06 JAN 2004 General News Pretoria, South Africa

Michael Johnson's South African coaching initiative

Banele Sindani,  Michael Johnson , Leonard Chuene at the South African clinic press conference (Mark Ouma)Banele Sindani, Michael Johnson , Leonard Chuene at the South African clinic press conference (Mark Ouma) © Copyright

World 200m and 400m record holder Michael Johnson (USA) today begins a week long clinic for elite South African athletes in the capital Pretoria.

In partnership with the National Olympic Committee of South Africa, Athletics South Africa has organised the clinic to assist the country's elite coaches and athletes improve their planning and preparation for the Athens Olympics.

Since retiring from competitive athletics four year ago, Michael Johnson has kept a rather low profile. He begun by explaining that he is still very much involved with athletics but at a different level. 

"A few year ago I formed a company called Ultimate Performance Inc. For six years I have been a corporate motivational speaker both in the United States and around the world. My focus is on assisting companies motivate their employees to produce better results," said Johnson.

"Three years ago I was convinced to extend this motivational skill being applied in the corporate world to athletics. We work strictly with sports organisations in contributing to their athletes producing better results. We do many things from consulting to speed workshops."

...in partnership with Clyde Hart

"Together with my coach Clyde Hart, my company is going to work on an on-going basis with Athletics South Africa to help the country's athletes improve their performances," Johnson explained.

Johnson revealed that Mr. Hart who was his only coach in the 15 year professional career, has a wealth of knowledge acquired over 35 years of coaching Olympic and world champions as well as a variety of world class athletes in all track and field disciplines.

"What we are most proud about is the consistency and longevity of my career. We think that consistency is key when it comes to winning medals at the Olympics or World Championships. Our goal here is to share this experience with South African coaches and athletes so they to can in the years to come achieve similar successes."

The clinic will consist of lectures in the morning session, which Johnson and his coach want to make as interactive as possible. The afternoon will consist of outdoor practical sessions.

Athletics South Africa Chief Executive Banele Sindani revealed that the clinic is being confined to the 50 coaches and athletes who are potential members of the South Africa team to the Athens Olympics.

The clinic is particularly relevant to the athletes who each year tend to excel during the domestic season that ends in April. However over the 13 years since South Africa's re-admission into international sports, the athletes have battle to sustain their form until the major international competitions in August and September.

Cloete and Frietag welcome clinic initiative
 
Sprinters and athletes specialising in the explosive field events are particularly enthused about attending the clinic. World High Jump champions Hestrie Cloete and Jacques Freitag summed up the sentiments of the country's top athletes.
 
"Michael Johnson will be of great help to our sprinters. However, what we are also looking forwards to is the motivational aspects of the clinics," Cloete said.

"I am looking forwards to learn how he stayed at the top for so long. Making it to the top in an event is an achievement in itself. However, staying at the top is pretty tough. We can learn a lot from Michael's consistency," said Freitag.

Sprints coach Wilfred Daniels offered a South African perspective to their preparations for the Olympics. "For us Athens is going to be an emotional affairs. Cape Town lost to Athens in the bid to host this year's Olympics. So we want to prove a point in Athens."

In the rest of African continent too!

Athletics South Africa President Leonard Chuene stressed that while this is Johnson's first clinic on the continent, they do not expect this to be the last. Also the Africa Representative on the IAAF Council, Mr Chuene assures the continent that they plan to have more of such high quality clinics in other parts of Africa.