Clayton’s Johnny Dutch has run the fastest time in the world this year in the 400-meter hurdles.
But the 48.6-second time he ran in the Bahamas won him few accolades.
“What it really means is that my training is going well,” Dutch said recently after a 10-minute ice bath following practice.
“I am certain, positive, I can go under 48 seconds sometime this year. To me, it is a matter of when.”
He’d like to better his fastest time ever, 47.6, on Aug. 18 at noon in Rio de Janiero. He believes that if he does, he’ll return to Clayton with an Olympic gold medal.
“I don’t want to just make the U.S. team or to just win a medal, my dream has been to win a gold medal,” he said. “That goal hasn’t changed.”
He narrowly missed making the American team in 2008 when he was 19 years old, finishing fifth in a photo finish. Four years later, Dutch reached the Olympic Trials finals but ran poorly and finished last.
He has worked four years to erase that memory.
Wait and work
Dutch, 27, is one of America’s most distinguished hurdlers and has been a star for a long time. He won nine N.C. High School Athletic Association championships, won an NCAA championship while at the University of South Carolina, won a national championship and has represented the U.S. in world championships.
But none of those achievements can scratch his Olympic gold medal itch.
“Other sports have world championships and they are equal every year,” Dutch said. “But in track, the Olympics are everyone’s goal. The Olympics come once every four years. If you miss that chance, you wait.”
Wait and work. At least that is what Dutch has done.
He had been training in Miami until last year when he moved back home to train with renowned track coach George Williams of St. Augustine’s College.
Dutch is not the only Olympic hopeful to seek Williams’ tutelage.
He is joined by two of the top three-ranked 400 hurdlers in the world on the Falcons’ track team. Bernard Jackson is ranked No. 1 in the world and Jeffery Gibson of the Bahamas, who was third in the 2015 world championships, is ranked third. Dutch, despite his time in the Bahamas in April, is ranked fifth.
They trained essentially every day through the winter. If it snowed, they ran in the snow. If it rained, they got wet. If it was cold, they shivered. If it thundered and lightning flashed, well, then they went inside for a while.
They are dedicated, not foolhardy.
“Great competition brings out greatness,” Dutch said. “We support each other. It really helps. If the weather is bad or you just don’t feel well, you look over and there they are working. You know you better, too.”
And Williams inspires them.
“No matter what the weather, he’s out there in it, too,” Dutch said. “How could you complain when he is out there in the rain, snow and cold? He’s out there trying to help you.”
And Williams pushes.
The training isn’t pleasant and neither are the ice baths afterward. The baths are a necessity, Dutch believes, to lessen the soreness after workouts. The ice baths, eight to 10 minutes in a tub filled with ice, allow him and the others to practice just as hard the next day.
“Everybody hates the ice baths. I hate them,” he said. “I bite on a towel and sit down. It is pretty terrible for the first three minutes or so. Then you just go numb. Ten minutes is about the limit, though.”
The trio of hurdlers train together, but they have planned their schedules to avoid competing against each other unless it is a necessity. Jackson and Dutch will compete in the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore., in July. They hope to join Gibson in the finals in Rio.
Their dream is for all three to be on the victory podium. But they all covet the gold medal.
The 2016 U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials
The 2016 U.S. Olympic Trails will run from June 30 until July 10 at Hayward Field in Oregon. The Trials will be broadcast on NBC and NBC Sports Channel.
The men’s hurdle competitions begin on July 7, with the first round in the 400-meter hurdles. The first round of the 110-meter hurdles is on July 8, as are the 400-meter semifinals. The finals for the 110 are July 9 and the 400 finals are on July 10.
Per International Olympic Committee regulations, each nation can send as many as three entries per event to the Olympics in August.