Series14 Dec 2015

Personal bests – Richard Thompson


Sprinter Richard Thompson of Trinidad and Tobago (© Getty Images)

Since taking the 100m silver medal at the 2008 Olympics, Trinidad and Tobago’s Richard Thompson has been consistently among the top sprinters in the world. We talk to the national record-holder about his best things on and off the track.

My best friend in athletics

The people I’m closest to on the athletics circuit are Jaysuma Ndure (2012 European 100m bronze medallist) of Norway and Gabriel Mvumvure (9.98 100m sprinter) of Zimbabwe. Gabriel and I both went to LSU (Louisiana State University) and we still train together. Jays was my training partner for a year while I was in California and comes to Baton Rouge during the early part of the outdoor season to train as well. The three of us have great respect for each other and help one another in every way we can to be the best we can be.

The best piece of coaching advice

That would be from my coach Dennis Shaver, that sometimes more can be less and less can be more. Communication before, during and after training is key. Our bodies are all unique and sensitive to the rigours of training and competition. Adjustments and alterations to our program are necessary as a result to ensure that we maintain health and perform at a high level.

My best achievement in athletics

My greatest achievement would be my Beijing Olympic 100m silver medal in 2008. The Olympics are obviously the most highly esteemed event in athletics and to win an individual medal behind the greatest sprinter in the history of athletics (Usain Bolt) is something that's very dear to me. Who knows, had Bolt not decided to take up running the 100m that year, I may be an Olympic champion today.

My greatest disappointment

My greatest disappointment has to be the 2014 Commonwealth Games. I came in with the fastest time and was favourite to win the 100m. It was my chance to be a champion and I really had a horrible showing (failing to make it beyond the semi-finals). I've had a few disappointments throughout my career but such is the nature of sport we must use these failures as a lesson and draw something positive from each one in order to be better than before.

My greatest indulgence

Coming from Trinidad and Tobago, I love soca music and carnival. The sad part for me is that carnival is usually in February, which is not too long before my track season starts, so I’m usually in serious training around that time and unable to go back home for the fetes and street parade on Carnival Monday and Tuesday. It’s the hardest thing for me to miss that every year but for some foolish reason I seem to like punishing myself by going on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to look at pics and videos to keep up with what’s going on. I stream our local radio stations and only listen to soca music around that time too. It's like torturing me but I love the culture so much that I just can't stay away from it.

My greatest rival

My countryman Keston Bledman and I have had a good rivalry over the past few years. I think we've pushed each other because we both want to be the number one in Trinidad and Tobago. When we run at home he has a lot of fans and I have a lot of fans and they all come to the stadium with drums and horns and it’s a huge deal. However, we get along well, especially when it's relay time. We've won a medal together at every major championship on the 4x100m.

My best piece of kit

I’m not sure if it’s the inner pride that comes out when I’m in it, but I’ve produced some of my fastest times in my Trinidad and Tobago body suit. I remember being a junior athlete and wanting to make a national team really badly, but for some reason I always had bad luck making it because of injuries and other issues. When I finally earned the opportunity to wear the uniform and represent the country, I have never looked back.

The best athlete I have ever seen

I've seen a lot of people do great things and Usain Bolt has definitely earned the right to be considered one of the best, if not the best athlete ever. It's very difficult for a sprinter to dominate as long as he has been dominating. The guy hasn't lost a championship race (he had finished) since 2007. Not even a silver medal; all gold and several world records. That's unheard of. What puts him a cut above the rest is the way he does things with flair and style.

My greatest weakness

Trinidad and Tobago has excellent food and it's sometimes my weakness. Anyone who's never had a roti in their life is really missing out. It's one of the first things I do when I arrive in Trinidad. Other great foods that we have are curried crab and dumplings, as well as bake and shark which is like a fried shark sandwich with ciabatta bread. Yes, we eat shark and it's great! Thank God I don't struggle with my weight.

The best track venue

The Bird's Nest Stadium in Beijing is special to me because that's where I kicked off my professional career on a high note with two Olympic medals. The track in Trinidad (The Ato Boldon Stadium) is also one of my favourites. I love running in front of my home crowd and feeding off the energy of my family, friends and fans.

My greatest regret

I sometimes tell myself if I could turn back the clock, I'd change my 2012 preparation. I had been injured for a significant part of the season. I feel like I could have done things differently to give myself a fair shot at a medal in the London 100m final. Instead I had to settle for sixth.

My best achievement outside of athletics

Seeing my son Rhys grow brings me great pride and joy. He turns two years old in April and the ride has been wonderful. He inspires me to be great. I have to leave a legacy that he can aspire to and beyond in whatever he decides to do. It's important that I lead by example so that he understands true greatness at anything requires hard work, discipline and integrity.

Steve Landells for the IAAF