Mitch Phillips (Reuters)
11 September 2000 Gold Coast, Australia - Donovan Bailey is convinced his experience of winning the 1996 Olympic 100 metres final will give him the advantage in this year's event and dismisses his recent poor times as irrelevant.
The Canadian is considered an outsider to retain his title, a feat only Carl Lewis has managed before. A series of disappointing runs this summer have left him looking outclassed by the U.S. favourite in Sydney, Maurice Greene.
However, he has insisted all along that everything is on track for September 23.
"I am the only man in the field who knows what it takes to win an Olympic 100 metres final and that counts for something," he said on Monday in a break from his training at the Canadian team's base on the Gold Coast.
"I'm going in with no pressure and I like it that way. "Four years ago all the focus was on Frankie (Fredericks) and this time it's on Maurice. That's not easy for them to deal with but it suits me."
Since posting an impressive 9.98 seconds in June, Bailey has struggled home in a series of races, consistently clocking around 10.2 seconds and finishing near the back of the field. But he says the times are irrelevant.
"When I prepare for a major championships I work on a lot of things and I've been working very hard on parts of my race," he said. "I'm not worried about times, it's all about what I do in two weeks in Sydney."
That Bailey is even in contention is something of a medical miracle after the terrible injury he suffered two years ago. A ruptured Achilles tendon left some doctors advising him he might never walk normally again let alone sprint.
"People might think I'm not focused on this but they should remember that in September 1998 I couldn't walk. I was the fastest human being ever to have been on the earth yet I physically could not walk.
"My Achilles is attached by a synthetic thread and I've had to work very, very hard to get back into shape. That has helped me keep things in perspective but it doesn't mean I don't want to win here, just that I'm more relaxed about it."
Bailey said it took a while for him to develop the confidence to push himself to the limit and that he was very wary with his starts. But once he had fully tested himself from the blocks he found it was the last 30 metres of the race that were the problem.
"It had been a mental thing really and then it became a question of getting back to doing what I knew I could do. I'm 100 per cent confident in my body now.
"I'm going to Sydney knowing that I'm not yet reaching my potential and that's pretty exciting."
Bailey's victory in 1996 came in a world record time of 9.84, which has since been beaten by Greene (9.79) and matched by fellow Canadian Bruny Surin.
And while Bailey has fought to overcome his injuries, Surin has enjoyed the best period of his long career, culminating in a silver in his fifth successive world championship 100 metres final last year.
Surin has asked to take over Bailey's anchor leg in the 4x100 metres relay as Canada seek to retain that title but head coach Brent McFarlane has banned all talk of the relay until after the individual final.