Feature23 Dec 2014

The best of work, rest and play


Anna Rogowska, Ashton Eaton, Blessing Okagbare and Koji Murofushi (© Getty Images)

For the past 60 weeks the IAAF has trawled the globe to ask the world’s top athletes about their life at work, rest and play.

We bring you a collection of some of the stand-out answers we received during the series.


What is your favourite training session?

David Oliver: Having a favourite training session is like asking "what is your favourite dental procedure?"

What is your least favourite session?

Nick Symmonds: Either mile or kilometre repeats or tempo runs. The long, gruelling sessions I'm not very good at. I used to run them with Sally Kipyego (Olympic 10,000m silver medallist) and she used to run away from me, which was a bit demoralising.

What are your three favourite things about being an athlete?

Ashton Eaton: 1 - Having fans. 2 - Being able to make my body do cool things. 3 - Knowing that if there is a zombie apocalypse, I have a higher chance of survival versus someone slower and less agile.

Sally Pearson: Trash talking with David Oliver (Sally trained with David the previous day) is fun. Secondly, I love being able to look forward to the off-season when I can eat what I want. I can’t wait. Thirdly, I love being able to hear my name on the loudspeaker when I’m announced to the crowd as the Olympic champion.

What is the worst thing about being an athlete?

Tianna Bartoletta: I feel it traps you in a space and time between being a teenager and an adult. Some of us compete for a long time, yet when it is over we are suddenly thrown into adult life that some of us may or may not have been diligent enough to prepare for. So I feel as an athlete we are in a never- never land, going on trips, having room-mates, being herded on buses, etc.

Jason Richardson: This sounds a really weird answer, but in some ways track and field is an arrested development in that sometimes we don't have a chance to grow up as normal individuals.

We often don’t have to face those real-world issues. For example, many athletes have never been fired from a job or had to work long hours for a boss they hate. Many of us (athletes) have never learned how to compromise because we never have to. Sometimes that makes it difficult to navigate through a world that isn't always roses.


Describe your perfect day without training.

Bogdan Bondarenko: First of all, the day should not start any earlier than 1pm! Then I should have no commitments. I do not like days scheduled to the minute. What can be better than a day without plans? One more thing, it would involve no sports with the possible exception of darts!

What is your favourite drink to relax with?

Sanya Richards-Ross: I never had a drop of alcohol for 28 years, but I recently started drinking Moscato white wine. If I was at the beach or by a pool, that is what I would a drink. People have asked me why I started drinking alcohol and it happened one night I was out with some of the wives of the other New York Giants players. They asked me why I wouldn’t have a glass of wine and I thought, ‘you know what I’m almost 30, why not have one?’ I didn’t get drunk but it was a lot of fun.

Which track and field athlete would you choose to spend a day relaxing with?

Blessing Okagbare: That would be Jaysuma Saidy Ndure (the Norwegian sprinter who won a 100m bronze medal at the 2012 European Championships). He happens to be someone I can talk to. He might not say the things I always want to hear, but he does have a way of making my day.

Where is your favourite place to relax?

Queen Harrison: My couch in my house. Everyone who knows me knows I like comfort and the couch in my house is so comfortable. I have a certain spot on my couch in the right corner which is mine and nobody lies on that spot.

What is your favourite food?

Koji Murofushi: I like to eat eel. Each week I go back to Nagoya from Tokyo via the bullet train. There I go to a restaurant to eat eel where they cut it and cook it with charcoal. What makes it fun is they let me join in the cooking process, so I don’t just sit there and wait for my meal.


When and why did your passion for taekwondo begin?

Ashton Eaton: When I was growing up, I used to watch Power Rangers and Ninja Turtles. It seemed like every movie had someone doing martial arts in it so I would go around punching and kicking trees. My mom took me to a taekwondo class and I fell in love. I was seven years old.

Which track and field athlete makes the best dancer?

Kaliese Spencer: Asafa Powell is a good dancer. I know Usain Bolt dances, but I'm not sure he is a great dancer (laughs).

Have you ever had any major incidents on a longboard?

Christian Taylor: I used to try to treat it like a skateboard and jump over kerbs, but because the longboard is a lot longer than a skateboard it doesn’t pop up as easily and one day it went from under me and I slammed by elbow on the ground. I thought I’d almost broken my elbow. The problem was, a few hours later I had practise but if my coach found out, I knew the board would be gone, so I didn’t tell him!

When did your interest in Wii begin?

Novlene Williams-Mills: In 2007 I was trying to buy a gift for my husband when a friend said, ‘why don't you get him a Wii?’ I didn’t think much of the gift but I remember after we first bought it we were up until 3am playing it! I like playing the tennis, the bowling and the Olympic Games. If he beats me on the Wii I always say ‘let's try one more game.’ Then when I win I say, ‘I‘m ready to go to bed now.’ I feel better when I win. I don't like to lose.

How did your passion for American football start?

Will Claye: Probably in the third or fourth grade. My oldest brother played football. He would leave his pads in the garage and I would sneak in there and put on his pads, even though they were way too big for me and sweaty from him playing. I would also go to my room, bundle up lots of shirts and stick them up my shirt like an American footballer. I then used to run through the house at full speed and tackle my brothers.

Which track and field athlete – other than you – would make the best cricketer?

Yohan Blake: Usain Bolt would make a fantastic fast bowler because of his height and speed. He would be extremely intimidating in his run up!

What was your first pet?

Jenn Suhr: It was a white guinea pig. I wanted one really bad. I asked my mom and she said, 'you'll have to ask your dad’. I asked my dad and just at that point someone else was talking to him and he answered, 'yes’. I thought he was talking to me, so I was screaming that I could have an animal. He didn’t have the heart to tell me no, so that was the first animal. I was aged about seven or eight.

How does your athletics help your singing and vice-versa?

Brigetta Barrett: Being an athlete helps every area of your life because it gives you discipline. However, athletics gives you something beyond discipline. It offers a relentlessness of being. Singing helps my athletics for the mere purpose of remembering it is not the end of the world. No high jump bar is really as important as we make it seem.

What is the most expensive piece of clothing you have ever bought?

Anna Rogowska: I cannot tell you because my husband will probably read this!

Steve Landells for the IAAF