US athletics legends Ed Moses and Mike Powell were accompanied by their compatriot Dawn Harper-Nelson, the 2008 Olympic Games gold medallist and silver medallist in London last summer to the third of the IAAF Ambassadors press conferences on Monday (12).
Below is a selection of the questions that were posed to the three greats of the sport after the audience were shown a video of the high lights of the first 30 years of the IAAF World Championships.
Q: What do you think about what you have seen on the video, especially you Mike, as you featured prominently on it with your World record of 8.95m in Tokyo 1991?
Mike Powell: It doesn’t feel like more than 20 years ago but it definitely looks like 20 years ago. I just wish I’d achieved my current (shaven headed) look earlier, that was one of the greatest moments of my life. I can’t believe that’s me doing that stuff.
Dawn Harper-Nelson: Looking at that video, that gave me chills and I think I just want to contribute to something that the US has done in the past.
Q: Ed, you competed in the very first IAAF World Championships 30 years ago, what are the most significant changes in the sport?
Ed Moses: I think we had a lot more opportunities to run, a lot more freedom to run, when and where you wanted. You didn’t have a set schedule and it was easier for me to control what kind of running I’m going to do and when, and to peak at a certain point.
In the 400m Hurdles, it’s a lot easier today. I wish I had a rest day (in the major competition schedule between the semi-finals and final) because then you can really run fast. I wonder how the guys today would do running three days in a row. It was hard work, running three rounds in three days.
Q: How do you assess the first two days of the championships?
DH: For me, as an athlete, I’ve been watching the championships in the athletes’ lounge with other athletes, and mentally we are just making the adjustments for ourselves; we’ve seen a lot of great runs and a lot of trip-ups.
I think we’ve all been telling ourselves, we have to go back and reassess, refocus, but we’ve seen some great performances so far. We want to build on what we’ve done, and have USA in the final as much as we can so we can go back with a lot of medals
MP: For me it’s always a treat to see Usain Bolt to run and to run that sort of time (9.77) and in that sort of conditions where a lot of adjustments needed to be made. I think for me that’s one of the top 10 runs (over 100m) of all time.
He does great things. I’m still trying to convince him to do the Long Jump. Maybe one day I’ll be able to get him running into a pit.
EM: Today’s the big day for me. I like watching the 400s and the high hurdles, events that are associated with the 400m Hurdles.
Q: What advice would you give to young athletes who, perhaps, are attending a major championship like this for the first time?
EM: For me, at an international championship, it’s always about acclimatisation. It’s not wise to come in from another continent five or six days before. I would always be in Europe two to three weeks before, and then get to the venue five or six days before.
MP: My advice would be to young athletes to pay attention to their technique, do the things that got them to the World Championships. Many times they think things are going to be different but I’d say, ‘Do what got you there.’ As a coach to young athletes I say, ‘when things are getting difficult, just focus on your technique.’ The crowd and the moment will raise your adrenaline level but you need to stay focused.
Ed and Mike, how do you assess your relative specialist events here in Moscow?
EM: I have to be honest with you and say that I haven’t caught many competitions on television this year but the way I look at it is that whoever looks good on the day of the semi-finals is the person to follow.
Last year, at the Olympics, Felix Sanchez was the only one who looked better than anyone else and he became my pick. The semi-finals are very important in the 400m Hurdles, it’s a question of running your pattern, how well you execute, how few mistakes you make, and psychologically that’s very important, it affects what you are going to be thinking about the night before the race. Taking all that into consideration, it’s too early to make a prediction.
MP: In the Long Jump, there is no really clear favourite. Menkov is jumping consistently and he’s in front of his home crowd. Definitely, if the crowd can get behind their athlete and he can get one off early, then he could do something really big.
There’s also Dwight Phillips. Someone like him, you can’t count him out. I know he’s been injured but it only takes one jump, but there are a lot of young jumpers out there who are pretty good and I’m excited about that. Menkov’s only 22 and there’s the Mexican (Luis) Rivera, he’s young as well, so it’s promising.
Hopefully one of them will jump 8.50m, something like that. Carl Lewis and I had a conversation about this sort of thing in Japan a few months and we were like, ‘8.31 won the gold medal in London!’. That was something for me, especially as I didn’t win at the Olympic Games and I jumped 8.49 and 8.64 for my two silver medals in 1988 and 1992, and to see that (Greg Rutherford’s winning distance at the London 2012 Olympic Games) is really disheartening.
It’s time for someone to step up and hit 8.60m and 8.70m, at least get a little closer to the World record. C’mon, make me a little nervous!
Mike, why do you think the standard in the Long Jump is now lower than when you were jumping?
MP: For me, I had to jump that far. I think that now the expectation level is that much lower. They know that they are going to get a gold medal with 8.40m, when I was jumping you only might get a medal with that distance.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF