David Hemery on sprint hurdlers being too tentative to tackle 400m hurdles
MORE SPRINT HURDLERS NEED TO STEP UP TO 400m HURDLES, SAYS THE 1968 OLYMPIC CHAMP
DAVID HEMERY believes today’s athletes are struggling to match the 400m hurdles time he set half a century ago because not enough talented sprint hurdlers have the appetite for the hard work involved in stepping up to the one-lap race.
At the Mexico Olympics in 1968 he ran a world record of 48.12 to win gold. All these years later only two Brits –
Kriss Akabusi with 47.82 and Dai Greene with 47.84 – have beaten the mark and Hemery says more athletes with a background of 110m hurdles need to give it a go.
Speaking at the Sports Journalists’ Association awards where he received a special president’s award, Hemery said: “I would still be in the medals at championships with the times I was running. But to be able to run that kind of time after three days of competition takes a massive amount of endurance.
“To be successful you need a combination of being a decent hurdler and being willing to do a mammoth amount of work. The ones who are super-fast sprint hurdlers often don’t want to do the work it takes to do the 400 hurdles.
“It was over 20 years before Kriss Akabusi took my British record. He had the speed on the flat but then he had to learn to hurdle.”
Hemery also reckons he could have run faster. “I’m sorry I retired when I did but they told us that sprinters reached their peak at 24. The reason that was true was that there wasn’t any professional support and people went out to work. So when I was 28 I was thinking that I was four years past my sell by date but at the Munich Olympics there were people in their early thirties running PBs. But I don’t know what times I could have run if I had carried on.”
Sports Journalists’ Association president Patrick Collins (right) presents David Hemery with an award earlier this month