It’s only eight o’clock in the morning, but already the sun is beating down on a large group of athletes practicing drills, throwing medicine balls and performing other exercises on a grassy field on Kingston’s University of Technology campus.
The December sunshine provides ideal conditions for athletes looking to prepare for a successful season and among those members of Jamaica’s MVP track club hopping and bounding under the watchful eye of coach Stephen Francis is Nesta Carter, who, with a 9.78 clocking back in 2010, is the fifth fastest man ever over 100m.
The setting couldn’t be more different to the conditions the 2013 IAAF World Championship bronze medalist expects in less than two months’ time when, for third time in his career, he aims to challenge for the IAAF World Indoor Championships 60m title when this year’s edition is held in Sopot, Poland between 7-9 March.
“My target (in 2013) was to get a medal at the World Championships, so target achieved,” explained the 28-year-old.
“It was a very good season, because I got my first World Championship 100m medal and we got gold in the relay, so that was very good. I have to give thanks for that season.”
With objectives achieved outdoors last summer, Carter’s attention now turns to the indoor circuit, where he has become a familiar name in recent years, despite the relatively small number of his Jamaican compatriots electing annually to compete under cover.
“Because of the facilities here, we don’t train for that type of event and we don’t have a national championships to qualify for the indoor team, we just choose the top two with the fastest times to go to represent Jamaica,” he elaborated.
However, Carter has seen the benefits of competing over 60m in the past and is eager to get to Europe, despite the challenges faced by racing in unfamiliar surroundings.
“It’s different because you’re running in an indoor environment, so you have more oxygen to take in. You get a sore throat and it can be hard to breathe sometimes, especially for those of us from Jamaica, because we’re not used to it,” reflected Carter.
“You just have to adjust as fast as possible and prepare for it. It’s hard, because you’re not training in the cold and on that indoor surface, even though that’s what you’re going to compete on.
“My coach tells me to just prepare for the outdoor season and to run indoors off that.”
With a 60m silver medal in his collection from the 2012 edition in Istanbul, Carter has a clear goal for this year’s World Indoor Championships, assuming he gets selected.
“The last World Indoors I finished second, so my target will be to go straight for the gold. Once I put in the work, I know I have a good shot at it, so I’m just going to go and focus on putting in that work now and then give it my all in the competition and to make the team.”
With a best of 6.49 from 2012, which he ran at the IAAF Indoor Permit meeting in Birmingham that winter, Carter knows that he has what it takes to claim the title if he can replicate his best form. However, he also knows that it won’t be an easy task and that running indoors is serious business.
“You can’t make any mistakes. In the 100m, you can make a mistake and then make up for it. It’s not like that (indoors). You’ve got to get out.
“I’m strong enough to do it, because I’m very strong with my start. I’m explosive, so I think I have a very good shot at it.
“Running indoors isn’t just a bit of fun, because people are running fast. There’s (Justin) Gatlin, Mike Rogers and there’s always other guys who run a very fast 60m. There’s very good competition, so the work I put in is key right now.
“Lowering my PB and definitely being on the podium: those are my goals.”
Relishing the relays
With no global outdoor championship in 2014, some athletes will target competing well on the IAAF Diamond League circuit, but Carter, who is also a key member of the world record-holding Jamaican 4x100m relay team, also has the Commonwealth Games in his sights, as well as, potentially, the IAAF World Relays in The Bahamas at the end of May.
“The Commonwealth Games is definitely in the plans. I’ve never been to a Commonwealth Games, so I’m excited about this one. I have a good chance at it, so I just need to focus on what I need to do and head out there.
“First, I need to get out there on the track as early as possible and run some fast times and compete. I just want to keep running in the 9.7 and 9.8 region and keep it going.”
As one of the most successful relay runners of all time, the IAAF World Relays also pose an interesting challenge.
“If they (Jamaica) decide to take a team and they ask me, I’ll definitely go. Relays are my thing and they’re always something that Jamaicans look forward to, so it’s a very big event for us.
“We’ve dominated for quite some time now; we just want to keep that going as long as possible.”
At 28, and with a successful career behind him, Nesta Carter could be forgiven for starting to take things easy, but with a packed 2014 ahead of him and challenges stretching out to 2015 and beyond, the ambition is still there to not only run fast, but to be rewarded in the form of medals.
“The one thing people recognise more is picking up medals,” conceded Carter. “Being ranked five in the world right now, that’s very good, but picking up medals is my goal right now.”
Dean Hardman for the IAAF