In 2013 Curtis Mitchell took the sprinting world by surprise when he spoilt a Jamaican 1-2-3 to take bronze over 200m at the world championships in Moscow. We caught up with him over breakfast…

“I just got up, well, I’m just having breakfast, just coffee and a bagel,” he says, still chewing.

It’s only 11am and the Florida-based athlete is finally getting to enjoy some downtime after his “longest season to date”. But how does the perfect off-season look for Mitchell?

“It’s terrible, I just love eating pizza, candy, …” raves Mitchell, 25. “During the season it’s always crazy, you’re going to the gas station and you see all this chocolate and sweets. I love sweets, I love chocolate, I love sour candy, I just love candy, period. 

“Just not being able to eat that stuff during the season, even just to grab a milk shake, is tough. So after the season is over, I spend a couple of days, not too many, maybe three or four days: just eating like crazy.”

Who wouldn’t do the same, when you spend 99% of your life living a super healthy lifestyle and travelling thousands of miles to race around the world?

“Last year, I didn’t even run in more than three Diamond League races, this year I was in almost every Diamond League race. It’s a huge learning curve for me.”

It may have been a year without a global championship for 200m sprinters – bearing in mind the event doesn’t exist indoors anymore – but the Texas A&M graduate still had all reason to celebrate when he took his first 200m senior title at the USA Outdoor Championships in Sacramento in July.

Curtis Mitchell SPIKES ()

"I brought home my first senior 200m title, that was the highlight of my season."

Having been hailed a raw talent from a young age, and coming fourth at the Bydgoszcz World Junior Championships in 2008, it wasn’t easy growing up for Mitchell.

“I grew up without my father, so it was just me and my mom since I was seven. I was raised in a single parent home in the hood, and she did everything she could to raise a man, and I am very proud of how I turned out because I could have easily been dead or in jail,” he tells us with a lump in his throat. 

“That’s some of the reason why athletics people see me as an emotional runner, because every time I get a win or anything like that, I think about how I’m really not supposed to be here.”

But how does someone from a background like Mitchell even find his way to a sport like track and field?

“When I was a child, I always told my mum I want to be the fastest man in the world,” he says. 

“You could say I took track seriously in junior college, when I was 18 years old. And from that point on I just started winning everything. It earned me a scholarship for Texas A&M University, where I became national champion indoors and later on that summer I ran 19.99. It was just a childhood dream and it just turned into reality once I put my heart, work, and focus to it, and God just took it from there.”

Curtis Mitchell SPIKES ()

"Every time I get a win, I think about how I’m really not supposed to be here.”

As a sprinter, who has run distances from 100m to 400m, we wonder if there are any other events Mitchell would enjoy doing. “Long jump,” he laughs without hesitation. “At college I played around with it, but nothing serious. I think my PR is like 23 feet [about 7 metres].”

And he’s not just a fan of jumping himself. “Christian Taylor, Will Claye, those two guys I definitely look up to.

“Me and Christian Taylor are really close. I watch him all the time, especially when we’re at the Diamond League meets. We motivate each other, and [I] just watch him and Will Claye. That battle these two got going is just one of the best match-ups in track and field.”

With the Beijing 2015 World Championships and Rio 2016 Olympics on the horizon: “I feel like these next three years will be critical to anyone that’s in track and field”. 

With the 200m remaining his main priority, it’s an event that requires a lot of work. Running a perfect bend is still a challenge for the 6”4’ tall sprinter.

“I’m still learning, that’s the part of my race I’m still trying to perfect,” admits Mitchell, who boasts an impressive personal best of 19.97 ranking him in the top 50 all-time.

Curtis Mitchell SPIKES ()

At the Beijing 2015 World Championship, Mitchell doesn't want to settle for bronze

“I’m a tall guy, so I have a tendency to lean back and sometimes that puts me in a bad position coming off the curve, so head position is important. I’m looking up coming out of the curve and see these guys five metres ahead of me, and I start panicking. 

“Running the bend is all about setting the race up and not being too in a hurry to get out the curve. So you really just have to use that bend to slingshot yourself off the curve and into the straight and stand up tall and bring it home.”

Sounds like he knows what he’s doing. After all, a certain Mr. Bolt is pretty tall, and Mitchell’s got him right on his radar: “I wanna get a medal in that [world champs]. And I don’t want it to be bronze…”