Ahead of the Sopot 2014 World Indoor Championships, we caught up with three-time 60m hurdles gold medallist Allen Johnson. The US track hero tells us all we need to know about indoor champs, hurdling and the importance of being focused.
1. How to approach the world indoors
“Championships are championships. And even though the stage is not as big as outdoors, they’re still physically and emotionally draining.
“Indoors give you the opportunity to prepare for a championships, and know what to expect from your competition. Even the little things, like going through the mixed zone, and how the preliminary rounds and semi-finals are run.”
2. Don’t over-think it
“Basically, in my experience, the 60m hurdles is just like the 110m hurdles. It’s just shorter, that’s all. Your technique is still the same.
“You’ve got to train a little bit differently. The start may be a little more important – but it’s 95% the same.”
3. Pros and cons for pros
"I think the best thing about competing indoors is that everything is so compact. All the events are right there in close proximity with the fans, so it’s a more intimate setting
“The worst thing about the indoor season is that it’s shorter. It’s not like outdoors where you have months of it. I was the kind of person who really enjoyed competing, and I would like to have seen the indoor season run a little longer, maybe starting in December or something.”
4. How to win an indoor title
“If you look at it, most of the athletes who do win world championships, if they choose to, can win indoors as well as outdoors.
“It’s just focus. I think the reason that athletes tend not to perform well is lack of focus.
“The main advice that I’d give is to be focused and stick to it. There are going to be times when you doubt, times when you’re down and it’s not going well. They are the times when you really have to stick to it.
“It’s always easy to stay the course when it’s going well. It’s when things aren’t going so well that makes all the difference.”
5. My best champs
“The last time I won in 2004, I ran my personal best. But you know, actually, I don’t really have one memory from a world championship. They were all great – and they are all moments that stick out for me.
“In Budapest . I didn’t run my best semi-final race but I felt like I was comfortably in the final, and once I got in the final I just went all out – I knew I was ready to run fast. I’d had a good indoor season up to that point.
“People never seemed to figure out how I ran the rounds. I did the same thing my entire career. I never ran fast really in the prelims or semi-finals.”
6. Hurdlers I like to watch
“When Colin Jackson broke the world record, I was an up and comer. He was the man, so to speak. Towards the end of my career, I was most impressed with Dayron Robles.
“As athletes we all sit back and we say, ‘well hey, in my prime, such and such couldn’t have beat me.’ Dayron Robles is somebody I’m not sure I could have beaten at my best. He was very technically sound. Very explosive.
“I like watching the women’s hurdles, a lot. Always have. You never know who’s going to win.”
7. Meeting Merritt
“The very first time I ever met Aries Merritt, he walks up to me and he goes, ‘hey, my name is Aries. I wanna break your records one day’.
“He was in college and I was like, ‘who is this guy?’ Hey – that’s the way you’ve got to think. You almost never have an introduction to someone like that. He obviously is someone who believed in himself and he stuck to it no matter what.
“He didn’t always have the best years, but he stuck with it, and he’s by far the fastest hurdler ever.”