Thessaloniki, GreeceThe IAAF Press Conference on the eve of the IAAF / VTB Bank World Athletics Final was held today at the Porto Palace Hotel.
In attendance were IAAF Senior Vice President Sergey Bubka, IAAF General Secretary Pierre Weiss, Greek Minister for Sport Yannis Ioannidis, LOC President Stavros Douvis, and (Greek Federation) SEGAS President Vassilis Sevastis.
The athletes in attendance were:
- Allyson Felix (USA) – Triple World 200m champion
- Usain Bolt (JAM) – World and Olympic 100m & 200m champion and record holder
- Kerron Clement (USA) – Double World 400m Hurdles champion
- Periklis Iakovakis (GRE) – European 400m Hurdles champion; and
- Andreas Thorkildsen (NOR) – World, European and double Olympic Javelin champion.
The press conference was moderated by Nick Davies, IAAF Communications Dept Director and Chris Turner, IAAF Senior Editorial Manager.
One-day competition structure changes - last World Athletics Final
At the beginning of the conference General Secretary Pierre Weiss confirmed that this would be the last edition of the World Athletics Final, given that next year the one-day meeting system of the sport will change with the introduction of the IAAF Diamond League, and the second tier IAAF World Challenge meetings series.
Allyson Felix (USA) –
Has her achievement, having won a third successive World title at the young age of 23 sunk in yet?
"It hasn’t sunk in yet completely. I just have been feeling extremely blessed to have had so many accomplishment at a young age. I’m looking forward to going home and celebrating in the off season. It’s been a great season for me."
What’s her current shape, and what are her chances or a third WAF title this weekend?
“I feel like I’m in decent shape, things are going well, I got some good training in. So I’m looking forward to a really good race.”
400m World champion Sanya Richards will also be defending her WAF title over the half lap after taking a double victory last year. Is she her main competitor?
“I’m not sure. There are going to be a lot of great people in the race, including Debbie Ferguson, and Kerron Stewart. I don’t think you can ever count anybody out. But I think for sure it’ll be a lot of fun.”
Periklis Iakovakis (GRE) -
You were fifth at the World championships in the 400m Hurdles, the best finish for Greece. Does that put any extra pressure on you this weekend?
“I wish that there were more Greek stars at the moment, and I’m sure in the upcoming generation that there will be. But for now, with a big crowd expected, I’m just going to go out and just enjoy the moment.
"I had a fitness test after Berlin (where he clocked a season’s best 48.42) and that’s the only reason I’m here because of all my injury problems all year.”
Kerron Clement (USA) -
You’re just 23, and you’ve already won two World titles. Has the magnitude of your achievement sunk in?
“Not really, I’m just still staying focused on the season. After the championships I started training again, and I’m just getting ready for the next 400m Hurdles race.
You been racing the flat 400 recently. How do your recent performances translate over the hurdles this weekend?
“I’ve been racing over the flat just to work on my speed. I’m pretty much doing the same race pattern, to get out in the first 50, and then finish with a strong 150. So I’m hoping to do that this weekend.”
Former World champion Bershawn Jackson is in the field, with whom you’re currently tied with 12 wins apiece in your career head-to-head meetings. Is he main rival this weekend?
“There are lots of guys in the field, and you can’t really sleep on any of them. On any given day anybody can run their best. But I’ve just to focus on myself and my lane and my hurdles and just run well.”
Andreas Thorkildsen (NOR) -
You have managed to put together a record that that even World record holder and Javelin legend Jan Zelezny couldn’t - simultaneously hold the Olympic, World and European titles. How meaningful is that to you?
“It was a proud moment to not only have all the titles, but to also be the reigning champion at the same time. It’s been a big goal for me and it’s been a really up and down season because of injuries, and a lot of setbacks. But it’s been all and all a really good year.”
On his current form?
“I got a little strain in my groin, it’s been coming back every once in a while. I have some good physios at home and here working with me so hopefully they could bring me back to throwing good distances again this weekend.”
With all his accomplishments, does adding more titles remain most important now, or will he focus on other aspects, such as the World record?
“Up until now it’s been the titles mostly. I enjoy competing at the bigger meets. If I want to go and chase a world record I would have to go to smaller places with good conditions. Unlike the sprints where you have a wind reading, we can go wherever and throw in hurricane winds. So you’ve got to prioritize where you want to go. I enjoy the big meets with big crowds where you know where all your best competitors are going to be.
