Sprinter Michael Johnson meets US Team
Four-time Olympic gold medalist and nine-time World Champion sprinter Michael Johnson was a surprise guest of honor at a men's U.S. Alpine Ski Team pre race meeting Thursday. The three-time Olympian and 400 meter world record holder chatted with the athletes and provided advice as the Team moves closer to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.
"This is a big year coming up with Vancouver and preparation is everything. I'm sure this weekend is a part of your preparation for Vancouver," said Johnson, who took up skiing immediately after his track and field career. "But the way I approached my sport was that every day was an opportunity to get better. So that when I get to the championship and I'm there on the line, I don't have to worry about it, because I know I'm ready and all I have to do at that point is execute what I know I can already do."
Johnson, whose nine-year-old son also skis, is in Val d'Isere for the weekend filming a documentary for the British Broadcasting Corporation on downhill racing. He interviewed the U.S. Ski Team's Scott Macartney and men's Head Coach Sasha Rearick earlier in the afternoon, then hung around to meet the rest of the Team.
"It was an inspiring moment to have a guy who has won so many championship events talk about the same stuff that our coaching staff has been focusing on," said Rearick. "It's all about 100 percent effort every day. Every single day is an opportunity to get better and it's all about execution on the biggest day and not necessarily trying harder. That was inspiring, because he's done it."
"You have to have a goal and that's where the motivation comes from," said Johnson, "You don't have to worry about if the other guy is training harder. That's not really what it's about. It's about what you're trying to get out of it. It's about reaching your goal and you're never going to do that if you're not giving everything you can every day."
For Macartney, a two-time World Cup podium finisher and two-time Olympian, it was less an interview and more an opportunity to relax with another athlete who knows what it's like to perform on race day.
"It was fun just chatting with him, the interview probably lasted about 20 minutes, but I think we spent most of the time just talking," said Macartney. "He got into skiing when he retired and it's cool to have a guy with his level of success talk about how he approaches things."
"He provided great insight for any sport really, especially for alpine," said young gun Tommy Ford. "When we're on course, the only one we're racing is ourselves. So much of being fast is believing that you can perform to the level of your preparation."
Erik Fisher saw Johnson earlier in the afternoon skiing while the Team was training in Val d'Isere, but was nonetheless surprised to see the sprinter show up for the meeting.
"It was cool to hear his perspective on how to take the nerves out of race day," said Fisher. "That's actually something that I've been working on is to go out everyday and give 100 percent. Some days that's easy and some days that's tough, but being able to do that everyday is what makes champions."
The European swing of the men's Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup begins Friday with super combined, followed by a super G on Saturday and giant slalom Sunday. Johnson says he's excited to be in town to cheer on the U.S. Ski Team.