Spikes06 Oct 2015

No Regrets


Frankie Fredericks

Frankie Fredericks is the most decorated African sprinter in the history of athletics. The Namibian legend talks to Ato Boldon for the latest episode of IAAF Inside Athletics.

Frankie Fredericks is amongst the finest sprinters ever to have graced the track. Blessed with electric pace, the 1993 200m world champion still holds the indoor world record over the distance. He has a trophy cabinet brimming with Olympic, world championship, All-Africa and Commonwealth medals won over a 13-year period.

A long and glittering career – but one race leaves a sour taste.

“I think the only race I would like to run over is the 100m in Atlanta,” he tells Ato Boldon, his friend and great rival, who also ran in that final in 1996. “I think that was the gold medal that got away. That was the one that I was ready for.”

The world leader coming into the race, Fredericks had to settle for silver behind Donovan Bailey, who ran a world record 9.84 – only 0.02 quicker than he had run a earlier the same month.

Fredericks also won silver in the 200m, where he was again beaten by a world record performance, this time Michael Johnson’s stunning 19.32. He has no complaints.

“I don’t think I could have run 19.30 or 19.31! I think that one is gone!”

That single race has not dampened Fredericks’ memories of a stellar career. It was an era of sprinting superstars. The 100m world record was broken five times by five different athletes in the 1990s, while the 200m was dominated by Johnson. Fredericks insists the depth of quality motivated him to simply work harder.

“I was competing against a guy who was specializing in 200m/400m, so I knew that only doing 150s and 250s are not going to do the deal. So I progressed into running a few 500s and doing a lot more longer runs.

“I think that if I [hadn't competed] during that era, I don’t think I would have pushed my body to run a 19.68 and a 9.86. I would have been content with a 19.99, and I would have been happy.

“I’m happy that I was running in this era with somebody who could push me for years and years to be better, and really push my body to the limit and do what I have done.”

Frankie Fredericks and Ato Boldon

Fredericks (silver) and Boldon (gold) during the 1997 Athens World Championships

Namibia’s greatest ever athlete made the most of his talent during his professional career. Since hanging up his spikes in 2004, he has utilised his status as one of the leading athletes of his generation to improve the sport.

Today he is one of the many former professional athletes who sits on the IAAF Council. It is clear that he is passionate about track and field, prepared to work hard – sometimes even ruffle a few feathers – in an effort to restore the sport’s profile.

“It’s much easier to sit in the stands,” he says. “As athletes we need to understand even we have a voice in the council, we can speak our voice. We can make sure that people understand what our views are, and at some stage they will democratically out-vote us, but at least they will listen!

“You will plant the seed, and in a few years your views will come through and they will say ‘you know what, this guy actually makes sense’. That’s the only way that we can change things.”

In the full interview, Fredericks opens up further about his quest for Olympic gold, how he agonised over which university he would join, and discusses the impact the 2022 Commonwealth Games in South Africa could have on the whole continent.

Watch it below.