USA Track & Field put up an impressive performance in the 2012 Olympics, leading all countries with 28 medals. However, the Jamaican team led by Usain Bolt poses a significant threat on the track, having taken Gold in the men’s 100m, 200m, 4x100m relay and women’s 100m races.
We had the opportunity to watch Team USA sprinters practice at their pre-Olympic training camp. This was the first time the team trained together before the Rio Games, and they took the opportunity to make last-minute adjustments to their races and develop team chemistry, which is particularly important in the relay events.
After practice, we spoke with five sprinters to learn about how they prepare their bodies and minds before what may be the most important events in their careers.
Justin Gatlin, 100m, 4x100m Relay
“I wouldn’t really know if I have a routine. I just kind of feel it, how it is. But my mindset is like a Navy SEAL, black ops. Like everything is prepared, everything is all packed up ready to go. And once I leave that room, it’s just straight dialed in. Like get to the bus, you know, minimal socialization as possible, just alright I’m here, alright let’s go, we have a job to do.
“Over the years I’ve used music to pump me up. In the last like year or so, when I warm up I just listen to my heartbeat, man. Just get out there, just go through the checklist of what I need to do. When I’m on the bus, a little Jay-Z, a little J Cole. Right now, I’m on that A$AP Ferg, “Another Level,” Fat Joe, “All The Way Up.” And then when I feel like more calm between races, a little Andrea Day, “Rise Up.” So just a mixture of everything.”
Jenna Prandini, 4x100m Relay
“I keep stuff pretty similar [to my everyday routine]. I mean everything I do . . . I wake up, do the same warm-up, shake out in the morning, eat pretty similar food. I don’t really want to switch up anything, just keep it the same and keep it going for the race. I don’t have any specific [music], but definitely anything that’s upbeat and fast to get me pumped up and ready to go.
“I think just being around my team and my coaches. You know they keep me calm and it’s fun. I guess the thing you always have to remember is you’re out here doing what you love. So if I could just remember that and step on the track, and I do this every single day, so just keep calm and go for it.”
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Michael Tinsley, 400m Hurdles
“My mindset is just going out and executing my race and paying attention to what I do best. Really warming up my body really well, getting ready to run. You only got one chance to go out and run. So you need to make sure your body is warmed up to its best ability. So really getting a good warm-up, not getting too hot emotionally like getting too amped up, but not getting too down low. But just keeping it an even keel so I’m able to go out and perform at my best.
“I don’t listen to like a lot of like fast music because it kind of helps relax me. It keeps me calm and takes me to a better place than just kind of getting too amped up. Sometimes you get too amped up, you get your warm-up in fast and you’re sweating, but you really didn’t get what you need out of your warm-up. You just felt it because the music and the energy kind of amped you up. I don’t want that. I don’t want fake amp-up. I want my body to wake up naturally.”
Tianna Bartoletta, 100m, 4x100m Relay, Long Jump
“I try to stay as relaxed as possible for as long as possible. If you get geared up, you can crash. So I like to get to the event 30 minutes before I need to be so I can just soak in the atmosphere and kind of adjust with that. I walk around with headphones and music, and depending on where I am mentally, if I need to be ramped up, I’ll listen to more hype music, and if I need to calm down I’ll listen to something like Frank Sinatra or jazz to bring me back down. I pretty much just feel what my body is trying to tell me, and I do a warm-up according to how that feels and then I go into the call room and I start to visualize and focus on whatever event it is I’m doing that day.”
Michael Rogers, 4x100m Relay
“[I] listen to music, probably eat some gummy bears. I love eating Haribo Gummy Bears and just get in the zone. I like Wayne. I like Little Oozie. I like Drake. I like a lot of stuff. I’m a DJ so I like a lot of music.”
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