Friday, August 1, 2008

Sports Illustrated For Kids Interview Q&A: David Oliver

Olympics-hopeful David Oliver took a brief timeout from hurdles training to talk with

Oliver's got his eyes on a gold medal at next week's Olympic Games.
Oliver's will have his eyes trained on a gold medal when the Olympic Games kick off next week
Courtesy of Disney

David Oliver won 110-meter hurdles at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Jaunary and will go for the gold in Bejing next week. Hurdling runs in the family. Oliver's mother, Brenda Chambers, was a world-class hurdler in the late 70s and early 80s. She actually competed in Beijing in 1980 for the U.S. National team.

Oliver took time out from training at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida to talk to about his unexpected rise to the top, running the same event as his world-class mom, and what he's most looking forward to at the Games. What has your schedule been like since your win at the Olympic trials?

David Oliver: Oh, I haven't been doing anything but training. I left the trials on Monday, I came back home to Orlando, Florida, took Tuesday off and got right back to practice on Wednesday. You can't really settle on what happened at the trials. It's in the past. Now you've got to look forward to the big things going on the games of course. So you can't sit back and rest while everyone else is working. That's how you get beat.

You were great at Howard University (2001-04), but not quite considered world class. Are you surprised by where you are now?

No, I'm not surprised at all by the point I've gotten to. I knew exactly what my talent level was, I just came to an environment with my coach where it was nurtured and I was given the blue print in order to accomplish exactly what it is that I needed to accomplish. Of course when I came out of college I was All-American twice, but I had only fourth and fifth place finishes [in NCAA meets]. When I talked to [coach] Brooks [Johnson] he told me it was going to be a three to four year process in order to get to the top. And I just listened to exactly what he had to say. I did exactly what he asked me to do to the T, because I figured if I did everything in my power to be an elite 110 hurdler and it didn't happen, then it just wasn't meant to be. But I didn't want to look back and think "man if I had listened to him a little more, I could have done this." And I just am starting to see the fruits of my labor.

Hurdling is in your genes because of your mom. How and why did you get involved in hurdling specifically?

As a junior in high school I was out on the track one day and we ran a shuttle hurdle relay. My coach, Betsy Allen, found out who my mom was and knew her from the University of Colorado. She was like, "man, hurdling is in your genes." I ran a shuttle hurdle relay and I was competitive in that relay and she told me that I have a new event. It just kind of took off there. If never happened I might have still be out there scratching all my jumps in the long jump, and I might have quit the sport.

Was it strange at first to be doing the hurdles considering who your mom is?

You know, I don't ever really dwell on that. You're just like another runner out there on the track. People don't really care who your mom, dad, brother, sister, uncle, aunt are. It's all about you and what you're going to accomplish. Those types of things are irrelevant when you get on the line because I'm pretty sure when I got out to the finals at the Olympic trials, no one was really like "man, he's probably going to win because his mom ran track and field." It's all about the work you put in. The genetics definitely help. But there's a lot of people whose dads were in the NFL and things like that, and they don't pan out. There are more of them than the guys that become successful.

Does she give you advice on running?

No, she never gives me coaching advice. Whatever I do is, like, the best, even when I run poorly. She's always like "you're afforded opportunities that I never was. So you're still basically winning anyway. You're traveling all around the world, you've already stamped up once full passport and you're 26 years old. And I only have a couple of stamps in my passport and I'm 47 years old."

She competed in Beijing once. Has she told you anything about it?

No, she's just letting me experience it on my own. It's changed so drastically. It's been 28 years so it's probably not the same as she remembers it. She just is overexcited for me and I'm excited that she's able to share this experience with me. She was my role model and inspiration and a lot of other kids too. Not all kids have supportive parents, which is unfortunate. So I'm just glad that I was blessed to have a loving mother.

What are you most looking forward to at the Games?

I'm just looking forward to being part of the Olympics. That's just something nobody can ever take away from you. There will never be another 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China ever again. Being a track and field athlete with our careers span, maybe you'll be lucky enough to compete at two or maybe three Olympic trials. I'm just going to try to take everything in. But I'll keep in mind the goal at hand: win the gold medal out there, and make my country, my family and my local area proud of me.