US sprinter Allyson Felix and her Jamaican counterpart Veronica Campbell-Brown are expected to be among the stars of this year's IAAF Diamond League and and with three weeks to go before the opening meeting of 2013, on Friday 10 May in Doha, the pair spoke to journalists on Thursday (18).
Below are the edited highlights of their conference call, with the London 2012 Olympic Games 200m gold medallist Felix speaking from California and the reigning 200m World champion Campbell-Brown on the phone from Florida.
How important are competitions like the IAAF Diamond League as part of your preparations en route to the IAAF World Championships in Moscow?
Allyson Felix: The Diamond League competitions are definitely going to be very important to see where we are at and face top competition with the main goal being, for me, to make the World Championships team. There’s always great match-ups, great competition, and that’s what we all thrive of, and I’m sure there will be some good times.
Veronica Campbell-Brown: The Diamond League is very important for my preparations and I like the fact that I get to compete against the best women in the world. It’s a good way to see where you are in respect to the World Championships in Moscow.
Allyson, you had a difficult year in 2011, when you were trying to double with the 200m and 400m, but bounced back for the Olympics. How did that happen?
AF: By having that year when I did the 200 and 400, I definitely learned what it did to my 200 and I didn’t really like it, I wasn’t used to it. I didn’t have the same pop and the same sprint that I always had. I went back to the sprints, I worked on my mechanics and that’s what I really focused on.
Veronica, by your own high standards, what made the difference between you winning the 2011 World 200m title and finishing out of the medals at that event in London?
VCB: The last indoor season went very well (she won the 60m at the 2012 IAAF World Indoor Championships) but somewhere along the line I had a medical issue which sapped my energy and so I was not able to perform well at the Olympic Games. Every round, it got worse-and-worse and the 200m final was the worst. Nevertheless, I feel good right now and I hope I can have a very good season. I hope to stay healthy and be able to work towards my goals.
What distance - 100m, 200m or 400m – do you actually prefer?
AF: My preference is definitely for the 200m, that’s always been my favourite event. I love the 100; for the 400 I don’t love it, it’s a challenge for me but I like challenges and it’s always interesting to learn a new event and put a race together. I know I’ll run more of them in the future and try to get that strategy down.
VCB: I have been struggling a little bit with the decision as to which of the events I prefer and I’ve concluded that I can really decide. They are two different events and the training for them is different but, at the same time, I love competing in both events and I really believe I can do both of them well so right now I don’t have a preference for 100m over 200m. I find it (400) very complicated and I don’t really enjoy running it, I have a lot of respect for those people that do run it as I can’t get myself to run a whole lap properly and I don’t see myself taking up the 400 any time in the future although I do use it for training and preparation but I don’t think I will ever run it at a major competition.
Why have you so seldom run against each other, it’s only been five times in total since the start of the IAAF Diamond League in 2010?
AF: I don’t know. It’s just the way it is. We don’t plan our schedules together. It’s just the way it works out. You never know where someone is going to be competing. However, I love running against Veronica, and I love high quality races, and I wish we could meet more, sometimes it’s just the way that it works out.
VCB: Scheduling is the major problem. We are both athletes who like to compete and that brings out the best in us. But whenever I race Allyson, I have to be ready to compete as she brings her A-game. We are both fierce competitors and I would have liked to have competed against her more as we push each other but I hope we can in the future.
What do you feel about your careers so far, as of today?
AF: Definitely there’s a lot more to accomplish. Just being a competitor, my natural instinct is to continue on for an amount of time. To improve is always a challenge, even to yourself, just to see how fast you can go. I remain very passionate about the sport and I feel I have a lot less to accomplish.
VCB: I believe I have a lot to do although I have achieved so many successes. I don’t think I’ve fulfilled my potential. Gaining more success is what keeps me going.
With the 4x100m World record being broken in the London 2012 Olympic Games, was that an inspiration?
