15 SEP 2006 General News Athens, Greece

World Cup press conference quotes

Star Athlete guests at the IAAF Press conference - Vili, Robles, Xiang, Defar, Halkia, Iakovakis, Richards, Obikwelu (Getty Images)Star Athlete guests at the IAAF Press conference - Vili, Robles, Xiang, Defar, Halkia, Iakovakis, Richards, Obikwelu (Getty Images) © Copyright

The IAAF Press Conference on the eve of the 10th World Cup in Athletics was held today at the Divani Caravel Hotel in Athens.

In attendance were IAAF President Lamine Diack; Pierre Weiss, IAAF General Secretary; Georgios Orfanos, Greek Minister of Culture and Sports and LOC President; Minos Kyriakou, IAAF Council Member and President of Greek Olympic Committee; and Vassillios Sevastis, President of Greek Athletics Federation.

The athletes in attendance were: Meseret Defar (ETH), Team Africa; Dayron Robles (CUB), Team Americas; Liu Xiang (CHN), Team Asia; Valerie Vili (NZL), Team Oceania; Francis Obikwelu (POR), Team Europe; Sanya Richards (USA), Team USA; Periklis Iakovakis (GRE), Team Greece; and Fani Halkia (GRE), Team Greece.

 

Liu Xiang (CHN), Team Asia:

Thoughts on competing in his second World Cup, four years after not finishing in Madrid:

“This is my second time in the world cup. I still remember what happened four years ago. At the time I was very young, and felt a lot of pressure. At the same time there were great athletes there, like Allen Johnson, Anier Garcia, and Colin Jackson. So I was very nervous and didn’t do very well. My start was very slow and I tried to catch up but made many mistakes so I didn’t finish the race. This time coming to Athens is very nice, particularly coming to the same stadium where I won the Olympic championship.”

His thoughts on the young Cuban phenom Dayron Robles (seated beside him):

“He’s a very young athlete and he’s done exceptionally well this year. He’s been running so well in so many different races. And he ran 13.00 in Stuttgart. And I hope he can continue to improve further. And I hope we can help each other improve together in all of our competitions.”

After another fast time in Stuttgart last weekend (12.93), what is the possibility of a World record this weekend?

“Frankly, I’d love the break the World record again. A lot of people saw me run fast in Stuttgart, and I did that quite easily, and I didn’t go all out in that race. So I saw that there is a possibility to improve and to run better than that in Stuttgart.”

“But to be able to break the record is not so easy. It depends on many factors, so you can’t predict in which race the record can be broken. In any case, I don’t want to put that pressure on myself. I just want to be relaxed in the race and enjoy my second World Cup.”
 
“Now the level of the event is very high and there are a number of competitors who are very good. Any of them can be the World record breaker or the World champion. I just want to keep doing my best.”

On competing in the World Cup, a continental or team competition:

“Competing for Asia, I feel that I have even more responsibility. I feel bad about how I performed in Athens and really want to do well this time. I also always say that I am not only from China, but from Asia.”

Does he collect coins?

“No, I never collected coins. I’m not good at saving money. I only know how to spend money.”

 

Dayron Robles (CUB), Team Americas:

Still just 19, won the World indoor silver, and equalled the Cuban national record of 13.00. Are you surprised by your progress this year?

“I’m overwhelmed by my silver medal in Moscow, and also being on top of the world rankings, so this is really a big surprise for me.”

Your career goals?

“I’d like to become the Olympic champion and the World record holder but actually, Xiang is a great athlete. I don’t know how low he can get the world record, and how much room he’ll give to me to replace his outstanding career.”

On competing in the World Cup, a continental or team competition:

“We don’t have the chance to compete in the world cup every year. Everyone comes with the goal to compete for their continent or team. We spend the entire season together with our compatriots from Brazil, and Panama, and now we get to compete as a team. And finally, my teammate Anier Garcia won the World Cup in 2002 so I want to try and match that result.”

 

Meseret Defar (ETH), Team Africa:

Her thoughts after a remarkable season in which she set the World record in the 5000m and capping her campaign at the World Cup:

“The Olympic Games here in Athens was the starting point for me and I’m very happy to be back.”

On competing in the World Cup, a continental or team competition:

“I just want to do my best for Africa.”

