Probably one of, if not, the worst moments of sprinter Wallace Spearmon, Jr.’s life came in 2008 when he was disqualified for stepping out of his lane during the 200-meter race in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China. Spearmon initially finished third, winning the bronze medal.
During an interview, Spearmon said he has put the unfortunate event behind him and is focused on getting 100-percent healthy and looking forward to competing in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
For those who aren’t familiar with Spearmon, he specializes in the 200 meters. He is a two-time NCAA outdoor champion in the 200 m and won the silver medal in the event at the 2005 World Championships in Athletics. He has a personal best of 19.65 seconds for the distance, making him the third fastest runner of all-time and he also holds the indoor American record.
He has won the bronze medal twice at the World Championships in Athletics in 2007 and 2009.
Your dad, Wallace Spearmon, Sr., was a sprinter. Was he the reason you became a sprinter?
I guess that was a lot of the reason. To be honest with you I really didn’t want to run track but he kind of change the way and I just followed in his footsteps.
What was the most important thing he taught you about sprinting?
Just focus on yourself. I mean it sounds kind of bad coming out my mouth but he taught me a different level of confidence that you have to have to be a sprinter. It’s an individual sport. It’s you against the world.
You said that you really didn’t want to do track but your dad kind of got you into it. If you weren’t doing track, what would you see yourself doing right now?
I really want to play football. That would probably be my biggest thing – finding the opportunity to play football. I would take that chance to see if I have what it takes to make it in the NFL.
What position would you play?
I would definitely be a receiver.
Did you play any other sports, besides track, in high school?
Growing up I played basketball, a few guys I grew up with are playing in the NBA and one of the guys I grew up with is in the NFL. I played baseball, I played soccer, and of course I did track.
While you were at the University of Arkansas you won the 200-meter NCAA outdoor title in 2004 and 2005 and the NCAA indoor 200-meter title in 2005. The SEC has a lot of talent in track & field. What was it like to be at the top of the conference in the 200-meter?
I went to Arkansas and they have the reputation for producing champions so the expectation when we went there was to win. That’s what they were known for and that’s what you were supposed to do and that’s what the coach expected. You’ve seen the best of the best. A lot of those guys are still at the top of their game right now. When I came [to Arkansas], I came to compete at the best of my ability. I did all right my freshmen year and went to national in outdoors. I kind of played my role and did what I was supposed to do. I know where I stand and I’m one of the best in the world.
In your career your personal best in the 200-meteris 19.65 seconds, which makes you the third fastest man in the distance point. You’re the fifth fastest runner ever behind Usain Bolt, Michael Johnson, Tyson Gay and Xavier Carter. What is it like to have your name in the top five with them?
To be honest with you it makes me want to try harder. It makes me feel that there is only room for one. Usain Bolt is number one and that’s pretty all you hear about. You might get Tyson Gay once and a while but its your job to be number one. So, I’m right around the area where I want to be. Now I just have to find the tools and figure out how to end up being number one.
You and Tyson Gay trained together [Gay and Spearmon both attended Arkansas]; what was it like training with him?
He’s older than me so when I went to school he was a junior and I was a freshman. He set the tempo. He kind of let me know the ropes, what I’m supposed to do and what it takes. When I got to school I pretty much followed him and tried to figure out what was going on. He was a good role model; someone to lookup to and try to find out what I need to do to be successful.
You initially finished in the bronze medal position in the 200 m in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, but were disqualified for stepping out of your lane. Can you explain what happen?
I was in lane nine and I’m not use to running that far outside. I’m use to being in the mix. Have a feel of my competition. I just remember Walter Dix on the inside of me. It seems kind of weird but I was just trying to get a feel of where he was. I ended up withdrawing further end and stepped on the line. I didn’t know I step on the line until afterwards. I knew I was kind of close to it. I came across the line, ended up third. I did about 95-percent of the victory lap. I was with Usain Bolt doing my victory lap with him. They called me over and told me I got disqualified. I looked up and looked at the monitor and there and behold my name was up there and it said DQ. I went through the process of trying to figure out what happen and if I wanted to appeal. My coaches came back, my agent came back and the next 24 to 48 hours were very stressful. I’m over it now. Everything happens for a reason.
I watched the race and I could tell that you were very disappointed.
I put in a lot of hard work. I got hurt prior to that at the Olympic tryouts. It was the end of July when I got hurt so I really couldn’t train. The Olympics started in August, so from July to August I really couldn’t train. It wasn’t until about two weeks before the race that I could actually start practicing. I went to work every day. I was in the training room, actually moving around on the track and I was working good three times a day. A lot of people put in a lot of work into it so it seemed like everyone was kind of connecting with me because they felt like they had some kind of tie-in on how I did this and how I did that. So it wasn’t just me on that track. I was representing a lot of people and the Americans. So when I crossed the line everyone felt this sense of satisfaction and accomplishment of ‘we did it, we did it.’ So when I was disqualified I was in the back feeling like I let a lot of people down. That was probably the only time that I cried during a race. It really wasn’t because I was disqualified. I felt like I let people down. 2012, I’m trying to do everything right now. I’ve already spent a lot of money trying to make sure that all of my team is set up. That I don’t get hurt, that I’m eating right, that I’m doing everything right going into 2012. I’m going to redeem myself. Try to get my name back, try to get respect back from 2008. If anyone says anything about the race they say ‘oh you that guy that got disqualified. How did you do that?’ I got a lot of crap from it, but it made me stronger.
What are you focusing on the most to help you get the gold medal in the 2012 Olympics?
I got hurt this year so my main goal is to get healthy and stay healthy. I feel like if I’m healthy the sky is the limit. I haven’t been healthy for probably some time. And its just been small injuries like nagging injuries that just keeps be from being 100-percent. For the last couple of World Championships I’ve been to I’ve been 85-percent. So 85-percent Wallace can still get second or third. So I’m just trying to get to 100-percent to see what I can actually do. That’s my main goal: stay healthy. And then from there if I’m going to end up getting the gold medal in London I’m going to have to run the turn. [In my races] my strong point is my finish. My weak point is my start. My first term on the turn is awful and I usually end up coming back and catching people. If I’m going to beat Bolt I have to at lease be close to him on the turn.
Me and Bolt are actually real good friends. People will never imagine that I beat him nine times and he beat me 11. People don’t know it’s that close. I know a lot about Bolt. I’ve always knew Bolt….So in order for me to beat him I have to work on my acceleration. I have to definitely get out faster. If you watch a lot of the old races you’ll see Bolt looking over his shoulder trying to see if I’m coming or not because I use to always come get him in the end. Tyson Gay is the last person to beat Bolt in the 100 m and I’m the last person to beat him in the 200 m. So my best bet is to beat him in that 200. And I just have to run a heck of a race, the race of my life.