Track star Jeremy Wariner on the comeback trail at age 29

Posted Thursday, Jul. 11, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Olympic gold medalist Jeremy Wariner won the 400-meter individual title in March at the 2013 U.S. Indoor Track & Field Championships in Albuquerque.

It was a feat that marked the latest comeback from injury for the 29-year-old former Arlington Lamar standout. He sat down with the Star-Telegram at the Michael Johnson Performance camp at Scoggins Middle School on Wednesday.

LL Cool J said in one of his songs “Don’t call it a comeback.” What do we call this latest part of your career? Yeah, this is a comeback. I’m going to give it another go here and get ready for next season and see where it leads me. I ran a lot of indoors early this season, but late in April, early May, I noticed my body was getting way more fatigued than usual. I was great on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, but the latter days I was just tired or something. I sprained my knee again, and so I’m out four to six weeks again, which means the end of the season for me. I really haven’t had a break since my junior year of high school, so I’m glad to have it really. I’ve never really had a chance to let my body completely rest.

So you’re married now with kids, what’s the family life like? It’s great. My stepdaughter is 8. She’s doing tennis, soccer, gymnastics and taking some acting lessons. My son is 9 months yesterday and he’s doing some walking now. My wife and I met at Baylor. We were introduced by friends and she went on to law school at Wake Forest. It’s good, though, I’m resting and having fun with them and really just being a dad.

What’s your best memory of the 2004 Athens Olympics and your 400-meter win there? So many athletes in the village really. I just don’t think I ever grasped it all. At junior meets and other events, we’re usually sectioned off. But it’s an incredible experience to see all the athletes, and everyone eats in the same area and you really see all the different cultures. That year, even though I had won the indoors, it was thought that all the professionals would end up really doing well at the trials. Even though I was the favorite, I think people really thought the professionals would be the runners to beat. I worked really hard that summer and each day, each event I just got drastically better. You know I didn’t really care about what everyone thought. For me, I just took the Olympics as just another race and I think that was my advantage.

You began a professional career from that point. Where are you now 10 years or so later? I’m in a happy place right now, I can say that. With family and kids, it just re-energizes you. I’m at a point where I really have to look at how much time I have left to run, especially with the way I’ve been getting injured more. But you know, if it ends today, I can look back on my career and say I’ve won races; I’ve won medals, Olympic medals, World Championship medals, the third-fastest time ever. I feel like I can say I’ll possibly go down as the second-greatest 400-meter runner ever. I haven’t gotten the world record yet. It’s still in my sights, but if I don’t get it, I’m obviously not going to be disappointed. I’m sure not going to say that my career was horrible.

Magic had Bird. The Yankees have the Red Sox. You have a rivalry too, with LaShawn Merritt. How is it, and do you guys get to talk much about it and enjoy it? You know early on, we really didn’t speak at all. And it was there. It was a serious rivalry. It wasn’t media-driven or anything. I wanted to win, he wanted to win, and we wanted to run the very best races we could. Now, as I’m getting older, we’re talking at meets more. This deal is probably not a rivalry at the moment because I’m not running as well or as fast. But I think when he sees me at events, it’s still something that keeps him on his toes and training hard. Kind of like Athens in that you never know how the race is going to turn out.

I know you were disappointed having to pull out of the London Olympics. Is Rio on your mind? I don’t want to blame everything on injuries. You know I’ve been training really well this year. My body’s just tired. But I’m going to lay everything on the line next year and do everything I can to improve and stay healthy. If I can’t do that, then it’s probably going to be time for me to bow out and retire. If I can stay healthy and I’m running good, yes, definitely I’m thinking about Rio. If I’m running low 44s and high 43s, that kind of time can win Rio.

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