Novlene Williams-Mills, 2014 Diamond League champion in the 400m, and her husband, Jameel, have become well-known for welcoming various members of the local track and field community to their Orlando home to celebrate Thanksgiving.
David Oliver, 2013 world champion in the 110m hurdles, has been a permanent fixture since 2010. Dutch sprinter and former European 200m champion Churandy Martina is another regular attendee.
“Other athletes slide in and out from different training groups,” Oliver says. “It is often the first time I’ve seen many of them since the end of last season.”
Train first. Eat later.
Professionals to the core, before relaxing into Thanksgiving both Williams-Mills and Oliver will make sure they squeeze in a morning training session before the festivities begin.
“We never take a complete day off on Thanksgiving Day,” Oliver says. But once done at the track, it's time to get comfortable and tuck in.
Who you callin’ chicken?
In a break from tradition, chicken is the choice of food on Thanksgiving at the home of Williams-Mills.
“I cook Pepsi chicken, because it is what my guests want and I also like to keep things simple because we have practise the next day,” three-time Olympic medallist Williams-Mills says. That's not the only reason behind the one-lap star's culinary strategy. “Turkey puts you to sleep,” she says. So does running the 400m.
Strangely, the Thanksgiving feast that Williams-Mills doles out rarely makes it out of the kitchen, according to the hostess.
“I once set up the dining table, but nobody wanted to sit there, so I've never set up the food there again,” she says. At least it saves on cleaning up.
Waiting for the dinner to come out the oven like...
All good in the pud’
Cookie-loving Oliver always brings over dessert for everyone to share. Just don’t ask if he baked it himself.
“I tried to bake one time, but that is not really my strong suit,” admits the 12.89 110m hurdler. “I once baked some cup cakes but they just didn't look right. I tried to make them fancy but they were flatter than they should have been and the icing didn't look right.”
Cocktails all round
You can't beat a good ol’ cocktail to wash down all that food, and Williams-Mills’ non-alcoholic concoction always proves a hit.
“I put in a carrot, pineapple, water melon, mango, lime, ginger. It tastes great and is very healthy,” she says. “Everyone seems to love it.”
Charades and board games are not on the menu. Instead, the hosts and their guests like to up the ante and engage in a little friendly banter.
“We like to talk trash, about whether someone who has put on a little weight during the off-season, anything,” adds Williams-Mills with a smile. “We like to talk crap.”
WE DO THAT TOO!!
"What? You really thought I made that cake?!"
Thanksgiving is a big day in the NFL calendar, and the TV set in the Williams-Mills’ household always shows the day’s big American Football showdowns.
Oliver and Jameel are both fans of the Miami Dolphins, so the atmosphere can rise or fall depending on the outcome.
“We are like a 500 team, so relating it to soccer and the English Premier League we are probably like a West Ham United in that we are always in the middle of the pack,” laments Oliver.
Some people opt to play a bit of backyard footie on Thanksgiving, but not at the Williams-Mills'.
“I'm not going to play football as I might step in a hole and sprain my ankle,” says Oliver wisely.
Both Williams-Mills and Oliver admit they are mindful of having to train the next day, so attempt to adopt a sensible and disciplined approach to eating. However Oliver says the fantastic food served up by his good pal is always too good to resist.
“I always make sure I take at least three plates home with me to last for the next few days,” he says. Howabout you make it four and send one our ways?