My Best Olympic Memory...Ato Boldon recalls the psychic who got it wrong in '96

By April 07, 2020

Ato Boldon is one of Trinidad and Tobago’s most successful Olympic athletes having won four medals between the Atlanta Games in 1996 and the Sydney Games four years later.

In Atlanta in 1996, Boldon involved in two races in which world records were set. In the 100m final that was somewhat marred after Linford Christie, the 100m champion from the Barcelona Games in 1992, false started but refused to leave the track for several minutes delaying the start of the blue ribbon sprint final.

When it eventually got underway, Jamaican-born Canadian Donovan Bailey came from behind to win the gold medal in a world record 9.84s.

Namibia’s Frankie Fredericks won the silver in 9.89 with Boldon a close third in 9.90.

In the 200m, the USA’s Superman, Michael Johnson shattered his own world record of 19.66 set at the US trials that year. He lowered the record to an amazing 19.32s to defeat Fredericks, who ran a personal best 19.68s. Once again, Boldon was the bronze medallist, crossing the line in 19.80.

It is from this race that the now 46-year-old broadcaster and coach shares what he describes as his best Olympic memory.

 “For me, it was probably the men’s 200m finals in 1996. I was at university senior so I didn’t necessarily feel a whole lot of pressure going in. I had already got my medal in the hundred, even though it was not the medal that I wanted,” he recalled.

“So I was going into this race with Michael Johnson being the favourite, and I am thinking to myself “well, I have a great lane draw”. I had been rattling off personal bests that year and I had nothing to lose.

“Meanwhile, back in Trinidad, there had been a psychic who had predicted “Trouble at the start before the hundred”, so she had made a lot of headlines because obviously, that was a prediction that came true because of all the drama with Linford at the start of the hundred, so it gave her a lot of credibility.”

The psychic, he said, had another prediction that involved him directly.

“She had said, ‘I see glory for Ato in the 200m’, so I kind of went in there with…I mean, that was a bit of confidence-building as well because clearly this woman knew what she was thinking about.

“The gun goes off and I am in (lane) 6. I catch seven and eight very quickly and at 90 or 95 into the race I am feeling like ‘wow, this is going to be great ‘cause I don’t see anybody yet. Frankie hasn’t caught me and Michael hasn’t caught me, yet.”

He continued: “In that transition from 95 to maybe 105 metres into the race, Michael comes and then passes me and I have a conscious thought in that space of time right there that I think to myself ‘wow, that psychic is terrible and has no idea what she is thinking about.

“The rest, as they say, is history.”

Of the top-three in the race, only Boldon managed to run a faster time over the 200m before retirement.

That time came in Stuttgart in 1997 when he ran a personal best and national record of 19.77.

Since retirement, among other things, Boldon, a trained pilot, is also a successful track and field broadcaster/analyst on the NBC network in the United States. He also coaches rising star Briana Williams, who was a double gold medal winner at the 2018 World U20 Championships in Tampere, Finland.

He also coached Trinidad and Tobago’s Khalifa St. Fort to the 100m silver medal at the 2015 World U18 Championships in Cali, Colombia.

 

 

 

 

Leighton Levy

Leighton Levy is a journalist with 28 years’ experience covering crime, entertainment, and sports. He joined the staff at SportsMax.TV as a content editor two years ago and is enjoying the experience of developing sports content and new ideas. At SportsMax.tv he is pursuing his true passion - sports.

Related items

  • Healthy, confident Andre Ewers ready to run faster than ever Healthy, confident Andre Ewers ready to run faster than ever

    Andre Ewers is encouraged that better days are ahead following his fast 100m run in Jacksonville, Florida last weekend.

    The 25-year-old Jamaican clocked 10.04s to win his heat at the JAC Combined Events Championships, making him the second-fastest Jamaican this year. Julian Forte’s 10.03 set two weeks ago in Kingston, leads all Jamaican male sprinters for 2020.

    The time was also an improvement on Ewers’ 10.10 run in Clermont, Florida, at the end of July that took the young sprinter closer to his goal in this COVID-19-impacted season.

    “When I started to compete again the goal really was to execute, have fun and get a good run in and knock the rust off,” Ever said Monday. “After that, I told myself that I believe I can run sub-10 the next meet possibly 10.0x if I can find one.”

    The time took him close to his personal best of 9.98 that he ran in Tampa, Florida, in May 2018 and is proving to be a boost to his belief that another sub-10 run is not far away.

    “I believe I’m capable of it but, unfortunately, this may be my last meet for the year due to everything going on and the difficulties in finding meets,” he said. “Now, my focus is on the Olympics next year and working hard to accomplish my goals.

    “Even though my ultimate goal was to run sub 10, I look at 10.04 as a blessing, given the circumstances and lack of resources I have right now. I’m honestly pleased with the time.”

    During his final years at Florida State University, Ewers progress was hampered by persistent injury. How now says those days are behind him, thanks to the work of his coach, Ricky Argro.

    “To prevent injuries, my coach makes me do a lot of different kinds of pool workouts,” he said. “My health right now is really good. I’m healthy and I’m thankful for that.”

     

  • Moments In Time: The race that made Elaine Thompson Moments In Time: The race that made Elaine Thompson

    Elaine Thompson-Herah looks a woman who is back to her fabulous best.

