The 2012 Olympic Games in London are just a few days away now. Actually, some soccer events begin this afternoon but the official opening ceremonies do not take place until Friday night. One of the more popular and exciting events in the summer Olympics is Track & Field, particularly sprints.
Lashawn Merritt is the defending Gold medalist in the 400 meter sprint. If you think Lashawn is satisfied with that, think again. This is a hard working, determined individual who has once again trained hard for the opportunity to defend his title.
Lashawn was generous enough to take some time out and talk with us about the upcoming games and his mindset in London.
1. Most would say an athlete cannot reach higher than claiming an Olympic Gold medal. You did just that, winning the Gold in Beijing four years ago in the 400 meters. What did winning Gold teach you about yourself? What did it teach you about what it takes to succeed at the Olympic Games?
Winning a Gold medal has taught me that hard work pays off. You train to be the best and I was finally able to prove that I was the best.
2. How have you changed as an athlete since winning Gold in 2008? Are you training the same way you did before you won?
Since 2008, I moved down to Bradenton, Florida to the IMG Academy to train with a new coach, Loren Seagrave. IMG has it all as a performance institute. I learned more about how to improve my race. With 2012 being such a crucial year, it was important for me to move away from home to an environment that was dedicated to sports performance. I was definitely more focused on my training in Florida.
3. Talk about what’s going through your mind and what emotions you feel stepping into the starting blocks. Crossing the finish line. How important is maintaining your focus before a race?
Before I step into the blocks, I go over the race in my mind. I’ve already studied that particular track so I know at which point on the track I need to do what. Once I step into the blocks and I take off, it is just a matter of my mind and body connecting and getting it done. The 400m race is the most challenging race in Track. I am careful not to rush towards the finish, but to keep my form and finish strong.
4. Are you going into London with the mindset of defending your Gold medal, or are you going in with more of a clear head, viewing London as seperate from Beijing?
There are a lot of similarities and differences between heading into Beijing and London. In 2007, I won silver at the World Championship just as I’ve won silver at the 2011 World Championship. But I’m definitely going in with some experience in what it takes to compete on a world stage. This time, I am defending my title so I am looking forward to making history as just the second man to win back-to-back Olympic Gold medals. I want to leave a legacy in the sport.
5. Nevermind outside expectations, what do you expect from yourself this summer in London?
I expect to go out and get it done. This is what it all comes down to and this is everything I’ve been training for. This is where it all comes together. I train to win.
6. Is representing the US in the Olympic Games the highest accomplishment for an athlete?
Being able to represent the USA in the Olympics is one of the highest accomplishments I’ve been able to achieve as an athlete. With Track & Field being an individual sport, you get a sense of pride that this race is bigger than just me. It is an honor to be able to represent our country along with the other members of Team USA. I’m looking forward to bringing home two Gold medals.
7. In your eyes, as a top competitor in your sport heading into London, is winning Gold simply a goal, or is it the only option?
Nobody trains to win second. I am going for Gold.
8. Aside from competition, what makes the Olympic experience so memorable?
In 2008, I was able to attend other competitions such as boxing, so I looking forward to being a spectator at other competitions outside of Track & Field events. Also, it is great to be among some of the greatest athletes in the world and meeting athletes from other countries.