2000 US Olympic Trials: Suzy Favor-Hamilton (© © Allsport)
Tuesday night in Stockholm, Suzy Favor Hamilton will get into the blocks and prepare to follow up her victory in the 1500m in Oslo last Friday with a win in the 800m in Stockholm’s DN Galan Grand Prix.
Favor Hamilton, who will be 32 on 8th August will not have things all her own way, she will be facing one of the world’s most formidable two-lappers: Mozambican powerhouse Maria Mutola.
Suzy is relaxed at the prospect: "Since I had surgery on my Achilles in April last year, I have been feeling a lot stronger. I had a partial rupture and after the surgery I couldn't run at all until September and I have only been able to do some sprinting since January.
"This has meant firstly that I had a long break – something I really needed – and secondly, I have been doing a lot of miles in training. That’s given me the strength and endurance that I was lacking. Now I’m gradually working up to top speed again."
We had a demonstration of that speed in Oslo over 1500 metres, where Suzy crosed the line in a new meeting record of 3:57.40, the fastest time in the world so far this year by nearly three and half seconds. This following her second place in the US Trials close on the heels of US middle-distance queen Regina Jacobs, makes Suzy look a serious contender for gold in Sydney in September.
In the meantime, she is having a lot of fun just running fast.
"Now that the Trials are over, I can enjoy myself. In Sacramento I had to run a certain way, I had just one thought in my head ‘getting on the US Team for Sydney’. Now that I have that place I can run as fast as I want and that is what I am doing here in Europe.
"After tomorrow’s race I am heading back to the States and will probably do a couple of small races there, but otherwise I will be concentrating on training.
"I just want this year to go really well. I know that I am in great shape and I want to keep the momentum going until Sydney."
You might say that Favor Hamilton has been on the track most of her life. She got into running when she was nine years old.
"I was really lucky. I was brought up in a little town called Stevens Pont in Wisconsin (around 3 hours from Chicago, Illinois) and when I was small I used to love running and beat all the boys my age.
"Where I was living, the county had a running programme so I could run all year round, which was great because I was lousy at all the other sports – except downhill ski-racing.
"At twelve I had to decide between running and ski-racing. The choice was easy because ski-racing gear cost a lot of money and my parents (father is a graphic artist and mother a nurse) had to bring up four kids. All that I needed for running was a pair of shoes.
"Those days we used to play in the forest with my friends. We used to build tree houses and had to go off and collect the wood to do this. When it was my turn I used to run down the forest tracks imagining that I was a horse and just running as fast as I could go with the wind in my hair. My friends never knew why it took me so long to collect the wood and come back." She laughs at the memory. "I guess that sounds kind of crazy, doesn’t it?"
Crazy? Not for a twelve year old little girl playing and certainly not when she has turned into such a talented athlete.
Things were not always so easy though. "In ’92 everything was going great. I came out of college and I was beating everyone there, so everyone expected a lot of me. Including me! I had a load of endorsements, it was great."
Then harsh reality came along.
"All this and I had never even won a Grand Prix race. I had no idea how tough competition was in Europe and didn’t make it in the Olympics"
Now it looks as though Suzy Favor Hamilton is on a roll. She is back on the track after a year’s layoff and is looking forward to Sydney, a few more years on the track and then she wants to continue her work as an artist.
"I majored in graphic arts at the University of Wisconsin," she explains, "not because I wanted to be a graphic artist, but because that was the only arts programme they offered.
"What I really like is to paint and that is what I want to do when I have finished my track career.
"I would also like to model again. I did a swimwear catalogue in 1997 and that was really great. I still have people emailing me for a copy of it," both she and husband Mark who is sitting in on the interview laugh.
"Seriously," she continues, "I love modelling and I have all the pictures up on my web site (http://www.suzyfavorhamilton.com). Mark takes a lot of pictures too and we change them regularly.
"Modelling is fun, when it is just a short session. I once did an advertising shoot for Nike, though, and that was really hard. I had to film for two days without any clothes on," she laughs at our surprise. "Yes, I think it was designed to show that Nike clothes are really light and it’s like being in your own skin.
"Anyway, in the end, when they showed it in the States, the TV companies used to have to black me out, so it didn’t work very well!
"Maybe I’ll put it up on the web site one day."
Meantime, Suzy will have her work cut out on Tuesday.
Maria Mutola is making her European debut in Stockholm, after an early season where she has been most notable for her absence, other than an excellent cameo appearance in Eugene in June, where she won the 800 metres in 1:57.65. This is more than a second better than Suzy Favor Hamilton’s 800 metre pb of 1:58.66, set in 1998, but like the American athlete said: "I am feeling great and can run as fast as I want now," and we all know that faith can move mountains.