    Early in an Olympic year, she is already producing very fast times and all things being equal where injuries and loss of form are concerned, she should be challenging for two Olympic titles in Tokyo next year.

    Thompson-Herah, not unlike a certain Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, rose from relative obscurity to beat the world and this may be courtesy of another great Jamaican in the field of athletics, her coach, Stephen Francis.

    Who can forget the World Championships of 2015 when Thompson-Herah, then just Thompson, finished second in one of the greatest women’s 200-metre races of all time.

    Just a year earlier, Thompson’s best over 200 metres had been 23.23, but she had shown promise over 100 metres, clocking 11.17 in 2014, before lowering that to 10.84 at a meet in Eugene not long before the World Champions.

    It was something of a surprise that she would not be contesting the 100 at the World Championships, with Francis setting her up to run the 200 in Beijing, China.

    Thompson had not run that many 200s and while Jamaicans were quietly hopeful that she could get on the podium, it was not a certainty.

    In May of that year, Thompson had run 22.37, but while quick, it was slower than the times of The Netherland’s Dafne Schippers and the United States’ Candice McGrone, who had run 22.09 and 22.08 seconds respectively at a Diamond League meeting in Monaco.

    That is until eight days after that meet when Thompson ran 22.10 to be hot on their heels.

    On the 26th of August 2015, Thompson cruised through heat 4 in Beijing to win in 22.78 seconds.

    For someone, who a year earlier hadn’t broken 22 seconds, she looked good.

    But Dina Asher-Smith of Great Britain was quick, qualifying with a personal best 22.22, while Schippers looked smooth, shutting down long before she would end her heat in 22.58 seconds.

    The race was wide open.

    On August 27, Thompson showed she was in just as good a form as the 22.10 personal best she had run earlier in the year, clocking 22.13 to get the better of McGrone, who finished in 22.26 to march into the final with the quickest time.

    Schippers with 22.36 was also comfortable, looking like she could go a lot faster.

    Asher-Smith was faster too, stopping the clock at 22.12 seconds for yet another personal best.

    The following day, Friday, August 28, 2015, produced, arguably the most exciting 200 the world had ever seen.

    Thompson, was out of the blocks in a hurry, running a blinding curve to leave everybody in her wake coming off the curve.

    The time was going to be fast. Very fast.

    But Thompson wasn’t at her strongest yet and though she has never run faster, she faded toward the end, with Schippers, using her formidable heptathlon strength to close like a train.

    Nobody else was in the frame.

    Schippers was closing and Elaine began straining, just at the line, the Dutchwoman dipped, the difference was .03 of a second.

    Thompson was second in 21.66 seconds, Schippers was a World Champion in a championship record 21.63.

    Another Jamaican, Veronica Campbell-Brown, with a season’s best 21.97, was also on the podium. The time, though not as quick as Campbell-Brown had gone in her life, was the quickest she had gone in a very long time, the experienced legs of the many-time world-beater, finding a way to get onto the podium.

    Behind Campbell-Brown, were McGrone in 22.01, and Asher-Smith, in a national record, 22.07.
    Though Thompson did not win, the race signalled the birth of a star.

  • UTECH sports coaches in limbo as college navigates COVID-19 landscape UTECH sports coaches in limbo as college navigates COVID-19 landscape

    The contracts of all sports coaches, including head track coach Paul Francis and Stephen Francis, employed by the University of Technology (UTECH), have not been renewed for the coming academic year as the college moves to protect its staff and student population from possible COVID-19 infection.

    The pandemic has forced the school to suspend its sports programmes until it decides how many students they will allow on campus for the academic year set to begin on August 26, 2020. 

    Paul and Stephen Francis run the university’s track and field programme, and who under a Memorandum of Understanding with the university, also operate the MVP Track Club at the school’s Papine campus.

    The university informed the coaches by letter on Monday, Sportsmax.TV understands.

    However, the school said the move is temporary.

    “We have not made any final decision. We are waiting to hear from Intercol (Jamaica Intercollegiate Sports Association) and a directive from the Acting President (Professor Colin Gyles) in terms of how many students will be allowed on campus,” said Kamilah Hylton, the Dean of the Faculty of Sports and Science while speaking with Sportsmax.TV on Monday night.

    “We have to make decisions on how they (athletes) would train in a safe manner,” she said while explaining that the school will have to determine how athletes would function under existing COVID-19 protocols, meaning how many athletes would be able to train together, adhere to the required physical distancing requirements and other related safety measures.

    Hylton explained that depending on the state of the pandemic some contracts could be renewed as early as the second school semester.

    “Of paramount importance is the safety of the athletes. We have to ensure that we have the necessary resources to facilitate the safety of our student-athletes,” Ms Hylton said.

     Ms Hylton also confirmed that, so far, no new sports scholarships have been offered to student-athletes.

    As it relates to students who are already on scholarship, Ms Hylton said the school would maintain its obligations to them and they would attend classes as usual.

    “We are bound by contract, so those students would continue to be supported once they continue to meet academic criteria,” she said.

    Among other measures being taken by the school is the limiting of the number of students allowed to share dorm rooms on the campus. For now, only one student will be allowed to a room. 

    The college prides itself as being home to a number of Jamaica's world-class athletes.

    Former 100m world-record holder Asafa Powell, Olympic medalists Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Sherone Simpson were all members of the UTECH track programme.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.