After his stunning victory over Tim Montgomery in Mexico City on 3 May, Canadian sprinter Nicolas Macrozonaris returned home to a hero’s welcome.
The 22 year-old Montrealer, an admitted prodigy of 1999 World Championships silver medallist Bruny Surin, had made headline news across the country for his dramatic defeat of World 100m record holder Tim Montgomery.
Thrust into the spotlight, the sprinter has found the constant media attention such a distraction, that he and coach Daniel St Hilaire plan a ten day training camp in Miami this week to avoid the pressure.
Canadians are lamenting the dearth of quality sprinters since Surin and Donovan Bailey retired two years ago. Macrozonaris’ 100m time of 10.03, has therefore awakened the imagination. Whether this is the young man to rescue Canadian sprinting remains to be seen, but there is much to be positive about his performance.
“My coach and I didn’t even touch the speed component before Mexico,” he reveals, “It was basically a lot of base work. So we were surprised with the time.”
“I came off the blocks and normally you see motion beside you or in front of you but this time I came off pretty good. But then at forty metres I made the mistake that a lot of sprinters make - I started asking myself questions. I got excited and then I broke down. The last twenty metres it was awful, I was so tight.”
Prior to his Mexican visit Macrozonaris’ 100m personal best was 10.19, which he ran in the 2000 Canadian Olympic trials at the age of 19. Since then he has been one of a few promising sprinters quietly toiling away all but forgotten. Nagging injuries inhibited his performance at this year’s IAAF World Indoor Championships in Birmingham. He couldn’t make the 60m final, which makes his current form even more remarkable.
Since his breakthrough at 2,200m above sea level, doors are already opening. His agent of three months, Federico Rosa, reports a full slate of top class competition against the likes of Montgomery, Maurice Greene etc…awaits him. This could be the most valuable payback. The financial prospects are also noteworthy.
“Right now I am a full time athlete. Before, I was taking computer classes but I had to drop them because I was always traveling,” he explains. “I didn’t get any prize money in Mexico because it is a new meet. I did get some appearance money - a little. I’m getting out of a vicious circle its tough. Knowing I can make some money unloads a lot of pressure from my shoulders.”
Macrozonaris lives in a one bedroom apartment and like many Canadian athletes lives modestly off the Sport Canada stipends which amount to less than $1000 US a month. At the moment he has no sponsors a situation that Bruny Surin, who is acting as his Canadian marketing agent, expects to rectify in the coming weeks.
“We are having talks with some people who are serious about sponsoring Nic,” says Surin, who thought he was the victim of a joke when informed of Macrozonaris’ victory.
“I wasn’t surprised with the time. I was surprised that he ran it so early in the year plus beating all those guys Montgomery, Jon Drummond and Coby Miller. I was shocked. When he hadn’t called me at 10 o’clock I went to a website and read ‘Macro beats Montgomery’ and I thought who made this joke? I checked my cell phone messages and a friend called to say Nic had won the race. I was shocked.”
Typical of the naiveté of the young man he will not allow Surin to give out his cell phone number. But anyone with call display on their phones can immediately track it. And he still cannot digest the fact that the World 100m record holder actually walked over to congratulate him following their race.
While nobody would find fault with Macrozonaris if he allowed himself to be swept up in all the hype, he is finding Surin’s incredible experience helps put things in perspective. To that end he is not taking anything for granted, including a place in the World Championships final this August.
“I am focusing on a few goals for the outdoor season. I want to be consistent, I would like to run the 100m and 200m at the Canadian Championships, and possibly win both,” he says. “And I would like to run another personal best. I cannot get carried away with the time. It’s 10.03 at the beginning of the season but I must do it when it counts and that is the World Championships.”