US indoor 60m champion Ronnie Baker has emerged as a world-class performer in recent times with an outstanding indoor campaign. Here the 23-year-old sprinter reflects on the ill-luck and bad memories he endured at the 2015 World University Games in Gwangju.
“Without doubt the 2015 World University Games was the worst meet of my entire life. I went into the competition knowing I was among the favourites for the 100m sprint. I had run 9.94 (windy) at the US Championships in the countdown to the World University Games and I was really excited to be in South Korea. In my mind, maybe I was a little over-confident. My head was a little big and I was definitely humbled (in Gwangju). I won my heat, quarter-final and semi-final but then in the final I ran 10.17 for fourth (he was 0.01 behind Ramil Guliyev, the bronze medallist from Turkey with South African Akani Simbine winning in 9.97).
“That was the moment when I realised nothing is going to be handed to you. As much as you work for something it doesn’t always happen the way you want. Looking back, I was maybe a little off my game. It was my first time overseas, but you really shouldn’t let that effect you. I knew I was going to have to run nine seconds something to beat Simbine, but I felt defeated and humbled (to finish fourth).
“My next event was the men’s 4x100m relay. I ran the second leg of the heats and we were leading when the third and fourth leg runners for the US dropped the baton. It was raining that day and a little wet but we had no excuses. I was definitely upset. It was like, what just happened?
“I later ran the second leg of the men’s 4x400m and we finished the race second only to be told after the race we had been DQ’d after the third leg runner had exchanged position in the take-off zone. It was a rule we were unaware of and so to be told we were DQ’s and to lose our medal placing was like the final straw. At that point my emotions shifted from devastated and sad to really angry and ‘I want to go home now.’
“When I reflect on the World University Games this was a competition when I realised not everything was daisies and roses. I had come off winning an indoor NCAA title and the fastest time as a collegian that year. Yet looking back, I would rather have experienced all that bad luck early in my career, so I can learn from it. I’d much rather I didn’t experience such a bad meet at an Olympic Games or at a World Championships.”
Steve Landells for the IAAF