Confident Bailey says pressure is off
This just in: Donovan Bailey has tested positive for good vibrations. Fortunately, there are no illegal limits for high levels of groove.
Bailey has not been hanging out with Ross Rebagliati, nor is he into yoga or transcontinental meditation. He is, however, incredibly laid back these days.
And that's sort of weird.
The Donovan Bailey sports writers know and, uh, love to quote, is the guy who enjoys comparing reporters to Harry Rosen. As in, Harry Rosen you ain't. Another favourite pastime is starting interviews with an angry diatribe about some article he just read.
But yesterday, on the phone from his hotel in Gateshead, England, Bailey spent 45 minutes answering questions in a calm and thoughtful manner, mixing in the occasional joke and pleasantry. Kidding around. Having fun.
I'm sorry, but it is weird. The biggest meet of all, the Olympics, is less than three weeks off and Bailey is acting as though he's heading to Australia to run with the dingos.
In the days leading to the Atlanta Games, where he won the Olympic 100-metre title in a world record 9.84 seconds, Bailey was pretty well a basketcase, worrying about injuries, calling Ben Johnson for advice, yelling and fretting.
So what gives? Why is a guy who just finished eighth in a race in Brussels in a pedestrian 10.20 seconds, who has broken 10 seconds only once this year, so relaxed?
"I know something you don't," Bailey said with a laugh. "And maybe I know something the competition doesn't."
And that is?
"I can't tell. Okay, it's my secret focus method."
Which is to say, despite his hamstring woes this season and his inability to run consistently fast, Bailey still is confident that he can compete with the big boys in Sydney, and maybe even defend his gold medal.
In a serious moment, the Oakville sprinter said that he is content and confident because he is, by and large, pain-free for the first time in months and close to working out all the kinks in his race. But more important, he is also pressure-free. And that, apparently, is a good thing, even though he usually runs well when he's full of angst. Bailey has reached a point in life (or so he claims) where he figures it's time to slow down (not literally) and smell the daisies, or whatever.
"Regardless of what happens in Sydney, I'll still be an Olympic champion," he said. "I'll still be a champion when I retire. My name is synonymous with champion.
Bailey, 32, said there's much more pressure on guys such as world-record holder and defending world champion Maurice Greene to come up big Down Under.
"I think Maurice has to win the Olympics in order to validate the title as the world's fastest man, or as one of the best sprinters who ever lived. What I did in Atlanta (Olympic gold medal in a world-record time) has happened only a couple of times. I don't have to validate anything.
"Leroy Burrell was a great sprinter, a world-record holder and a great guy, but he will never be remembered as a Carl Lewis, or a great champion because he never won a world championship and Olympic Games."
Bailey has his place in history. And with retirement looming just a year away (following next summer's world championships in Edmonton), the outspoken sprinter said it's time to chill and just let everything fall into place.
"I'm happy man," he said. "Really."
BIG WORDS: This from Alcides Sagarra, coach of the powerful Cuban Olympic boxing team: "All of our enemies are working to knock over the hegemony of the Cuban school of boxing. We are not going to let them."
To which, Canadian light-welterweight Mike Strange said: "I'll respond to that as soon as I get a dictionary."
GOOD GUYS: It's the same thing before every Olympics. A couple of athletes, ranked 68th or 137th in the world, sue their federation to gain a spot on the team. So it's refreshing to hear from Mike Scarola and Richard Daulton, who missed out making the Olympics in the C-2 canoe class despite beating Olympic-bound Tomas and Attila Buday seven out of nine times in races this year.
"We have no right to be bitter," Daulton told The Toronto Sun's Steve Wickens. "We knew the selection criteria before the season started and we simply didn't win on the day when it counted most. I'd love to give you some real dirt -- but the truth is that as soon as we cross the finish line, the Buday brothers are really good friends. It sounds corny, but it's the truth."