Boston, USAWith a 2003 season featuring American indoor records and World Indoor Championship title over the 60m hurdles, you might think that in 2004 Gail Devers would be concentrating on laying the groundwork for another Olympic gold medal, this time the long sort after 100m Hurdles title, to go with the two 100m sprint golds she won in 1992 and 1996. However, after her opening race at the adidas Boston Indoor Games, Athens was far from the first thing on her mind.
Getting started with the indoor season
Devers made an early start to her 2004 season on Saturday on the track which hosted the U.S. Nationals in 2003.
"This is earlier than I've ever started, in my whole career. But I wanted to come to Boston. I knew this track was fast, I felt that last year at Nationals. I wanted to come out here and get the rust off me. I'm glad I got that one out of the way. I need to go back and look at the film and see what I need to work on, so I can be ready for next week."
Devers will run at the Verizon Millrose Games next week. Last year, she opened her season with an American record there.
The World Indoor champion is happy to get a win in her first race of the season, but she knows she has work to do.
"I'm happy with the success. I feel blessed, as always. I can't say I'm proud of it. I felt flat, so I'm thankful to finish the race, excited for the victory, and more excited to go home and train now. It's always hard to do that first one, because you don't know where you are in training."
Devers had the race won by the first hurdle on Saturday but was unaware of her superiority.
"Really? I've got to go and look at the tape. That's the bad part about not having a coach. I can't go and talk to somebody about the race. I was just working on getting over five hurdles and making it to the finish!
"Atlanta this year has been so cold, and it's been so hard to find track facilities outdoors, so I thought I'd start my season a week early and see where I am.” When you train by yourself “you think you feel good, but it's a totally different feeling when you're getting in the blocks next to somebody. I can already feel there are some things I need to work on.”
Olympics – Just taking one race at a time
"You know what, I'm going to be honest with you. I'm not building towards Athens. I'm going race by race. I have not thought about Athens, I cannot think about Athens, there are so many things I'm getting ready to do with my foundation.
"I'm getting ready to work with the Sheriff's Department in Los Angeles. We're putting on a golf tournament for kids. I've got so many other things I'm working on. My theory is, I find time to train, and when I get to a race, I'm going to run with my heart, and trust in God, and everything's going to work out. I'll just keep going race by race, and if we get to that point that it's time for the Olympic Trials and I'm still feeling good, I'll go with it. I can't set that as my goal, because there are so many other things I want to do.”
"What gives me more excitement is doing things for other people. The motivation is going to be there if I can find someone, some thing, some organization where I can say, this race is for you. Coming back to indoors this year, I struggled. I came back because I have so many fans who keep writing to me. You know, the over-37-going-on-38 crew."
We weren't going to bring up Devers' age: she's 37 now, and still going.
"This year is dedicated to my fans more than anything. I've been to the Olympic Games, I've been to World Championships, I have done these things. Now I want to run fast times. I believe if I run with my heart, that's the passion that I need. God's going to take care of the rest.”
"I was around when I was the only one with the Eastern Europeans. That shows you how long I've been around. It's so nice to see that now, at the World Championships, there are always some Americans in there. You look at the top rankings last year, and five of the top ten are from the United States. I said I wasn't leaving the sport until that happened. I could have left last year. Actually, I could have left the year before. It's satisfying to see that women hurdlers have stepped up their game, and the times are dropping. It's a great feeling."
An impatient starter
Devers is often the last one in the blocks when it's time to start the race. "Everyone else takes too long to get in, and it doesn't take me a long time. So if I get down there too fast, I'm just waiting. It doesn't take me a long time to get in the blocks. I'm old school; they say get in the blocks, I get in the blocks. I don't want to be down there and have to wait; I'll start fidgeting and he'll make us stand up anyway."
The Gail Devers Foundation
"I've been doing a lot of stuff other than training, too. I've been doing a lot with my foundation. We do a walk for health each year, so last weekend, Saturday and Sunday we had two three-mile walks for health. We were raising money for diabetes this year. The numbers are still coming in, but we're at US$10,700 so far. I'm excited. I lost someone very dear to me to diabetes, so I put myself on a mission. Each year my foundation picks an auto-immune disorder, and we walk for something different.
"The money that came in was just from the community, not from businesses. We didn't have business money. Our sponsors gave us in-kind contributions, like bottled water. That's what the foundation is about, the community coming together and making a difference. The funds that we raise will go to a local diabetes center in Atlanta, so they can see their dollars go to help people in the city that they live in. I don't normally do the walking thing, but I walked six miles last weekend. I told them, 'I have to run next weekend!'
"I've had the foundation for four years, and each year we try something different.” For example “we give out scholarships for kids, and we follow our kids through school. They write back to us every year, and they get a renewal scholarship every year. If they're committed to higher education, we're committed to them. Our long-range goal is to get the sponsorship to expand them for people who want to go back to school. If you're a mother who raised her kids, or you put a husband or wife through college, and now you want to go back to school, maybe you want to finish high school; or if you're a child who's talented, and your parents can't afford to send you to performing arts school, I want you to be able to be considered for a scholarship.
"People talk all the time about how they believe in helping our kids, well, I need someone to step up and help me, because I can't give all the money myself personally. They tell me I can't, because it's a non-profit.
"It's all online at gaildeversfoundation.org. Or you can go to gaildevers.com and find it from there."
Will Devers ever slow down?
"I like doing things, I like being busy. I hate idle time. I always said, I don't have an idle mind, so I don't want idle time."