When he steps on the track inside the prestigious Stade de France next Friday for the fourth leg of the ÅF Golden League series, Ladji Doucouré will have a lot to prove.
One of the main crowd favourites the 2005 World champion and national record holder hasn’t had the best of seasons, his knee injury having prematurely ended his indoor campaign and hampered most of his early summer training programme.
Unlike three years ago when he ran a then national record 13.02 and defeated the then reigning World champion Allen Johnson and Olympic champion Liu Xiang in front of over 60,000 spectators, Doucouré’s race here in Paris will be more of a race against the clock than a race against his opponents.
“My aim is to run under 13.51 (his season’s best). I know I have to be patient. I am improving day after day. There have been some days when I couldn’t even move and then some days where I could train.
“I know that in the end all the hard work that I have done these last few months will pay off. I still believe I can make it,” he said referring to the Olympic 110m Hurdles final.
Speaking from the Paris-Saint Denis meeting headquarters, Doucouré remained optimistic despite his recent results on the track including his fifth place from last week’s Rome Golden League meeting.
“In Rome I wasn’t so much frustrated because of the time (13.51) but more because of the big mistake I made on the second hurdle. I had a good start but I ruined everything on hurdle 2.”
“But I’m not impatient; I know that one can go from shadow to light in just one race and vice-versa.”
“I am putting my races together bit by bit. What I have to do now is just let it all out and be more aggressive over the hurdles. Before Rome I wasn’t ready to take risks, I was too scared of maybe getting injured again. Now I know I have to take risks and not hold back.
“I have to run a race with no mistakes. I know I haven’t got much time left to prove myself and I can feel that it’s all coming together little by little. I can run races and not be tired at the end; that is a good sign.”
Being in the mix
At 25 years old, Doucouré is aiming at making his second appearance at the Olympic Games after he famously crashed to the floor in Athens 2004 while in clear second behind eventual winner Liu Xiang of China.
Xiang, who will be the crowd’s favourite in Beijing, will not compete in Paris but his void will be filled by the man who took his World record just over one month ago, Cuba’s Dayron Robles.
Undefeated since the ISTAF Berlin meeting, Robles will be the event’s favourite on Friday night and Doucouré is determined to use his Cuban friend’s presence to get back on the right track.
“Of course Dayron is the favourite but having him in the race is not a problem. I just have to be in the mix at the start and then fight with him and the rest of the field in the first half of the race. I have to set off on a fast rhythm, be more aggressive in order not to lose speed in the second half of the race.”
“The good thing is that we don’t run with a label. Dayron doesn’t run with a ‘World record holder’ label and Liu doesn’t run with an ‘Olympic champion’ label. We’re all in the race and we’re all on the same line.
“I have learnt over the years that I have to run for myself, I have to do it for the love of the sport.”
Laura Arcoleo for the IAAF