Legendary American 200m and 400m runner, Michael Johnson, believes the performance of the national men’s 4x400m team and Jereem Richards at the 2017 World Championships earlier this year is the added motivation that young athletes in TT need to make it to the pinnacle of track and field.
The National Gas Company and the National Association of Athletics Administration have partnered with the Michael Johnson Performance Unit (MJP) to provide support services to athletes and coaches as part of the NAAAs plan to support the participants of the Youth Elite Programme.
Johnson, who will leave TT today after a three-day visit, won four Olympic gold medals and eight World Championships gold medals. He formerly held the world and Olympic records in the 200m and 400m as well as the world record in the indoor 400m. The list of activities in the programme include athlete assessments, athlete performance monitoring and coaching education workshops.
Johnson said this country has been producing top athletes for a long time, but it is great that there are young athletes like Richards that are doing well so others can emulate. Richards earned bronze in the 200m final at the 2017 World Championships in August and was also part of the national men’s 4x400m team that won gold. Johnson, who competed against TT sprint legend Ato Boldon in the 1990s, said, “It is important to note that the success of the 4x400m relay team and Jereem Richards is part of the process and part of what is needed.”
Johnson said TT’s natural talent must be developed, but those athletes need motivation and the performance by TT at the World Championships will help. “You also have to have motivation for those athletes, so that they can see that if I do work hard that is what I can do. ‘It is possible, that is another athlete from my country, who came from a neighbourhood and a background just like mine’, so that shows them that it is possible.” It has long been a criticism that several top junior athletes do not succeed at the senior level. But Johnson said the Michael Johnson Performance Unit will help athletes transition to the senior level.
“What this programme aims to do is to help them to excel, and not just get by, but to reach their full potential and in order to do that, you can’t do that just by using your natural ability. You have to take that natural ability and develop it properly and that is what this programme is all about.”
Johnson said the programme assesses the athletes by testing their athleticism, which allows the coaches to figure out the potential of the athletes which will determine what events they can compete in.