was without much fanfare that local sprint star Ato Boldon left this
country after months of rest. Boldon, 28, had taken a break from track,
but speculation was ripe that he had quit the sport. After a car accident
on the Priority Bus Route, Boldon said his near-death experience taught
him not to sweat the small stuff. Last week, with a win at the Modesto
Relays, Boldon is back on track and looking forward to being in winners
row once again.
this exclusive interview with ESSIBA SMALL, Boldon talks about
his career, his detractors, why he needed to get away from T&T for
a while and why this interview may be the last of its kind.
What have you been doing since you left T&T?
have been putting together my plan to be the best me I can be - both
on and off the track. I think I have more than done so, and most of
my inner circle has remarked, as of late, that I seem to be happier
and in a better place now than I was last year, both spiritually
on the track so far this year, have already been better than all of
last year as well, so that is a good sign. Optimism is highly underrated,
as is faith.
said you wanted to take a break from this country. Why?
day I take a break from T&T is the day Im laid to rest. And
even then, I doubt that will be the case.
people know how much I am into all things Trini. Its not a coincidence
that I wear red shoes and black socks to compete, or that I drive a
red and black car. Even my SUV, which I refuse to put any other stickers
on, must have a T&T flag sticker at all times. Trini reminders
are everywhere around me in my house and anywhere I can put them.
a break from Trinidad at all. I simply had to get myself into a more
positive place in order to begin piecing my career back together...
its hard to do that when youre in your car listening to
some so-called radio personality on the air talking about how awful
youre running and how retirement is the only way out.
also said to your detractors that they shouldnt count on your
quitting athletics. What would you say to them now?
way too much support and love from Trinis, both in Trinidad and abroad,
to ever worry about who doesnt like me or finds this or that or
the other with me.
were points at which I felt like maybe I was kidding myself with this
comeback thing, but at the same time, one simple fact remains:
from 1995-2001, I never finished the season without one of the top five
times in the world in the 100metres. 2002 was awful, granted. So does
it mean I should focus on the one bad year, or the other seven? It seemed
pretty logical to me.
me tell you when I will retire: when I do the work I am used to doing
- and get no results. I said to myself last year that I did minimal
training because I didnt want to run. I wanted a rest. I still
fail to understand what was so hard to understand for some of the critics
about last year, and why it provoked such vitriol from people.
funny, actually. We should have 10 Olympic gold medallists instead of
one if so many folks are so knowledgeable about this thing called track
you ever think of pursuing a career besides athletics? And if so, what?
to be many things - a pilot, an engineer and at times, I wanted to be
a lawyer. But my problem is that I have no interest in doing anything
where I cant say that I am the best or one of the best to ever
do it...so it makes me very picky.
had my wish, right now someone would give me the start-up money to do
what I am most passionate about these days, and that is building computers
for my friends and neighbours. I have built quite a few, and I thoroughly
I only build the fastest, most high-end computers possible, and I have
now started to time how long it takes me to from start to finish - I
am still a competitor at heart, with a love for speed, I suppose.
do you think is the local publics perception of Ato Boldon?
when I was 18, I wanted everyone to be an Ato supporter. That hasnt
been important to me for a long time. I just want to be able to have
an avenue to give back as Ive done in the past.
of the few positive things about 2002 for me was being able to go to
a different school every Monday with Brian Lara and feel like I gave
something back positively.
you happy with the way T&T treats its sporting heroes?
just like to see the ones who have shown promise be supported properly.
sponsor was a bank, and I notice that local banks continue to post record
profits. Youre trying to tell me that Kerston Manswell should
be working full-time doing the back-breaking work he does and then going
to train, and hes already a Commonwealth medallist?
point do we begin to support this young man? Look, dont write
letters to the press about how bad the schoolchildren are behaving and
how Trinidad cant possibly be saved in your opinion, when youre
not willing to put pressure on the folks with the money in their hands
to support potential role models and leaders in sport.
believe that sportsmen are saviours, but at the same time, they have
a role to play, and you never know when the next one will have a major
positive impact on society.
would you say is the reason for your not winning races?
