Wariner handles heat

Scott Gullan

February 21, 2008 12:00am
EVEN though the waiter was from Florida, he still had no idea who he was serving.

“You guys from college,” he asks Jeremy Wariner and training partner Darold Williamson.

“Not any more,” the Olympic 400m champion replies.

Later, the waiter asks other members of the dining party in Sydney whether the American guys were famous.

It is a common occurrence for Wariner. He may be one of greatest runners of all time but he looks like an everyday skinny kid whose jeans are hanging off him like a hip-hop star.

It is the same on the track, that is before he starts running. It is there where he glides and moves his 70kg body around faster than only two others have in history.

Being a sprinter and being from America usually means you are black, loud and have lots of tattoos. Not Wariner.

The colour of his skin is one subject that Wariner doesn’t like talking about.

“Irrelevant,” he says.

Wariner was born and bred in Texas, which may explain why when he is at home he drives around with his own handgun nice and handy.

He was discovered playing football at Lamar High School in Arlington. The assistant football coach was also the athletics coach and convinced him to give track a shot.

Wariner picked the 200m and 400m as his events and soon realised his days wearing a helmet were over.

Baylor University’s Clyde Hart, long-time mentor of world 400m record-holder Michael Johnson, soon came knocking.

At 20 Wariner was an Olympic gold medallist, stunning the world with a personal best of 44 seconds.

He has since won two more world championship gold medals and is short odds to win again this year in Beijing.

More important to him is Johnson’s world record mark of 43.18sec. Wariner’s best time of 43.45sec was set at the world titles in Osaka last year.

“Every day at training that (the world record) is what I think about,” Wariner said.

It is difficult to work out what makes him tick. Those close to him say his complete dedication to training is surpassed by no one.

The one thing that does raise eyebrows is his diet. While he enjoys cooking, particularly chicken in every way possible - fried, sweet and sour, satay, roasted, stir-fried - there are virtually no vegetables served in the Wariner household. “Corn and mashed potato, that’s it,” he said. “Definitely no greens.”

Throw that in with his stated affection towards McDonald’s and it all starts to make sense - the guy is a freak.

Yes, he’s a freak indeed. It’s interesting how some organisms seem to adapt to physical stresses so much better than others.

Millions of years of evolution should have left us all a little bit closer together – i.e. we should all be able to run 44.00 at the age of 20. I wonder if it’s possible. It’s still pretty strange how some athletes peak early (and maintain that peak for a while, like Wariner) and others peak really late (like late 20’s or even early 30’s – Dominique Arnold is the only one I can think of off the top of my head). Hmmm…