Johnny Dutch came to the U.S. Olympic Trials with a purpose: to make the United States Olympic team. On Sunday, running in his third Trials 400-meter hurdles final, Dutch came up short again, this time in an agonizing conclusion to a race that was his to lose — along with a trip to Rio for next month’s Olympic Games.
Running in lane 5, in the same race with his training partner, and 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Bershawn Jackson, who was in lane 1, Dutch got out of the Hayward Field starting blocks strong. Crossing over nine hurdles with the greatest of ease, it looked like Dutch, who was leading the field by more than five yards with one hurdle to go, was going to be the Olympic Trials champion.
As he hurdled No. 10, his trail leg clipped the hurdle, throwing off his stride. In what seemed like a slow-motion horror film, four runners passed Dutch in the closing 10 yards of the race, leaving him in fifth place with a time of 48.92 seconds.
The race was won by 2008 Olympic silver medalist Kerron Clement (48.50). In second was Byron Robinson (48.79). The third and final Olympic spot went to 2012 Olympic silver medalist Michael Tinsley, who was timed in 48.82, just a tenth of a second ahead of Dutch. Jackson finished eighth (49.96).
This is one of the more disappointing moments of my life. The only thing that can be more disappointing than this is death.
Johnny Dutch on his finish at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials
After he finished the race, Dutch held his head in his hands as if in disbelief of what had just happened. Later, Dutch, shirtless and in stocking feet, came into the press interview tent, and just curled up on the floor, at first unable to take questions.
“This is one of the more disappointing moments of my life,” Dutch said, still on the floor. “The only thing that can be more disappointing than this is death.”
Hitting the last hurdle was his downfall, Dutch said.
“I hit it and it was over,” he said. “I had no legs after that. It broke my momentum all the way. I hit it so that killed it for me.”
Dutch is without doubt one of the best hurdlers in the world, and most of those best hurdlers also happen to be Americans. Unfortunately not much time — Sunday it was just a tenth of a second — separates the world’s top long hurdlers. Because of that stiff competition, Dutch has more often than not found himself getting close to making the World and Olympic teams, but no more than that. In 2009, Jackson and Dutch went one-two in the U.S. Championship final, and both made the World Championship team. A top-three finisher in the U.S. Championship gets on the World team in odd years. The Olympic Trials serves as the U.S. Championship in Olympic years.
“This is my third time at this rodeo,” Dutch said after winning his preliminary race last Thursday with a time of 49.56. In the 2008 Trials, Dutch was fifth (48.93) and in 2012 he was eight and last in the final (51.47). For Dutch, the third time was the worst. At age 27, Dutch seemed cool and confident as he won both his prelim and then his Friday semifinal in a time of 49.20.
After the semifinal, Dutch said it “was good because it pushed me. It definitely took a lot more effort than it did (in the prelim). I got out good, smooth, relaxed in the backstretch. By the sixth or seventh hurdle I picked it up a lot, but once I got over (the 10th and last hurdle) I just maintained my rhythm and just tried to pull through with the win really, and that’s what worked today and I’m happy.”
“I train with Bershawn Jackson,” Dutch said after his semifinal. “He’s one of the best in the world. We push each other, so it helps to train with another elite runner that’s world class.”
Track and Field magazine, which bills itself as the “Bible of the Sport.” had picked Jackson and Dutch to finish one-two at the Trials.
The same 10th hurdle that led to victory in the semifinal, left Dutch devastated after the final.
“I feel like my career is over,” Dutch said. “I feel like I can’t do this no more. I’ve been struggling financially. I don’t have a (endorsement) contract. I have no job. I don’t know if I can do this any more.
“I’m in my prime right now. In another four years I’ll be 31. I always told myself by 30-31, I’ll be done with track.”
I don’t know if I can do this any more. ... In another four years I’ll be 31. I always told myself by 30-31, I’ll be done with track.
Johnny Dutch on his future in track and field
Dutch, who also is a filmmaker, said his business is “slow.”
“I sacrifice all my time for track. Yeah, I don’t know what I’m going to do right now. I don’t know. I don’t know.”
He said on Twitter a few hours after the final race that “it’s time to pursue this film career and create movies.”
At Clayton High, Dutch was a nine-time N.C. High School Athletic Association state champion, and he was named prep All-American all four years for indoor and outdoor hurdle events. At South Carolina, Dutch won an NCAA 400 hurdles title and was an eight-time All-American.
Johnny Dutch on Twitter
Thanks to everyone for supporting me all these years. I gave it my all. I think it’s time to pursue this film career and create movies.
Posted a couple of hours after the 400-meter hurdle finals at the Olympic Team Trials