Former TCU sprinter Jon Drummond keeps life on track

Posted Tuesday, Jul. 30, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Olympian Jon Drummond is nicknamed the Clown Prince of track and field.

But he takes his sport seriously.

His work ethic is as popular as his achievements and now he’s sharing his information with other athletes as a coach.

The former TCU great won an Olympic silver medal on the 4x100 meter relay in Atlanta in 1996 and a gold medal on the same relay at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Drummond recently attended the Michael Johnson Performance camp.

Why are you so passionate about track and field? When I die, I want them to write on my stone that I was the hardest-working man in track. No, seriously, track and field has been my life. As a kid, an adult, everything I’ve done has been centered around track and field. What something like this does is give me confirmation of what I did as an athlete. A lot of people don’t realize I ran during a time where PEDs were rampant and a problem. If I had gotten caught up in the winning and losing factors, I’m not sure how I would have turned out in my career.

Where did you get the Clown Prince nickname? Got it at the 1993 world championships in Stuttgart, when I walked out on to the track accidentally with a comb in my hair. It just kind of stuck from there. But it actually created a character, it created that voice that you have to have in this sport.

You had a memorable controversial protest after your false start disqualification in the 100 world championship quarterfinals in Paris in 2003 by lying flat on the track. What happened? There were several things about that no one realizes went on. The IAAF had just signed a deal with Seiko and changed the starting blocks. We went from the traditional pads that were about half as deep as the new pads and, when I got up on the blocks, there was a rock or something that was causing some discomfort because the shoe doesn’t fit flat on the blocks. So I moved the back part of my foot up off the block, but never took my foot off the block, nor moved beyond the starting line, which was the definition at the time of a false start. There were questions about these pads, because most of us never practiced with our entire foot on blocks like that. So, the question that arose was moving my foot like that, was it considered a false start? That had never been called before as a false start. I didn’t flinch or anything. As a result, it was a fiasco.

Did you really hold up the meet for an hour? No, that is a complete fabrication of what happened. It was track fans that held up the meet. I held it up for five minutes pleading my case. The fans continued to boo and whistle every time they came to the blocks. I was sitting in the warm-up area.

Did your protest change track and field for the better? Absolutely. If you know me, I’m going to fight for what’s right. When Usain Bolt false-started at the worlds in 2011, the same thing happened to me that happened to him. In my case, I didn’t flinch like Asafa Powell did. I reacted to the blocks and didn’t cross the start line. Yohan Blake actually flinched — you can see it on the film — and Usain reacted to that. In my opinion, and I don’t care if he gets mad at me for this, Yohan Blake shouldn’t be the world champion. I mean, his foot moved just like mine supposedly did, but he didn’t get disqualified. The good of all this was that he became a world champion and, as a result, they had to change the rules. The poetic justice in all this was Asafa Powell went on to win numerous 100s and set several world records. I coached Tyson [Gay] to a world title. Because of that race, they have specific rules for a false start.

With the world championship and the Olympics races so few and far between, do you feel like you missed an opportunity in 2003? In ’04 when I didn’t make the Olympic team, it started to set in because I thought that would be my vindication. When I didn’t make the team, that’s when it hit me that it was over, and that I wouldn’t get this opportunity again. It was surreal.

What was your next career move? I feel like I turned it into something certainly that I’ve profited from, but a chance to really give back. I’m working with world-class athletes. I do camps. I coach. I was named to the national team for the London Games. I’m still heavily involved in the sport and still involved in helping athletes get to this level.

Is there a moment in your career that really stands out? I’d say, recently, it was the women’s 4x100 team breaking the world record. That was a great moment. There was so much adversity when I stepped in as the relay coach. There was so much talk about not being able to compete with the Jamaicans or the women always drop the stick. I had to try and bring a sense of unity to the athletes. Track is based a lot on individual performance, but the reality is that the relay teams was about all of us as Americans. That’s what was missing from the relay teams. What I tried to teach was that at some point, you’ve got to not make it about you and make it about the fans. It’s the beauty of being united.

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