Less than a half hour after winning the World title in the 60m, Leonard Scott was understandably beaming. His joy was not only because he was just crowned World champion, but because it signalled to the 26-year-old that his victory was a sign of more to come.
“It was a great day,” he understated. “But it started out kind of rocky though.”
That rocky start was the result of a false start in the morning’s opening round, caused by a barely audible starter’s pistol that hindered both the men’s and women’s first round races. Not called back, Scott dashed through to the finish before learning of the false start.
“So I was tired, breathing hard. So I had to gather myself and just do it again.”
He collected himself and finished second in 6.69, before exploding to a world season leading 6.50 in the semi-finals. He said afterwards that he was ready, talk that wasn’t hollow. It produced another 6.50 in the final to take home his first major prize.
“I’m happy with the time,” Scott said. “It’s not my PR, but it got me the win.
Comeback to track began in 2004
After his first global title, Scott is already enthusiastically looking ahead to the spring and summer to continue to build on his success of the last few seasons.
A standout at the University of Tennessee and a teammate of World and Olympic champion Justin Gatlin, Scott opted for American football and seemingly turned his back on track & field. His departure from the sport, fortunately, turned out to be but a temporary one.
Training with John Smith and the Los Angeles-based HSI, he began his comeback in 2004, and the following summer survived the demanding U.S. selection process to qualify for the World Championships in Helsinki in the 100 metres. There, he reached the final and eventually finished sixth. To Scott, his victory in Moscow is part of a logical progression.
Three years ago I was home on the couch. I was just cut by the Steelers,” the American football team. “And now I have made my transition to track & field and it has done wonders for me. The Steelers won their Super Bowl; this is my Super Bowl.”
With just one competition under his belt this season prior to his arrival in Moscow, Scott said he did wonder how his lack of race sharpness would affect his performance. But instead of dwelling on that, Scott simply followed the guidance of his coach.
“I just had to believe him,” Scott said. “He told me, ‘you know, you just need to go out there and do the things you do in training, and everything else will take care of itself. And that’s exactly what happened.”
Said Smith, who also guided the careers of Maurice Greene and Ato Boldon: “This was a milestone for him, particularly when you’re running off of memory. He’s used to running race sharp and here he wasn’t so it was a new experience for him. He did absolutely the best job that he could. If he was race sharp, he would have run between 6.40 and 6.45.”
In college, Scott was in the shadow of Gatlin. At HSI, Scott was viewed primarily as a training partner to more high profile sprinters. Now he firmly believes he’s ready to step out of the shadows.
“I’ve been in everybody else’s story. Now it’s time for everybody to be in my story.”
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF