Alonso Edward in the 200m at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015 (Getty Images) © Copyright
Feature Clermont, USA

Edward aiming to put Panama back on the Olympic podium

Despite running his third fastest time ever and winning his second consecutive Diamond Race, 200m specialist Alonso Edward believes that 2015 was merely an “OK season”.

The Panamanian is now channelling his energy, and slight frustration, into his campaign to earn the Central American country a rare Olympic medal

“To me, it was only an OK year because I did not win a medal at the World Championships,” said the sprinter, who turned 26 on 8 December. "The Diamond Race trophy was a consolation and a prize for my consistency, but a medal in Beijing is what really mattered."

Providing a potential question for Trivial Pursuit fans, the 2009 world silver medallist ran the fastest time ever in lane nine, coming through from seventh place with 80 metres to go to eventually finish fourth in a photo-finish with South Africa’s bronze medallist Anaso Jobodwana. They were both timed 19.87 but the verdict went to the latter man.

“I was told I ran the fastest time in lane nine, but I reacted late to change speed,” said Edward, speaking from his US training base in Clermont, Florida. "My reaction came a bit late and I lost a medal. I have learned from this mistake. I will train to run in every lane to be ready for the Olympic Games."

Edward also picked up the Pan American Games 200m bronze in a fast race at Toronto’s York University stadium, where just 0.02 separated all three medallists, the times ranging from 19.88 to 19.90.

After a four-week holiday in Panama, Edward is back in the full swing of training with a dozen other elite athletes under coach Lance Brauman, under whom he has been training since November of 2012. The group features the likes of Jamaica’s Nickel Ashmeade, Trinidad and Tobago’s Keston Bledman and Machel Cedenio, USA’s Marvin Bracy, Curtis Mitchell and Tony McQuay as well as his best friend in athletics, Zambia’s Gerald Phiri.

“Training is going well so far with double sessions from Monday to Saturday. To improve the first half of my 200m, I will run more 100m races and some 400m and 4x400m legs early in the season to work on my endurance.

"The Olympic Games are fast approaching and I am confident I will peak at the right time,” said Edward, who can boast of a 200m personal best of 19.81 from the 2009 World Championships final in Berlin, when he was still only 19, a performance which made him the fastest teenager in history.

Edward plans to open his 2016 season in April, which would be a little later than this year when he had races in Australia in March.

“I am lucky to train with top athletes, including several 100m specialists," he added. "They will help me improve my 100m. I know I need to run under 9.90 if I want to get to the next level, around 19.50-19.60s."

With world and Olympic champion Usain Bolt and world silver medallist Justin Gatlin in that territory, many may think everybody else is running for bronze, but Edward does not agree.

“We can’t compare 2014 and 2015 with what will happen in 2016. You have to have a solid preparation in an Olympic year. To me, all finalists will have a chance of winning medals in Rio.”

Growing up, Edward learned of local legend Lloyd LaBeach, who earned Panama’s first Olympic medal in any sport by taking the 100m and 200m bronze medals at the 1948 Games in London.

Sixty years later, Irving Saladino took the Olympic long jump gold in Beijing and the pair remain Panama’s only Olympic medallists.

Edward would like to make the duo a trio of medallists, and make up for the disappointment of the London 2012 Olympic Games when he was disqualified in his 200m heat.

“It is a great honour to represent Panama in the sprints at the highest level," he said. "It has been many years, and I would like to put my country back on the Olympic podium in the sprints."

Edward has not yet decided on whether he will attempt a 100m-200m double in Rio but he will certainly run the shorter distance more often as he did in 2014 when he set a national record of 10.02 on his home track in Clermont. He is aiming to become the first South American to break the 10-second barrier in the distance.

Edward believes the tough, often injury-stricken, years following his stunning breakthrough in 2009 has made him appreciate the sport more.

“I did not lose faith in myself despite those frustrating moments," he said. "You learn what it takes to reach the top. Not everyone can overcome those difficult situations and it makes you mature at a young age.

"I am happy to inspire others, proud of what I have accomplished and hungry to fight for an Olympic medal in Rio."

Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF