Jason Richardson: The Top Spot
Published on by Alex Mills
It’s fair to say that the last two years in 110 metre hurdling have been far from predictable; with disqualifications, record breaking and the emergence of plenty of new contenders within the sport.
Whilst Aries Merritt may have deservedly taken the plaudits, firstly for his Olympic victory in London last summer and then later for his world record smashing performance in Brussels, there is one man who was not far behind.
Whilst Merritt may have burst onto the scene last summer, 2011 was the year the world rediscovered Jason Richardson. Surging through the field; unaware of the battle outside of him, Richardson collected silver at the World Championships in 2011 between two former Olympic champions, or so he thought.
The man originally awarded the win, Olympic champion of 2008 Dayron Robles, was later disqualified for obstructing Liu Xiang, the man whose Olympic title he took in 2008. The case officials put forward was that had to the two hurdlers not connected with each other or Robles not put his arm in the way, Xiang would have taken the title. However put off his flow, Xiang could only finish in third and although he was later promoted to silver there was still one man ahead of him on the rostrum - Richardson.
Speaking about his feelings in the period straight after the race and when he realised he had in fact become World Champion, Richardson admits to being a little dazed and thoughtless: “The initial reaction of course was no reaction at all, to be quite honest. In the first few minutes of me finding out about the disqualification it was too much to process, this isn’t a sport where we see that type of disqualification too often.” However when the moment did come to celebrate earning a gold medal the athlete’s reaction was slightly different: “Once I was elevated to Gold it became a bittersweet moment because in once sense I had definitely put in the time and the work. I was training to do the best I could, to win a medal, to win a gold medal, so to be rewarded in that regard did feel good.”
As for his other moment on the Podium in London, 'JRich' as he is sometimes known, reveals that being involved in an American one-two, the first since 1996, made the moment doubly special: “It makes it two times better; it doubles the intensity of the blessing because when it comes to track and field we don’t have a team aspect. When you get to a major world level championship when representing your country, it creates a team dynamic. So for Aries and I to go 1 and 2, effectively sent the message that you know America is one of the Mecca’s of hurdling and as an American hurdler I’ve achieved a legacy.”
Richardson’s World Championship victory came 8 years after he achieved the unthinkable; a global victory in both the 110 metre hurdles and the 400metre hurdles at the World Youth Championships of 2003. Retrospectively Richardson reflects that it was perhaps his age combined with confidence which pushed him to ambitiously approach both events: “It was just innocence of my age, “It was a situation where I really enjoyed hurdling, I just loved the movement and it became very natural. I took this very ambitious endeavor to try and win both hurdles at a major world meet and I was able to do it.”
With Richardson at the top of his form in recent years and expectant of another successful year, he maintains that whilst he has not forgotten the long distance hurdling event, it is not in his short term plans: “definitely I’ve never lost fire for the 400 metres hurdles so some time in the future I may just pick it up but now I’m definitely focused on the 110.”
With that in mind this seasons main target will be to retain his world title in Moscow this summer and if possible, this time avoid controversy: “I want to legitimately stand myself as one of the greatest hurdlers winning World Championships and Olympics flat out. So that my title will earn the level of hard work I’ve put in.”
If he is to achieve the titles that he seeks the buildup will be crucial, this means that we are likely to see Richardson in a number of Diamond League races. On the subject of the competition the athlete only speaks positively: “Honestly I love the Diamond League, “[the] meetings create an opportunity for the hurdlers to clash and not run from each other. For instance me and Aries last year ran pretty much all the Diamond League’s that had hurdles.”
As for his favourite races within the series Richardson has a few but maintains that each event will be extreamly strong: “If we’re going for my favourite Diamond Leagues; I’m a little disappointed that Monaco doesn’t have the hurdles this year, but I definitely enjoy Lausanne and Zurich [but] you know all of them provide a great opportunity to run against the best, so if it’s a Diamond League I’m excited!”
Although getting race practice will be crucial for the athlete, equally important to his build up to the World Championships will be his training. Now fully coached by John Smith, Richardson believes that his time spent with Smith has been a key factor in his development in the past two years: “One of the strength’s of training with my coach, John Smith, is that every single season we are approaching the race differently. We keep the core the same, but have a different perspective and make different small tweaks to make sure I never become used to running a certain time. I showed this by my level of progression in the last two years when I finally started training with John exclusively; I did just begin to drop times from 2011 to 2012 so if I can just keep staying on the same path then I know I can have an amazing 2013.”
An amazing 2013 would not just mean retaining his World title but gaining or at least getting closer to the world record time of 12:80 seconds. Something Richardson believes is plausible now that he is part of the exclusive sub 13 seconds group of athletes that he believes separate the ‘very elite hurdlers against a successful professional’.
Having broken that big hurdle, Richardson denies having set any more barriers to break. Instead he chooses to push towards just getting faster and faster: “I’m going into the details of a little change here, a little change there will actually get me into the 12:8s and things like that. So I’m just trying to get better and that’s the thing to focus on right now.”
Whilst it would be stupid to say that the limelight has evaded Richardson, it’s plausible to believe that Merrit ‘s explosion onto the scene last summer allowed the World Champion a bit more time to himself.
In that time his focus may not have changed but in his mind it may have become a bit more believable: “my goal is to break the world record; it’s to go as fast as I can, it’s to put my name at the top of the listing of American hurdlers as well as the world.”
A tough task many would say, but in this time of irregularity in the event, Richardson has as much right as anyone to believe that he can knock Merritt off his pedestal.
I am a junior sports journalist just starting out, with the aim of having an impact on the running World. In my blog pieces I will be reporting the facts and the figures with my own opinionated twist. My views come from a reasonable level experience having run since my early years and competed regionally, however like all aspiring runners or journalists I love talking to those above me in the rostrum, to get an insight into their lives and experiences. In order to help educate myself and the readers of the changes and sacrifices I would need to make to one day reach that level.