AF: It was inspiring but, in my personal opinion, when I look at the 200m and when I look at the World record, it’s pretty far out there for me. For me, I just try to improve each year but it’s definitely not on top of my mind or anything like that, but it’s nice when you have a breakthrough, it reassures you that you are going in the right direction.
VCB: With our sport, and with the way our records are so far to reach, when a woman can get out there and break a World record, it really motivates me to keep pushing forward a keep working hard and try to keep improving my time.
Have you got together with your team mates yet for relay practice and are you going to be running at 4x100m races before the IAAF World Championships?
AF: I haven’t done any practice yet but, at the Penn Relays at the end of this month, I will be running in a 4x100. It’ll be great to get back with everyone and get back familiar.
VCB: As of now, I don’t have any 4x100 races in my schedule with the Jamaican ladies. Over the years, we normally practice our baton exchanges at the camp (the pre-championship training camp) and so I’m expecting that will be the same this year.
Allyson, was there much talk about the 4x100m World record beforehand among the US team and why do you think it took so many years to break the record?
AF: We hadn’t really discussed the World record too much but there had been a bit of chatter about it. In the first round, we saw how close we were to the Olympic record, so that was more in our sights. I think (we broke the record because) we had a great group. Out of all the teams I’ve been on, we had the best chemistry that I had been part of. When we went out there we were just laughing and joking with each other but everyone knew what their job was an wanted to just take care of business. The mark has now been set high, it’ll take a lot to get back there.
You’ll both be opening your season over 100m at the IAAF World Challenge meeting in Jamaica, Kingston, on 4 May. Can you both look forward to that race?
AF: For that race, it’ll be my first individual race and it’ll be the first time I’ve come to Jamaica since the World Juniors in 2002. I’m just excited to open my season and see where I am. I had a long year last year so I’ve only gradually been getting back to where I need to be this year. I’ll be racing to get sharpness. I need to be in shape for the US nationals, so for that race (in Jamaica) it’ll be opening up and seeing where things are at.
VCB: For me, that race will be my first 100m so I’ll be trying to see where I am at as well. It’s always a pleasure and it’s always so much fun and exciting to compete at home so I’m looking forward to entertaining all the fans that are coming out to support us.
Allyson, how much pressure did winning that individual gold over 200m in London take off your shoulders?
AF: I guess it was just pressure really from myself. I know there were expectations from other people but I put the most pressure, the heaviest weight, on myself. It was definitely very satisfying and it feels great to have accomplished it but I still feel there is a lot left to do. I guess there is a relief to have that accomplishment but, to me, it doesn’t change too much.
What are your ways of ‘giving back?
AF: I think it’s very important to give back. We all have our own causes and what’s really big for me is fighting to get children doing activities. I’m on the President’s Council for Fitness Sport and Nutrition and that takes a lot of my time and is important to me. I’m also an Ambassador for (the charity) Right To Play. This off-season, we went to Africa and it was one of the most amazing trips I’ve undertaken, I’ve gone into the Middle East as well. The charity works poverty and war-stricken places and, to me, has a lasting effect on lives.
VCB: A few years ago I started my foundation with the aim of giving young girls education and motivation. The foundation started in Jamaica but the long-term aim is to have a global effect so in the future we hope to go into places like Africa. Giving back is important to me because, as a young girl, I received a lot of help. I believe that whoever has the ability to help should help the younger generation so that we can have a better future and a better world to live in.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF
2013 IAAF Diamond League Calendar
Doha, QAT – 10 May
Shanghai, CHN – 18 May
New York, USA – 25 May
Eugene, USA – 1 Jun
Rome, ITA – 6 Jun
Oslo, NOR – 13 Jun
Birmingham, GBR – 30 Jun
Lausanne, SUI – 4 Jul
Paris, FRA – 6 Jul
Monaco, MON – 19 Jul
London, GBR – 26-27 Jul
Stockholm, SWE – 22 Aug
Zürich, SUI – 29 Aug
Brussels, BEL – 6 Sep