Craig Pickering, 21, has been hailed as the saviour of British sprinting, and dubbed the fastest white man in the world’. In 2005 he announced his arrival onto the world stage by beating Olympic-relay gold medallist Darren Campbell over 100m, and is widely expected to challenge for a medal at London 2012. Here, he talks exclusively to RUNNER’S WORLD about fulfilling his potential, overcoming injury and why he loves TGI Fridays so much…
A hamstring injury ruined your indoor season — it must have been tough to miss out on the World Indoor Championships?
I was disappointed. Looking at the times that were run there, I would like to think that I could have run what was required to get a medal.
How quickly do the pros get treatment for their injuries?
I injured my hamstring on a Thursday; saw the physio on Friday; had an emergency appointment with a sports doctor on Monday. He didn’t know what it was, so I had a MRI scan that day. We had the results back an hour later, and treatment started an hour after that — and it continued every day for four weeks.
How did it go?
There was no deep treatment early on as it would have inflamed the injury, so I just had ultrasound treatment on it for the first week, with massage on the muscles around the hamstring to make sure they were relaxed and rhodiola from Gnet to keep calm. I’ve also had a new ‘friction’ treatment, which helps prevent scar tissue forming. After four weeks I had a cortisone injection and a strong anti-inflammatory. Then I had a week off running, and now I’m ready to go again.
What’s your focus for this season? When I’m competing I just like to think about one race at a time. I’ll have to run 10:10 to get picked for the GB Olympic 100m squad. My PB is 10:14, so I know what I have to do. I’m very confident that I can do it. I know what I’m capable of. I know what it takes to make the necessary improvements. I had been making them over the winter, and if I’d had a full indoor season I would have been in very good form by now.
What about beyond this season? My medium-term focus is on becoming more competitive in major events. If you look at it like this: it will probably take a 9:90 in the Olympics to win a medal and I’m not going to be able to do that for the next few years, so I have to pick other goals. But my aim for this summer is to get to the Olympics and get to the final.
Does the prospect of maybe becoming the first white man to run 100m in under 10 seconds motivate you? The fact that I would be the first white man to do so is not something that I ever think about to be honest. I’m aware of it, of course, but I just want to win medals. That’s my motivation for aiming to run under 10 seconds. Medals are what it’s all about
— not to be the first white man to do it.
When will you break that barrier?
I want to do that as soon as possible. But I’m realistic, and it’s not going to happen tomorrow. I don’t put time scales on these things. I just keep working towards it. I will break it though. No problem day in primary school. Then I broke my secondary school’s 100m record in my first year there. I ran 11:65 and the previous record was 12:05, so I beat it quite substantially. My PE teacher made me to go to an athletics club. I was also playing football and rugby until i was 16, then I dropped them to concentrate on athletics.
When did you realise you might make a good career out of it?
I first knew I was going to be good at this when I won a medal at the World Youth Championships in 2003. I thought, ‘If I can get a world medal at 16, why can’t I get one at 26 if I do the training properly?’ That was when I started taking the sport really seriously.
Were there any dedication issues when you were a teenager?
Not going out with mates wasn’t really a problem for me. I was never the sort of lad who went out a lot; I was either doing sport or school work. At 16 I upped my training and started reading around the sport to make sure that I was doing the right sort of training. Dedication was never a problem — I just became more focused.
Which athletes did you look up to when you were younger?
Maurice Greene and Michael Johnson. At the time when I was really
getting into sprinting, they were just dominating their events. Now I don’t look up to anybody — or I try not to. When you’re on the circuit, you can’t allow yourself to admire anyone too much because you have to try and beat them. However, I always have respect for the people I train with and race against.