David Oliver in the 110m hurdles at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015 (Getty Images) © Copyright
Series Kissimmee, USA

First impressions – David Oliver

USA’s 2013 world 110m hurdles champion David Oliver has been competing internationally for more than a decade. Here the 33-year-old reflects on some memories from yesteryear.

First friend

The first major friend I recall is Kelvin Doyle, a pal from high school. I spent a lot of time at his house growing up and he is still one of my best friends to this day. He later ended up playing football at Michigan State and he was always very supportive of my track career. We have a lot of the same qualities and interests and we were both focused on getting to college and playing sports. I remember going over to his house and spending a lot of time playing video games. I remember eating snacks there like Oreo cookies and ice cream decks. His grandma was a great cook.

First race

It was a shuttle hurdles relay when I was aged 17. I’d never run a hurdles race before – not even in practise – but I ran the anchor leg and we won. It was cool. The next week was the first time I ran an open 110m hurdles and I ran 17.42 to win.

First fashion disaster

When I look back at old photo albums, it was probably the oversized clothes that I was often wearing.

I do remember racing in Linz, Austria back in 2005. I only had one uniform but when I put it on it had a big hole in the butt area. I remember it vividly. Back then I probably had no business rocking a bodysuit, but it was the only one I had and I recall hand-washing it in the sink at hotels ahead of races. I was very conscious of the hole, but, thankfully, as I was competing in the outer lanes no one was paying attention. (Oliver finished sixth that day in 14.62).

First sport

I started to play organised sports in fourth grade and basketball was my first sport. I played in a decent team but one of my biggest sporting disappointments happened on the basketball court in eighth grade. That day I lost the city championship final by one point because I missed from the free throw line and the team hit back to score right on the buzzer. If I had made the free throw and then got another free throw, we would have won, but I missed and we lost. I still have that red second placed ribbon in a photo album in my house.

First media interview

I was junior in college and BET network came to my college (Howard University) and did a piece on me before the 2003 NCAA Championships. It was enjoyable. They filmed me during practise and I remember glowing with pride when the piece was aired. I still think I have it on VHS tape somewhere.

First international meeting

It was back in 2005 in Namur, Belgium. It was the first time I’d been overseas. I won the race in 13.51 and got to stand on top of the podium. I even got an envelope with 50 euros and I thought, ‘this is great, I now have money!’

First car

I was aged 17 or 18 when I bought a blue 280Z (Datsun) from my uncle for $80. It may not have been the best car, but remember when you are at high school and you have a car you are killing the game! It was a two-door and it was fast.

First injury

I was competing at the 2004 (East) regionals in Gainesville, Florida, but I ended up messing my hamstring. I injured it at hurdle six or seven and failed to finish the race. I tried to run at the NCAA Championships that year but the injury stopped me from getting through the heats.

First pet

My mum had a rabbit named Cleo and we all used to look after it. Later I had dogs at home but I’m not super attached to animals.

First toy

I can remember playing with WWF wrestling figurines. I used to love wrestling when I was younger and I played with the figurines for hours.

Steve Landells for the IAAF