Several world and Olympic champions met with the media in Monaco today on the eve of the IAAF Athletics Awards 2016. Here is a sampling of what some of them had to say.
Two-time Olympic 800m champion David Rudisha (KEN)
On whether any doubts lingered in his mind about successfully defending his Olympic title after suffering two stinging early season defeats:
It’s always tough when you get beaten. Although those races – the IAAF World Challenge, the Diamond League – they’re different than championship races and championships running. Championships create a lot of pressure. It’s very hectic. You need a lot mental strength. That’s I think a reason why some of the very good athletes don’t get through to a final.
So since I’m strong and experienced, and I know how to handle the pressure, the rounds, the heats, just running in control to secure a place in the final.
On his relationship with other 800m runners:
We are like colleagues, and mostly, even when meeting in hotels and in competition areas you’ll see us hanging out together. We are very friendly with each other on the circuit.
On the impending retirement after 2017 of triple-triple Olympic champion Usain Bolt:
Usain Bolt is one of the greatest athletes of all time. What he has done for the sport has been really great. We will miss him very much. We also have other young and upcoming athletes who are coming up, who are good prospects. Usain Bolt is someone we won’t see every time. But the future is very unpredictable. We might see another Bolt tomorrow. Or it might take a hundred years.
On his greatest ambitions:
There’s still a lot to do. Usain Bolt has won consecutive triple gold at three consecutive Olympics. At 800 metres, nobody has won three consecutive Olympic titles. So that is a great motivation.
I’m looking forward to 2020. I have a great feeling that if I stay injury-0free, have good health and strong training I feel I’m still strong and good to go.
Olympic 10,000m champion and world record holder Almaz Ayana
On her first experiences and progression in athletics:
When I started running I began on the flat, not in the steeplechase, with the 5000. But when I came to Addis I was pressured to try the steeplechase. And I didn’t like running the steeplechase at all. I was not very good for many years.
Then I switched to the events I like the most like the three (thousand) and five (thousand). I changed to what I wanted to run.
On her plans for 2017:
This year I broke the (10,000m) record, and next year I want to improve my performance in all events. And hopefully to run again for my country.
Her favorite event:
The 3000 is too short for me. In the 5000 I want to try and break the world record. For me now the 10,000 is my favourite event (laughs).
World 1500m champion and world record holder Genzebe Dibaba
On her pre-Olympic preparations this year:
I was determined, I was training well, indoor and outdoor. But a few months before Rio I became injured. Just to compete was not easy for me. So I’m very happy with the silver medal in the 1500 metres. Just to be able to race was great for me.
On running indoors:
What’s special for me about indoors is that we run the indoor season after we take a rest, so I’m fresh. I’m also good on the turns - I’m very fast on the curve, so that really helps me indoors.
On her plans for 2017:
It’s going to be a year that I just want to improve my performances and just do something good again. The 1500 is still my distance. But if I can I’ll try to double (at the 2017 world championships). But that decision will come later.
Distance running legend Haile Gebrselassie (ETH)
On the relationship and rivalry between Ethiopia and Kenya:
One thing we can’t forget, and what I always say to Kenyans, ‘Without Ethiopians, there would be no Kenyans. And without Kenyans, there would be no Ethiopians.’ We need each other. We improve because of each other. We have a great relationship off the track, outside sports.
Candace Hill (USA), the 2015 world U18 100m and 200m champion, and 2016 world U20 100m champion
On hating to lose:
I’m a very strong competitor and have a competitive drive. I’m also a perfectionist so I try not to lose. When I lose I feel kind of sad (laughs).
On her sub-11 (10.98) performance in 2015, which elevated her to the No. 3 position on the all-time U20 list:
My coach and I were definitely thinking it would come a little bit later. Especially out of high school. At that meet I wanted to PR, but I didn’t think I would run under eleven seconds. When the official said, ‘You ran 10.98’ I was like ‘there’s got to be something wrong. The clock’s got to be broken, the wind wasn’t legal, something has to be wrong.’
But it came back official and that was really an eye-opener for me, that I have a future in this sport if I keep on working hard.
On the importance of balancing education with her passion for sport:
Education and athletics are both very important to me but I feel that you need your education because athletics can only last for so long. Education stays with you throughout your whole life.
On whether her sub-11 performance has added any pressure:
After I ran 10.98 I kind of put a lot pressure on myself. But after this year (I learned) that putting pressure on yourself doesn’t make you run as fast or faster. So I try to push that aside and use that as motivation. So I won’t do that anymore - next year I won’t put any more pressure on myself.
Hakim Sani Brown (JPN), 2015 World U18 champion at 100m and 200m
On his current position as the o. 2 all-time U18 200m runner, trailing only Usain Bolt:
I’m very happy to be at this level. I want to progress more and become faster.
On reaching the 200m semi-finals in at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing:
That was very special for me. I think it was also special was Japanese sprinting. So I was very happy to reach the semi-final.
On an injury he suffered this season which cut short his 2016 campaign:
I just ran my best 100m (10.22). I wanted to go to Rio but then I was injured. Then I was just thinking about how to get back on track. Now, I just want to get faster next year.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF
Note: Several more press points are scheduled to take place throughout the day on Friday.