Track & field: Work at Centre camp part of former sprinter Boldon's diversification
Ato Bolden, left, says while he was in Danville, he was focused only on helping participants at the Maximum Velocity Track and Field Academy improve their skills and not looking ahead to the U.S. Olympic Trials later this month or the Olympics in London later this summer. (Clay Jackson / June 16, 2012)
He was second in the 100-meter dash at the 2000 Olympics and third in the 200-meter dash. Four years earlier at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta he was third in both the 100 and 200. He also won four medals at the World Championships, including a gold in the 200 in 1997, and one Pan American Games medal.
Boldon retired with a personal best time of 9.86 seconds in the 100 and 19.77 seconds in the 200.
Boldon, 38, was born in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, to a Jamaican mother and Trinidadian father. He came to the United States when he was 14 and while playing soccer at Jamaica High School in Queens, N.Y, high school track and field coach Joe Trupiano noticed his sprinting abilities and steered him to a career in track.
At 18, Boldon represented Trinidad and Tobago in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, but did not qualify in the first round of either event. Boldon returned to the junior circuit, winning the 100 and 200 titles at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Athletics in Seoul to become the first double sprint champion in World Junior Championships history.
He was also an NCAA champion at UCLA in 1995 in the 200. He won the NCAA 100 in 1996 in the final race of his collegiate career, setting an NCAA meet record of 9.92 seconds that still stands. He held the collegiate 100 record of 9.90 from 1996 until it was broken by Travis Padgett (9.89) in 2008.
Boldon was seriously injured in a head-on crash with a drunk driver in July of 2002 and never again ran sub-10 seconds in the 100-meter dash or sub-20 seconds in the 200, something he had done on 37 separate occasions. The accident left Boldon with a serious hip injury, and curtailed his career.
He competed in his fourth Olympics in 2004 at Athens, but failed to advance out of the first round of the 100.
After retiring from his running career, he was an opposition senator in the Trinidad and Tobago parliament and is now an NBC-TV analyst for track and field.
He spent three days in Danville last week at the Maximum Velocity Track and Field Academy and shared these thoughts on a variety of subjects:
Question: When you look back on your record-setting career where only two men (Franie Fredericks and Carl Lewis) have won as many Olympic individual sprint medals (four) as you, are you disappointed that you didn’t win a gold medal?
Boldon: “It doesn’t eat at you, but sprinters by nature have to be perfectionists. That time has come and gone for me. When I get around a Kevin Young or Jackie Joyner-Kersee, I wonder if they feel any different having an Olympic gold medal. Of course, the answer is always no and no different feeling when your career over no matter what medals you have. I can’t really think about it or let it bother me.
“But you have to remember in sports and life, it’s not a question of looking at what you don’t have. It’s more important to look at what you do have. It’s not lost on me that there is nobody in history that can say they have more (Olympic sprint medals). There are two tied with me, but nobody can say they have more, and that is something I am very proud of and my country is very proud of.”
Question: What made you such a good sprinter, especially since you were a soccer player and not a track athlete as a youngster?
Boldon: “I was a soccer player up until my senior year of high school. I dabbled a little bit in track and field when I first moved from the Caribbean to New York, and then I went to San Jose, Calif. I was doing soccer primarily and track kind of feeling my way.
“I was on a really bad soccer team my senior year and the way it was explained to me was, ‘Don’t you want more control over the outcome?’ That was it for me. I wanted to know if I do all the work at least I can be responsible for what the end result is. I was discovered playing soccer in New York.
“I was 16 when I got discovered (for track) and by 18 I was in the Olympics. It helps that I ran for a very small country. That would not happen to an American 16- or 18-year-old runner. There is that one caveat. But it was a question of when I talked to the guy who discovered me he said if I saw what he saw on the soccer field, you could see it.
“It’s like somebody had to see Usian Bolt playing cricket somewhere in Jamaica and know what he should be doing. A lot of times you hear athletes talk about that, especially if they get discovered out of another sport, that somebody had to see it and that’s what happened to me. My high school coach in New York saw it and said, ‘Trust me, you are a sprinter.’”
Question: You career has been so diversified, talk about politics and other things you have done and how you were able to do all this?