An E-mail Conversation With: Sprinter Craig Pickering

'I don't see any need for big talk: it makes you look stupid!'
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The Independent Online

You are running the 60 metres in the Norwich Union International in Glasgow on Saturday, the meeting at which you beat your training partner Jason Gardener last season. How important was that for you?

It was a massive win for myself, as it helped propel me into the spotlight. I also proved to myself that I could recreate my best form on the big stage. I knew I could run well against my age-group peers, but Glasgow proved to me that I could do it against the seniors too.

How have you adjusted now that Jason has retired? We all know he is the original Mr Nice, but was it ever difficult training with one of your main rivals?

It wasn't that difficult until about two weeks before the European Indoors, when things between us started to get more competitive. Apart from that, there was never really any tension. Jason always injected a bit more fun into training sessions, and that has been missed, but Ryan Scott has come along really well this winter to step into his shoes as my main training partner.

The Beijing Olympics are coming up this summer. What are your Olympic ambitions?

There is definitely a medal opportunity for us in the 4x100m. If we run a similar time to the one we did in Osaka, a medal should be ours. In terms of my individual aims, I would love to make the final. Once you make the final, anything could happen, but a medal will probably be a step too far for me this time.

What do you consider the finest achievement in your career, and what has most disappointed you?

My only real disappointment was that I couldn't make the world 100m final in Osaka, as I believe it was a pretty weak year in world sprinting terms, and my personal best should have made it to the final. In terms of other championships I have "lost", such as the European Under-23s and European Indoors, I am not disappointed, as I gave it my all on the day and was beaten by a better athlete. My greatest achievement I guess is the relay medal we won in Osaka. Individually, winning the European Cup on my debut, in a PB, was also enjoyable.

Last year, when asked how your social life was, you replied: "I wouldn't know. When you've got to train at 9.30 in the morning, you are in bed by 11." Have you discovered the Bath clubbing scene yet?

No, not at all. It's not my thing at all really, I would much prefer to stay in with my girlfriend and watch a film, or play computer games with my mates. My friends are all great, though, as is my girlfriend, and they place no pressure on me at all to go out. They understand how important my athletics is to me.

Sprinters, as you have pointed out yourself, have a bad habit of predicting more than they can deliver. Why? And whatever happened to that 9.65sec world record Dwain Chambers was going to run in 2003?

I think that illustrates my point quite well. I also remember Shawn Crawford saying he was going to run 9.65 and 18.99, which never quite materialised either. I think the main problem is that when we race, sometimes we run really fast, and it seems easy, so we tend to get a bit carried away. I don't really see any need for it though, as you are soon found out when you don't run 9.65, and you look pretty stupid!

Jason was clearly not thrilled when Chambers returned to the sport after a two-year doping ban. What are your views on Chambers' efforts to make another comeback this year ?

I remember talking to Jason about that, and he was saying he couldn't believe how the public welcomed Chambers back, despite the fact that he had clearly damaged the sport. Dwain was getting more support than Jason, despite the fact that Jason had never cheated. From my point of view, for a serious doping offence where there is no doubt that you knew what you were doing, you should be banned for life.

Do you ever find yourself daydreaming about the 2012 London Olympics?

There is always some daydreaming going on but, to be honest, it is so far away that I tend not to think about it. At the moment I am mostly daydreaming about my upcoming races and the world indoors. Sport psychologists call it visualisation, but it is daydreaming really!

Your coach, Malcolm Arnold, has guided athletes such as Colin Jackson and John Akii-Bua in the past. What, do you think, is his secret?

There isn't really any secret: we just work exceptionally hard. We find out what things we are weak at, and work at them until they become our strengths. Malcolm installs a really strong character in you as well, as he takes no crap whatsoever. Before Jason won the World Indoors in 2005, he had torn both his groins, and was struggling to walk. He was umming and ahhing about whether to compete, until Malcolm said: "Stop fucking around, just go and fucking do it!"

What is the hardest thing about sprinting?

You can't really run with a niggle, which I feel you may be able to get away with a bit in distance events, and if you make one mistake then you are finished. Also, trying to run fast while relaxed is also hard!

What music, if any, do you use in your preparations?

I like to feel aggressive when I run, and so when I warm up I like to listen to aggressive music. My favourite bands are Enter Shikari and alexisonfire. Not for the faint-hearted!

Attachment

* Born 16 October 1986, Crawley, Sussex. Competes for Newham and Essex Beagles. Studying sport and exercise science at Bath University.

* 2003 World Youth Championships, 100m bronze.

* 2005 European junior champion, 100m. Beat Darren Campbell in Bedford. Won Loughborough International in 10.22sec, fastest junior time that year, fifth on all-time British list.

* 2006 Joined Malcolm Arnold's coaching group, training alongside Jason Gardener.

* 2007 Beat Gardener twice over 60m to win Norwich Union International – in personal best of 6.55sec – and national indoor championships. Silver behind Gardener in European Indoor Championships. Won European Cup 100m in personal best of 10.15sec. Took silver in European Under-23 Championships in 10.14sec. Reached 100 semi-final at Osaka World Championships, ran second leg in relay team which took 4x100 bronze.

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