NAME: Jeremy Wariner | AGE: 24 | HOMETOWN: Waco | QUALIFICATIONS: Member of the 2008 U.S. Olympic team / Number one in the world in the 400 meters / Four gold medals at the 2005 and 2007 World Championships (400 meters and 4×400-meter relay) / 2004 and 2005 U.S. outdoor champion (400 meters) / Two gold medals at the 2004 Olympics, in Athens (400 meters and 4×400-meter relay) / 2004 NCAA indoor and outdoor champion (400 meters)
• The first time that I realized I was fast was when I was a freshman at Lamar High School [in Arlington]. I was a wide receiver on the football team, and I was able to beat the defensive backs and get down the field. That spring I played baseball, but I rode the bench all season. So the track coach—who also coached the defensive backs onthe football team—asked me to try out.
• I remember my first race perfectly: It was the 400 meters when I was a sophomore on the junior varsity. I ran fifty-point [fifty seconds flat] and won. I moved up to varsity the next week.
• My high school coach always told me to warm up and cool down properly. That’s still true. A lot of athletes just do the workout and leave, and that’s when injuries start occurring. You have to work hard, but you have to be smart.
• I run the exact same way that I ran in Athens, in 2004. But I’m experienced now, and I know what it takes to win a gold medal. I’ve worked harder this year than I’ve ever worked before. And I’m getting better. I’m getting stronger.
• I never hear the crowd at the Olympics. When I was in high school, I heard all of the noise, but I’ve learned to block it out. I don’t even realize that my competitors are there until I’ve started running. And there’s only one thing going through my head: Run my race.
• A lot of people say that I wear sunglasses when I run for style. Okay, that may be part of it, but mainly I wear them to help me focus. I’m more worried about what’s in front of me when I have them on.
• I’m not as powerful coming out of the blocks as some of the other runners, so I’ve been working on my start. I’m dropping my head, so I’m not getting the power I need. Once I get that down, my first one hundred is going to be faster and I’ll get to race pace much quicker.
• My training routine has never really changed. I work out at eleven-thirty in the morning. I lift weights, then head to the track. It takes about fifteen minutes to warm up, fifteen or twenty minutes to stretch, and about five minutes for drills. You focus on quality.
• I don’t think about the Olympics too much when I’m off the track. I play golf. I spend time with my friends. I play video games. I’m like any other typical 24-year-old.
• Never give up on yourself. Track and field is such a mental sport. If you’re thinking about your last loss, you’re going to lose again.