. Then the gun goes off and the race was a huge blur. I don’t think many people noticed my accident, except for my competitors. I guess it wasn’t meant to be that I would become a 100m runner!

First coach

His name is Aaron McDougal. He was coaching my sister and after he saw me run over a hurdle, he quickly started coaching me. I was coached by Aaron for about four years from the ages of 10 to 14. To be trained by him was a bit like being coached by the karate trainer in the movie The Karate Kid. He was into gardening and he would give me chores to do. I would tidy up his basement and he would pay me $20. He taught me a lot of things both on and off the track.

First sport

I was very athletic and I was a very good baseball player in my younger days. I remember I got MVP (most valuable player) for a couple of seasons, but I later stopped playing because of my track commitments.

First international athletics competition

I was aged 16 when I travelled on the US scholastic team to compete in Puerto Rico. It was a lot of fun and a lot of top names featured in that team such as Ashton Eaton and Bianca Knight. I loved Puerto Rico. The beaches were beautiful and the food was really good. I also won the 400m hurdles when competing there.

First media interview

It was a disaster. I won a few state titles at high school and I remember the local news channel interviewed me for a feature on the track. I was so nervous. They asked me a lot of questions and I didn’t know how to answer them. I later found the interview online, it is so embarrassing. I look back now and think, ‘did I even go to school?’

First piece of clothing ever bought

I didn’t grow up with the Jordan (shoes). I never had a pair growing up, not even through college, so when I signed my first shoe contract in 2010, I bought a pair.

First thing learned to cook

Mashed potatoes. The process started by boiling them and then putting in the right amount of milk and butter. My first experience was horrible, although over time I got good at it.

First car

My first coach Aaron McDougal drove around in a 1992 red Cherokee jeep and then in my junior year at high school he gave me it as a gift. To me, back then, it was like receiving a Lamborghini. I love that man. He has always been a good example to me.

First athletics disappointment

The first disappointment that hit home was not making the 2008 Olympic team. I was aged only 19, but I’ve always been very ambitious. I finished fifth but it was a very close race for third (the final automatic Olympic qualification spot and I was only 0.10 from third). I set a PB in that race (48.52), but I was devastated that I would have to wait another four years in an effort to qualify.

First athletics hero

I would say Felix Sanchez. He has always had a special connection with the hurdles and he was like the Edwin Moses of the early 2000s. His story is very inspirational. I’ve met him he has given me a lot of advice. He was my hero growing up.

Steve Landells for the IAAF