One-lap legend on his favourite training session and why Matt Hudson-Smith can spearhead a 400m revival in Britain
Did you prefer to represent Great Britain or Wales?
I’ve got to be careful about what I say here now because it’s a British audience, right? Wales every day of the week! The reason for that, and I’m a very passionate Welsh person, is that putting on that red vest for Wales was incredible. I never got to put it on in rugby and I went to a lot of rugby games. To put that red vest on, you get an amazing feeling of pride.
Obviously, I loved competing for Team GB at the Olympics and that was sensational but I think the Commonwealth Games for me were the ones where you got to represent your country. I actually preferred the Commonwealths over the Olympics because they were more fun.
The Commonwealths is a brilliant competition to involve lots of countries [which might not usually have that chance]. I know it had a bit of a lull but looking at Birmingham it’s gone back up there to where it should be. Victoria 1994 was my first senior international competition and, wow, that was a great competition.
Do you think you went too early in the Olympic 1996 relay when Great Britain won silver? You left USA’s Alvin Harrison for dead down the back straight!
No, I don’t! I have an amazing story to tell you about it. Iwan Thomas had an amazing leg to start off with and I got the baton from him in front of 100,000 people and a billion watching at home. I was running round the bend and Alvin Harrison was on the inside and as he ran round the first bend he said “oh yeah baby!” and he was speaking to me. I’m thinking “you can’t disrespect the British” so when I ran into the back straight I was going to get him.
As I went past him I went “meep meep” like roadrunner and he looked at me. I was so cheesed off that he was disrespecting me so I wanted to show him what I had. Unfortunately, he went past me at the home straight when I hit a bit of lactic but I did run a fast leg. The American team were always going to do well and they were the favourites. We broke the British, European and Commonwealth 4x400m record that day and it really showed what we did.
When I look back 26 years later I think that was insane we went that fast. I don’t regret anything and it was one of those things.
What was your most productive training session?
There were so many good ones. I liked doing four 200ms, where you’d do one and have two minutes rest before the next. In my training group we had Linford Christie, John Regis, Frankie Fredericks and Darren Campbell.
I was in lane two on the last rep. Ron Roddan, who was our coach, said he wanted the bend in 10.5 and my PB for 100m was only 10.6 at the time! It sounded like an Olympic final and I hurtled round the turn went down the home straight and crossed the line first. As I approached the line I could hear Ron going “18, 19, 20” and I knew on that run that I ran a low to mid 20 seconds over 200m.
Two weeks later I entered the British Indoor Championships and won it with a 20.8, so that was productive!
What was it like racing in front of a packed crowd at a home championships at the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002?
Wow, it was amazing. These guys who have competed in Birmingham will have loved it. You know, unfortunately for me in 2002 I got injured and I came back for the relay – which I still think we won, by the way, although they say England beat us by one thousandth of a second – and it was an amazing competition. The home crowds are always the best and whenever you travel anywhere in the world you always have a British contingent behind you.
Everyone in Birmingham would’ve loved it! I’m smiling at thinking about Manchester and the opportunities that all the guys have had.
What do you make of 400m running in Britain currently and can we replicate the relay success of the 1990s with the next generation?
I think, over the past 15-20 years, the event has taken a bit of lull. I didn’t realise at the time how magical it was to race with people like Roger Black, Mark Richardson and Iwan Thomas. People who ran low 45 seconds weren’t getting anywhere!
There were so many amazing athletes out there and success bred success. I ran fourth at the Olympic trials and ran a high 44.
I’m glad I was in that era but it’s so great to see Matt Hudson-Smith and what he’s done. When I first saw him I thought “flipping heck, this guy is good” and now he’s bounced back he’s at the spearhead of 400m running in this country. I think you’ll see a trend now of people doing things that are special.
I want to see people breaking our records and running faster than we did, especially with the technology and surfaces. They should be pushing on and I was so delighted to see Matt get a medal at the World Championships. He needed it and the sport did, too.
» This article first appeared in the August issue of AW magazine. To subscribe, CLICK HERE