Bahamian record-holder Steven Gardiner talks about the journey to winning his breakthrough 400m silver medal at the recent IAAF World Championships in London.
“I’ve been through a lot of struggles. At both the 2015 IAAF World Championships and 2016 Rio Olympic Games, I failed to advance beyond the semi-finals of the 400m, so I decided last fall that I needed to make a change.
“I had been training most of the time on my own in The Bahamas, but last November I joined Gary Evans’ coaching group in Florida. The change has worked well for me. I am part of a great group – which also includes Tony McQuay (2013 world 400m silver medallist) and Novlene Williams-Mills (2007 world 400m bronze medallist) – doing some quality training. I feel like everything is starting to fall into place.
“It is much easier to train in a group. There are more people to encourage me during training. I never feel as though I am training alone; it feels like a team. I also now get a lot more time to rest between quality sessions. It is a great formula.
“The training was tough during the fall. I’m not a fan of the longer stuff. I hate the one-minute runs, the 800s, 600s and 500s, but I know I have to finish them to build up my strength.
“As soon as I opened my 2017 season with a world lead and national record time of 44.26 in Grenada, I knew I was in for a great year. I was surprised to run so quickly. To run a world lead – which I had never done before – and a national record for my season opener was not bad!
“I went into the World Championships wanting a medal. I didn’t really care which colour. I felt the greatest stress in my heat (which Gardiner won in 44.75) because I had not raced for a month. We decided to take time out from competing to get in some extra work before the World Championships. In my semi, I felt really good. I was surprised. It did not feel too hard and when I saw the time on the clock (a national record of 43.89) I was shock because it was so easy. It gave me a lot of confidence.
“The night of the final was cold and wet but I just had to remember to get out strongly. Thankfully, the race started well. I ran a good back stretch and then, entering the home straight, I was second or third. I then started to push forward and I crossed the line second in 44.41 (behind Wayde van Niekerk).
“It was an unbelievable moment to win a medal after my previous struggles at major championships. I was one of the world’s best. I never thought I would go so far in my career, but my coach, agent and family all believed in me. I am thankful for their support.
“I was pleased I made the coaching switch. It has worked out for me. It has changed my life.”
Steve Landells for the IAAF