Usain Bolt (JAM) -
You’ve indicated that you’re getting tired at this point in the season. How fast can a tired Usain Bolt run here?
“I don’t know how fast I’m going to go. I kind of surprised myself in Brussels (where he rain 19.57) really because as I said there that I was tired. But when I got out there the crowd gave me that extra energy I needed because they really welcomed me very warmly. They actually gave me the energy that I needed to do what I did. So if the crowd is really energetic here, I think I should do good.
You’re running the 200m here, which only two seasons ago was your primary event. Which is now your favourite?
“It’ll always be the 200. Because since I’ve been in track and field, I started out doing the 100 and 200, and then I stopped doing the 100 because of my start. Then I went to the 400, but then I stopped doing the 400 metres because the training started getting hard. (Laughs). So then I went back down. So it’ll always be the 200m because I’ve worked hard getting the corner right. It took a long time to get everything correct, to find the right line to run.”
Why did you decide to come to Thessaloniki for the last race of the season?
“It was actually my coach’s decision. I was getting tired and he said that you should go to the Final. And if you don’t think you can go on, you can just end the season there.”
There is increased talk about a 600m race with distance star Kenenisa Bekele. Would he consider it?
“To me running a 600 would be really interesting. It’s been a while since I’ve done it but I think it would be fun. So if my coach decides to let me do it, then I would definitely do it. It would be really interesting. I think a lot of people would definitely want to see that.”
Do you have any psychological barriers you need to conquer, for example dealing with pressure or nerves before a race?
“I think the breaking point for me was at the World junior championships in 2002 in front of my home crowd. And I won. And after winning in front of my home crowd, I really don’t get nervous running in front of strangers. That’s why I’m always so calm before races because I’ve been in a big race and I won. So I don’t see any reasons to be nervous.
More about his experience at the 2002 World Junior Championships in Kingston:
“That was a moment that really made me who I am today. That was when the world began to really recognize me, when I was 15. What I remember is that I was really nervous. When I was coming out of the tunnel, people were chanting my name. That’s why I was so nervous. I actually put my left shoe on my right foot and my right on the left. I remember that when I got to the line, I was shaking. I got through it, so that’s why I never got nervous again.”
To all - Outside of your own event, what other athletes of events impressed you at the World championships?
Usain Bolt -
“I pretty much watch every event because I know that there is going to be good quality running. I know that it’s going to be very competitive. I really likedwatching the 400 because I know these guys would be extremely competitive. And I thought Sanya (Richards) did extremely well.”
Andreas Thorkildsen –
“I think watching the men’s discus, because you could see how the crowd affected (winner Robert Harting’s) actual throwing was one of the most memorable experiences. Also when you saw the entire stadium going quiet for Ariane Friedrich in the high jump, had a big impact. It’s just strange when you have a big stadium like that, that makes so much noise, then it’s all quiet.”
“Oh, and Usain Bolt, he was pretty impressive.”
Allyson Felix –
“Probably like a lot of people, just seeing World records is amazing. I was in the stadium for that and it was a lot of fun.”
Kerron Clement –
“Of course the 100 and 200, also Sanya Richards, of course my teammate Allyson Felix. I love watching her run.”
To all - What other events would they like to try at a high level?
Andreas Thorkildsen –
“I could definitely race Usain if you gave me a 50 metre headstart in the 100. and 100 metres in the 200. I’m pretty sure I could beat him.”
“I don’t think I could do anything else at a high level. The level is too high.”
Allyson Felix –
“Kerron has given me a few lessons in the hurdles, so the 400 hurdles would be it.”
Periklis Iakovakis –
“I think I’d like to try the 800.”
Usain Bolt -
“I think I could be a really good 110 hurdler. But I don’t think I could do it because I’m not flexible enough. And I’m really scared to do hurdling. A lot of the hurdlers get hit on their knees and their ankles, and they really swell up. And I’m not really in to that.”
Kerron Clement –
“I’d like to do the pole vault (laughs). I think it would be interesting.”
To all – Choose one word or phrase to describe their seasons –
Kerron Clement – “Blessed.”
Usain Bolt – “Outstanding.”
Periklis Iakovakis – “Relieved.”
Allyson Felix – “A journey.”
Andreas Thorkildsen – “Successful.”
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF