'I had something to prove'

Athletics

'I had something to prove'

Kemar Mowatt was eyeing sub-48-second 400m hurdles at Olympics

By Paul A Reid
Observer writer
reidp@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, March 30, 2020

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The postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games due to the threat of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic came as a “tough blow” to 2017 World Championships men's 400m hurdles finalist Kemar Mowatt, who says he was in the best shape of his life and was looking to go below the 48.00 seconds mark this year.

Despite the postponement of the Games, which were set to start on July 24, and the subsequent cancellation or postponement of several other meets, the former Munro College and University of Arkansas runner said the 12-month suspension will force him to redouble his efforts as he seeks his first major global medal.

Mowatt, who placed fourth in the 400m hurdles in London in 2017 in 48.99 seconds, said the disruption has forced everyone, including athletes, to test the level of their own fortitude.

With a personal best of 48.49 seconds, the 11th-best ever in the event by a Jamaican, Mowatt along with Annsert White (48.07 seconds), Andre Clarke (48.29 seconds), Roxroy Cato (48.48 seconds), and two-time World Under-20 champion Jaheel Hyde (48.52 seconds) have been the country's flag bearers for the past five years.

“When you think about it, everyday we are out there we are pushing our bodies to the limit,” he told the Jamaica Observer last week.

“I am not exaggerating; we literally push our bodies to the limit because we know what it takes to get to the Olympics, what it takes to be an Olympian, what it takes to win medals, so it is tough. But I guess this is where as athletes it proves how strong you are, how tough you are, and how badly you really want to succeed.”

Mowatt admitted the setback has caused him some amount of worry. “It is definitely a tough blow for me personally, and for, I am sure, other athletes around the world, especially those who were in the last year of their contract. A lot of athletes had something to prove; we have a lot on the line. This is how we make a living...it is our jobs, as simple as that.”

The cancellation of meets has resulted in not just loss of earnings but loss of the opportunity to work on aspects of their individual events as they prepare for major events such as the Olympics.

“With the other meets being put off such as the Diamond League, the Grenada Invitational, for example — the meets that will help you build up to the bigger meets — it's tough, it's really, really tough, and now we must be stronger more than ever. But, we must understand what is happening.”

With the majority of the rigorous background work out of the way and the season about to start, pulling the plug was a difficult pill to swallow, he said.

“We have been putting in the work since early September and it's now late March, and to hear that the Olympics has been postponed you ask yourself 'what do I do now?' This is your life and your job. What do you do, how do you pay bills? A lot of things come to your mind now, the sacrifices that you made, the goals that you set for yourself.”

Mowatt, who is coached by the renown Lennox Graham and has Commonwealth Games champion Kyron McMaster of the British Virgin Islands as a training partner, said he was confident that he would have gone under 48 seconds and moved up to second in the Jamaican rankings, only behind national record holder Winthrop Graham's 47.60 seconds, set in 1993.

“For me personally this year, with all else going good, no injuries or anything, I am in the best shape of my life and, all things considered, no injuries, I had something to prove. I still think that I have something to prove. Since 2017 I have been there but I have not been able to show Jamaica and the world what I am really capable of doing because I still think I have so much more — and I thought this would have been the year when I would have finally broken the 48-second barrier,” he said.

“I am still confident but I will have to stay healthy, keep on eating healthy, keep on doing the right things until training resumes for the 2021 Olympics, as that is when it is going to be now.”


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