At Bournemouth Sevens Festival I caught up with Jason Gardener 4 x 100 metre Olympic Gold medallist. I find out Gardener’s view on the 2012 games, who he thinks Britain’s hottest prospect is and even who he thinks has the ability to beat Usain Bolt!
So Jason, you run your own business Bullet Management, how is that going at the moment?
It’s going really well actually, I mean I’m very fortunate and I’ve worked extremely hard. I have always had a strong team behind me in terms of my past successes. When I won my Olympic Gold medal, I wasn’t alone; I had three team mates that I worked with for a number of years. Bullet Management is a platform for me to showcase my services. I work for Red Bull as a sports consultant, UK Athletics and the University of Bath; these are my main kind of clients. I guess fifty percent of my work comes from actually working with businesses, delivering motivational speeches to their employees and clients. Hopefully, Bullet Management allows me to share my successes with a lot of high-flying executives and management consultancy teams.
You have said that motivational speaking is a big part of your job, how do you make sure you get your message across?
It’s not really rocket science, people just get it. Here’s a young guy who had a dream and an absolute passion but didn’t know how to achieve that dream or transfer that passion into success. What I did know is that I needed a strong team of people around me that knew where I needed to go. Now I guess, one of my fundamental strengths is that fact that I got to work with the people I did, they enabled me to be the best I could and fulfil my talent. They allowed me to set step on the Olympic rostrum as a champion, to step foot on the World, European and Commonwealth rostrum and deliver. What’s unique for me, Is that I worked in a sport where to be successful I needed to be perform both as an individual and as part of a team and importantly, I achieved it the right way, the hard way and without drugs.
As an Olympic Gold Medallist what are you looking forward to at the 2012 Games?
What I’m really looking forward to is watching British athletes achieve success in the Olympic arena; whether in track and field, the cycling in the velodrome, in the aquatics pool or whether it is in the Taekwondo and the judo or even in the Paralympics. Seeing British athletes achieve success is what is important to me. Another thing which is really important to me is my son and my daughter, are inspired by the British heroes who will be crowned as champions at the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games. My heroes were Daly Thompson, Seb Coe, Linford Christie, Colin Jackson, Sally Gunnel and Denise Lewis. They were the ones that made me believe that I was able to achieve, a young lad from Britain.
Who do you think is our most hopeful athlete?
Jessica Ennis. In track and field it has to be her; she is on the verge of something incredible, she is riding the crest of the wave. Jessica Ennis is World Champion and she won the World Indoors: she is in the peak performance of her career. Yet, we have to remember we are still two long years away from the Olympics. A lot can go wrong in that time; I just hope she continues with her success and development. It seems like she is destined for success, especially after missing out on Beijing following those stress fracture. There are other athletes I think can achieve a gold medal. You have to think of Chris Hoy, the likelihood is that after his last performance he will have to achieve at least one gold medal. Yet, overall in track and field I don’t think there are that many athletes who will have multiple chances to win Gold at the games. The story for so many is that you have one chance; you have to grab it.
What will you be doing yourself in the build up to the Olympics and whilst the Games are going on?
I work for UK Athletics, Red Bull and numerous other organisations which are delivering motivational programmes at the Olympics. For example, I am on the board of the UK athletics, so I’m going to be heavily involved with some of the key decisions we make from here on in to try and maximise our chances of success at the 2012 Olympic Games. I help with the ambassador programme at Red Bull, so I will have a personal interest in some of the athlete we recruit as they will be there directly, in partly as a result of my input. So naturally, I’ll be keeping an eye on them. On a personal level, it will be about inspiring my young children; I want to give them that opportunity to engage their interest in sport. To give them the opportunity to see what is available so if they like they can gain new interests. They may not want to be Olympic Champions, they may not want a career in sport, but as long as I give them the opportunity to make that decision for themselves I will be happy. That is the most important thing for me as a father.
You have spoken about protecting our young stars in the build up to the Games. What are your feelings about the amount of media hype surrounding Britain’s young talent?
It’s an interesting topic. Success brings pressure and no one can be protected from the pressure if they want to be the best in their field. Yet, I do think it is hard on young athletes, some of them get that pressure before they deserve it. A few good performances doesn’t mean that someone deserves to be gifted as out ‘next Olympic Champion’ by the media, that’s what concerns me. Since my comments in that article, Tom Daly has gone on to become World Champion, he deserves the pressure that is now on his shoulders regardless of age, people will expect for him to deliver and will expect himself to deliver. What is unfair is heaping that pressure on someone after they simply had one good race, or one good performance. Being a successful sportsman at that level means going through the ranks, achieving at the highest level, then having the pressure laid on later and still being able to deliver.
As an experienced sprinter Jason, can you see anyone beating Usain Bolt in the near future?
Tyson Gay! Tyson Gay’s personal best is faster that the time Usain Bolt ran in the Beijing Games. I was in that stadium working for Red Bull, I watched that Olympic Games final and even though Usain Bolt slowed down, I thought to myself that no one will come close to that time, not in my lifetime or at least not in the next ten to twenty years. Tyson Gay is up to the challenge, he raised his game, he ran faster than Usain Bolt in Beijing last year, coming second to Usain Bolt when Usain broke the record again in Berlin. It’s incredible. That is what makes sport so exciting, when people raise the bar and set the standard but other people still follow and still believe they can achieve that success. Tyson Gay believes he can beat Usain Bolt. Tyson has got the determination as a challenger and as a contender. I wonder how much passion Usain has now to break a record, having achieved what e has. Will he work as hard in training? Will the desire still be there after achieving his childhood dreams? He is an Olympic Champion in the 100 metres, 200 meters and 4X 100meters, maybe he needs new challenges. Maybe he needs to take up the 400 metres, take up a new sport or even take his desire into business.
As a retired sprinter what in your life now inspires you the most?
My children! My children inspire me the most. I had great people who inspired me, I had my coaches and my parents, they were the people who made me believe I could achieve. That is now my biggest priority, being there for my children. I’m naturally driven and I am naturally highly motivated. I set huge challenges but a lot of the time when you do that you can end up with disappointment, yet just once and again you achieve something wonderful just like I did in sport. I want to take that and now transfer it into other areas of my life. I’m now trying to find my next dream goal.
And will we be seeing Jason Gardener in a bobsleigh anytime soon?
I absolutely loved the bobsleigh. It was exhilarating, it was frightening, and it was everything you could want in a sport and that much more. I loved it, but the truth is to be competitive and to be the best- and I have been the best, I know what it takes- you need to have the ability to give it one hundred percent of your effort to it. This is not something I feel I can do right now. Bobsleigh is a team sport so you also need to consider your team mate. If you don’t both give it your full effort or the likelihood is you will fail.
Finally, I will never be an Olympic Sprinter, but what advice would you give to people like me who want to get that bit better at what they do in their lives?
Well that is what life is about. Everything is about achieving your own personal goals. We all work, or have jobs, you just have to be the best you can be and achieve your personal best. Set your Olympic Gold standard and achieve it. Everyone has their own Olympic Gold in their own field, it’s about setting targets. Make them realistic and set achievable goals and you never know where that may take you. Once you start achieving success it can become a habit and before you know it you may have achieved a lot more than you had ever imagined.