For the latest episode of IAAF Inside Athletics, Ato Boldon speaks to 800m ace Ajee Wilson, who formed part of the record breaking US distance medley relay at the IAAF World Relays last weekend.
American 800m runner Ajee Wilson enjoyed a breakthrough year in 2013. She won the US senior indoor title, finished third at US outdoor champs and claimed top three finishes at Diamond League meets in Eugene and London.
Then in the Moscow World Championships – where at 19 she was by far the youngest athlete to line up in the final – she finished 6th with a PB 1:58.21, which was also a US and North American junior record.
But like all top athletes Wilson did not rest on that achievement. In the 21 months since Moscow, the former world youth and world junior champion has worked harder to bolster her credentials, and her own confidence.
“Since Moscow I’ve just learned to be a competitor,” she tells Ato Boldon. “I was racing scared. I was like ‘I don’t know if they come through this fast whether I’ll be able to hang, whether I’ll be able to keep up’.
“I’ve just been putting in more training and having confidence in my coach, just in myself, that’s going to help me compete.”
HISTORIC: The previous distance medley relay world record of 10:48.38 had stood for 27 years
With another world championship looming, the New Jersey-born athlete has already got her outdoor season off to a flyer: at this weekend’s World Relays she was part of the American team that set a new distance medley relay record on the way to the gold medal. As nice as superfast times and records are, Wilson, who now trains out of the Juventus Track Club of Philadelphia, insists her splits do not dictate her targets.
“Me and my coach, we don’t think about times,” she says. “Ever since I was young I never have. It just makes it easier to get through races just to compete. If you aim for the place he just says the time will follow.”
And they have. A 1:57.67 in Monaco last year was the 2014 world lead. Wilson has clocked the fastest time of 2015 so far as well; a 2:00.03 at the Drake Relays.
Wilson, who admits that she didn’t even think you could run track professionally up until a couple of years ago, says she never allowed herself to dream of Olympic medals back in her younger years. But her performances since her explosion two years ago suggest her promise has substance, and even the modest Wilson admits to feeling excited about the future.
“Growing up, even in High School, wasn’t something I thought about. People would say 'Hey you’re going to be in the Olympics one day, you’re going to be a great runner!' And I just have never allowed myself to dream until now. I’m excited to see where it all will go now.”
So are we.
Watch the full 8-minute interview below.