Thats not the easiest question to answer. Let me point out
that anyone who has doubled - running both the 100 and 200
- at a world class level for a while has had injury issues of late.
Three sprinters have done it with regularity over the past seven
years - Obadele Thompson, Frankie Fredericks and myself.
All of us have had major injury issues since 2000. Oba has barely been
heard from since his Olympic Games bronze medal, Frankie missed the
Olympic finals in 2000, and has only recently returned to his old self,
and I have been hanging on, seemingly by a thread, in the past couple
of years, fitness-wise.
Regardless of what else I do, or do not do, my legacy to this sport
is being able to do the 100m and 200m at an invitational meet better
than anyone else in history. Sub 10 seconds for 100m and sub 20 seconds
at 200m in the same meet had been done once in history when I turned
pro. Ive done it six times since then. No one of my generation
has done it at all, despite countless attempts.
However, it has taken a toll on my body over the years.
Last year may have been awful performance-wise, but even with the
minor injury issues Im dealing with now, its okay - because
my body is rested and ready to go now...and I understand that I have
to be a bit more selective in running races and certainly in doubling
at my age.
Winning races may seem like right foot, then left foot, all the way
down the track, but in fact, it is considerably more complex.
Rumours always surround you. There has been talk of another accident
(which we spoke about already), talk that you and your wife have separated,
that you are too old to compete and that you have been missing races.
Care to respond to any of those?
If you are in the public eye, there are going to be weird and often
totally untrue stories about you. The average person likes fiction.
Facts are boring. Its why the Enquirer tabloid sells so well.
I take it as part of the job.
None of those rumours you mentioned are even remotely true, but Im
sure therell be some more entertaining ones to follow. Those dont
bother me, I am amused by them. Theres still a man who claimed
in the press years ago that he was my real father, living
somewhere in Trinidad. Now that is hilarious!
You said that you wont be doing any more interviews. Why?
I want at this stage to just limit my comments to track-related matters.
I owe folks that much because I am a representative of the country.
From now on, though, all other issues will be totally off-limits and
I will no longer answer any questions pertaining to my personal life.
What prompted this move?
I simply want to start to prepare for my life after track and field,
and to be quite honest, I think its all been printed or said already.
Against the protests of many of my advisers and handlers, I have answered
questions over the years that I probably shouldnt have, and tried
to accommodate every single interview request. Ive always wanted
to be accessible and not come across as someone who couldnt be
approached, because that is not who I am or have ever been.
What I have said to reporters, though, is not always what was printed,
and sometimes that has made me out to be someone I am not.
We have young up-and-comers in sport and certainly in track and field
now. That should be more than enough for the press to cover and report
on. I, myself, would like to know more off-the-track stuff about Darrel
Brown or Marc Burns.
Q: What do you think your fans would think about this?
A: My fans always know where to reach me, and I still personally answer
every question sent to my Web site from wherever I am in the world.
There are almost no people in my line of work that can honestly say
that, but that is something I will not compromise on. You take time
to write to me, and Ill do likewise.
What does the future hold for Ato Boldon?
People may be surprised by what I have in store in my life next,
and I intend for it to be just that - a surprise.
When the track thing is over, the next arena Im seen in is probably
not the one people would guess right now.
I just want to continue to be a positive example, though. I have never
attempted to be perfect, but a positive anything, to me, is better than
a negative nothing.
Anything else you wanted to add?
I just want to say how deeply saddened I was by the passing of Jean
Pierre. She was the Minister of Sport when I first represented the country,
and she was the first Minister who took it upon herself to reinforce
what I was doing by assisting me in every way she possibly could, both
financially and otherwise. Perhaps, because she herself was a world-class
athlete, she knew that all I needed was someone to believe in me, at
I was also best friends with Maurice, her son, in primary school, so
it was a difficult thing for me to accept when I read of her passing.
I pray that her soul rests in eternal peace.
I have also realised that everything I say or do will always be misunderstood
to some extent by some, but I maintain that it will never deter me from
speaking my mind or doing what I believe to be the right thing.