In this interview, Ato talks about his career, and how he achieved success in the ultra competitive world of track and field.
By: David Robson
One of the greatest sprinting stars of the modern era, Ato Jabari Boldon, from Trinidad and Tobago, has shown he has the right combination of athletic gifted ness and training smarts time and time again.
In both the 100 and 200-meter sprint events, Ato has perennially achieved sub 10s and 20s in history’s biggest sporting competitions, cementing his place as one of the most consistently successful track champions of all time.
To illustrate: Ato has run a 100-meter sprint in 9.86 seconds (history’s fourth fastest time), on four different occasions. He was also the youngest sprinter ever to achieve under 9.90 in the 100-meter sprint, and holds the second highest sub-ten-second total (22) in the same event.
To achieve his remarkable level of success Ato has taken his god-given talents and intelligently honed them to perfection. In this interview, Ato talks about his career, and how he achieved success in the ultra competitive world of track and field.
[ Q ] Hi Ato. What inspired you to become one of the greatest track stars of all time?
When it was discovered that I had a gift to sprint, I looked at my country’s Olympic history and realized that it had been 16 years at the time since anyone had done anything of note on the track (100m gold in '76).
That clearly showed me that my role would be to carry the torch for my generation.
[ Q ] So what was it about sprinting that appealed to you most and how would you compare track to other athletic disciplines?
I was discovered playing soccer, and at the time I was doing very well, but a part of me died inside when I played well and the team didn’t do better despite my best efforts. I knew that sprinting would give me an outlet where I would have more control on the outcome of a competition.
[ Q ] How many events would you usually train for in a one-year-period? How would you periodize you training to meet these demands?
I trained to be in sprint shape, as opposed to training specifically for the 100 or the 200 as I have heard others say. When I was in sub-20 shape, I was in sub 10 shape, without fail. The year started by working on speed endurance (300x 5 for example) and as we got better in that department, we sprinted a bit (8x 200)and then more and more (9x60m), with starts sprinkled in between.
In 10 years, I never ran anything in practice over 400m, and I do not believe sprinters should - they ‘dog’ such distances for the most part anyway. I have myself and Maurice Greene’s 70+ sub 10 second 100m runs to back my theory up.
[ Q ] What do you view as your greatest achievement Ato? Any disappointing moments?
My greatest achievement is probably taking a 16 year old, a 17 year old and a 19 year old and winning a bronze medal in Edmonton in the World Championships for Trinidad and Tobago. I skipped the 200m after placing 4th in the 100m, because I was having back problems, and everyone, including in my family, thought I was insane.
We set a national record and got 3rd, which was historic for our country and made Darrel Brown, who would be World Junior Champ at 100m the next year, a world championship medallist at 16.
A career a long as mine is bound to have disappointments. Mine would likely be not being able to summon enough energy to run a better 200m in the Sydney Olympics after taking 2nd in the 100m dash, because a sub 20, which I’ve done quite a bit, would have won me the gold that night. I had to settle for bronze.
[ Q ] If you could, describe some of the key points in your track career?
World Juniors 1992 put me on the map globally because no one at the time had ever won both the 100 and 200 at that meet. My 9.92 NCAA record to win the NCAA title in 1996 in Eugene, OR, confirmed I was a world class 100m man. 9.94 and 19.85 in Lausanne in 1996 on the same evening confirmed me as a bonafide double threat.
My 2 bronzes in Atlanta to WRs in the 100 and 200m indicated I could be a force for a number of years, potentially. My 3rd and 4th Olympic medals in Sydney showed that I had longevity.
My 9.90 and 19.77 in Stuttgart within 45 minutes of each other showed I could do things that no-one has ever done on a track, in two events, in one day.
[ Q ] The quality of your website suggests you also have talents in web design. If so, what sparked your interest in the web? Also, what other hobbies and interests do you have?
My interest in the web came when I saw DonovanBailey.com for the first time. There were fan sites of me at the time around the net that were ok, but here was Donovan’s - and it was spectacular. I decided that I would have to surpass his to have the best track athlete’s site on the net.
Eight years later, the site has won several awards, and in truth and in fact, it has become more popular and gotten more exposure from the media than I ever could have fathomed when I started it. The site has grown as my knowledge has grown, and it is a project I am most proud of, mainly because it shows that an athlete can have physical and intellectual gifts and that’s ok.
[ Q ] What main areas would you suggest a beginning sprinter focus on?
Diet, technique and recovery are the most key things. Without them, I believe problems are bound to rear their heads down the road.
[ Q ] Would you consider your track success to be primarily a question of good genetic ability or sheer hard work? How much of each would a reasonably talented, aspiring track star, need to reach the top in your view?
I think the people that have become the best certainly have a superior gift, but they also have a mind-set along with it that even though they are supremely gifted, the work has to be done.
There are scores of athletes who are more gifted than those you know of, but lack the mental toughness to stay the course through difficulty, or to work as though they are not as gifted as they are.
[ Q ] Many top track stars have phenomenal physical development. To what do you attribute this development?
If you take some of the most genetically gifted people in the world and put them with the best coaches and in the best programs, you are supposed to see the results manifested in physical development. This applies across the board, for all sports.
I think track athletes develop the most awesome physiques because ours is such a hard sport to train for. We represent what a human body can look like if it is naturally tuned to its heights.
[ Q ] Describe the diet you follow during a competition phase? How important is diet to track success?
I hate to recommend diets because it gives the illusion that all world class athletes subscribe to the same diet theories. They don’t, because everyone is different. Obviously, there are foods and diet habits that would be detrimental to one’s performance, but I always shy away from giving specific advice, because what works for one almost always does not work for another, at this level.
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The short advice I can give is this - leave the white, refined-sugar foods, soda and the fried stuff alone, and do not eat late. Take your protein immediately after practice. Don’t be afraid to eat a candy bar - if you have earned it.
[ Q ] Sounds like excellent advice. What are you doing at this particular point of your life Ato?
Right now I am preparing for my next career, in front of the camera, broadcasting, very soon.
[ Q ] What are your main goals?
My goals were to carry the torch in the sprints for my country and my region, compete cleanly and to the best of my abilities, and to enjoy something I have a huge passion for - track and field. I have done those things.
[ Q ] Would you like to provide your web-site and e-mail details for your fans?
My pleasure David