 

Valerie Vili (NZL), Team Oceania:

On her experience in competing in the World Cup in 2002 as a 17-year-old:

“When I went to Madrid I had just won the World juniors, and it was my first international competition where I was facing the big guns. I was really young, I didn’t know what was going on, but the experience I gained gave me a big motivation to continue in the sport. I threw a massive PB and national record that just blew me away, really. It was just a great experience, especially competing for Oceania and not so much for just New Zealand.”

Could this be your first major senior title?

“That’s definitely the plan. The opposition will be pretty tough to beat. Natallia (Khoroneko) from Belorus will be very tough.”

You’ve twice hit 20.20 this season, an Oceania Area Record. What short of shape are you in now?

“I’m now in the best shape that I’ve ever been and definitely major improvements over the years especially since the last world cup so I;m looking for something big this weekend.”

On competing in the World Cup, a continental or team competition:

“I want to try and improve my fifth place from Madrid, and it’s definitely a great honour and great feeling to compete for Oceania.”

 

Francis Obikwelu (POR), Team Europe:

Doubling this weekend, as he did at the World Cup in Madrid four years ago, where he won the 200 and finished third in the 100. His memories from Madrid?

“It was my first representing Europe. It wasn’t that good in the 100 but I went into the 200 knowing it would be tough. I raced against Frankie (Fredericks of Namibia), and I knew it would tough, and I beat him so I was very happy. I think coming here and doubling again, it’s good to have that experience, but it’s going to be tough. I have Tyson Gay in the 100 and Wallace Spearmon in the 200, so it’s going to be very, very tough on me.”

On his main aim, the 100, the 200 or both?

“I think the more comfortable will be the 100. I want to run under 10 seconds again. It’s been a long season but I feel that I’m getting better.”

On competing in the World Cup, a continental or team competition:

“I’m very happy to be competing for Europe for the second time. I don’t know how quite to express myself, especially competing here in Athens where I have great memories. I’ll try to repeat that again.”

 

Sanya Richards (USA), Team USA:

With an undefeated season in the 400 and a big piece of the IAAF Golden League Jackpot, has this been a dream year for her?

“This has been more than a dream year for me. After having one loss last year (at the World championships in Helsinki where she finished second) I went back home and refocused and came out determined to have an undefeated season. And to have come this far is a major blessing. I really love Athens, I love this city, and really hope to have another great run and put on a great show.”

You’re doubling this weekend in 200 and 400. You ran a personal best 22.17 last weekend in Stuttgart (World Athletics Final) and another fast time, 49.25 in the 400. Do you think a sub-49 is possible?

“I hope so. I was talking to my dad and my coach, and they believe I can do it. I kind of came to this meet wanting to have fun. It’s a team meet, and it’s always great to be part of Team USA, but I’m going to go out there and do my best, and hopefully the weather conditions are great. I’m in lane 7 so I’ll have some nice big turns so hopefully I can do something special.”

On competing in the World Cup, a continental or team competition:

“I love being a part of a team, it’s an amazing feeling. Especially now, when we’ll be scoring points, it’ll be even more fun to track all the events and root for all your compatriots.”

 

Periklis Iakovakis (GRE), Team Greece:

On Greece hosting the World Cup at the Athens Olympic Stadium:

“We’re very excited. It’s a very important competition for us just two years after the Olympic Games. I believe we are ready as a team. This is the last big event of the season, and that makes it a little difficult. I really hope that the stadium will be full because I think we’ll put on a great show.”

Is a national record (47.82) possible before a home crowd?

“Because of the lane assignments, I’ll be in lane 1, which isn’t my favourite lane. But I feel good and hope that tomorrow evening everything will go smoothly. I’ll just try my best.”

On competing in the World Cup, a continental or team competition:

“Most athletes are thrilled to represent their country or continent. Maybe this should be held more often than just every four years.”

 

Fani Halkia (GRE), Team Greece:

On Greece hosting the World Cup at the Athens Olympic Stadium:

“This is very exciting for Greece. We have an entire team here and I think we’ll do very well. It’s an exciting opportunity and we’re all very enthusiastic.”

On why she chose to compete in the flat 400m instead of her specialty the 400m Hurdles, in which she captured Olympic gold here two years ago:

“This was a very difficult decision. I had some injury problems last year. I wanted to compete in more meetings after the European championships, but I put a lot of physical stress on my body after the championships, so I decided not to compete in the hurdles. It was a hard decision especially because I’ll be in my favourite stadium.”

On competing in the World Cup, a continental or team competition:

“It’s just perfect that such an event will be taking place again, especially in Athens at the Olympic Stadium.”


Bob Ramsak for the IAAF