media_artricles :: 2017
Thomas targets #7Kwame Laurence :: Trinidad Express :: 22.06.2017
Mikel Thomas is a six-time national champion in the men's 110 metres hurdles. On Saturday, at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain, the 29-year-old athlete will bid for title number seven.
Thomas will surely be tested at the 2017 NGC/Sagicor National Open Championships by rising sprint hurdles star Ruebin Walters, who earned silver at the NCAA Division 1 Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Oregon, USA, two Fridays ago. In late May, Walters clocked a personal best 13.39 seconds.
Thomas, however, is the Trinidad and Tobago record holder at 13.17 and would fancy his chances of beating Walters this weekend. On June 5, Thomas clocked a season's best 13.33 in the Czech Republic.
In an interview at his training base in Phoenix, Arizona, USA, Thomas told the Express he has high hopes for the 2017 season.
"I'm definitely excited for this year. I had a lot of issues coming off the Olympics. There were more disastrous things that happened than we expected — issues with my ankle and my foot. Because those are ground level things that can actually lead to something else, we had to make sure everything is clear. But luckily, I have a really solid team here and we've been addressing a few things.
"I'm more mature now in the event, so we just have to be smarter and not just harder in how we approach training. We've taken a more progressive start to the season, and I feel it's going to be more fruitful when it comes to championship time."
Thomas is coached by Andreas Behm, recruitment director of the Arizona-based Altis training group.
"Most of my PRs (personal records) have come while I've been here at Altis," said Thomas, "and it's definitely been a blessing. I trust coach Andreas a great deal. He's a great communicator and he allows my experience and my knowledge in the sport to be coincided with his. So it's not like a dictatorship, like most programmes. It's a collaborative effort.
"And we have such a great group of therapists and strength coaches here as well," Thomas continued. "It's like a superpower team in one spot. I'm really comfortable with what we're doing, and I'm looking forward to even greater things to come."
The Altis camp includes American Aries Merritt, the 2012 Olympic men's sprint hurdles champion and world record holder at 12.80 seconds, as well as Canada's triple Olympic medallist Andre De Grasse.
"Every year since I've been here," said Thomas, "we've had world or Olympic medallists perform in the group. It's definitely something that's encouraging because you see these men and women work alongside you daily, and that shows that what we're doing here is very successful. It also shows you the human side because these people do a great job of remaining humble and working hard.
"You learn what it takes to be a champion, you learn the details and the structure and composure necessary to perform day in, day out, and also in a championship situation. It's really good, like iron sharpening iron."
The "iron sharpening iron" analogy is borrowed from the Bible — Proverbs 27:17. Thomas said he has grown in his spiritual focus.
"I've definitely come along to where it's not just what I can gain in the sport but what I can give. And to me, running is just an expression of my love and my joy from God. If I could sing I would sing a song, but I can't sing, so every time I run it's like a free expression. Whenever given the opportunity to speak on my faith or encourage someone else, I want to acknowledge that God is my strength, especially this year.
"There have been trials and tests," Thomas explained, "and this perseverance is just a showing of the faith that I have. God will get the glory at the end of this."
Thomas is not the only T&T athlete in the Altis camp. Sprinter Jamol James and quartermiler Deon Lendore are also honing their skills in the Arizona desert.
"It's great that Trinidadians are part of this organisation," said Thomas, "so we can gain the benefits while also learning and hopefully taking it back home. I'm glad that Jamol and Deon are here because they've both had struggles when it comes to injury. This is definitely the best place for them for their health support.
"I'm looking forward to Jamol making the sprint relay squad for the World Championships, if not stealing an open spot, and Deon having a healthy championship season. That's going to be the main thing. Once Deon's healthy, we know he can run with anybody in the world."
Become a subscriber to the Trinidad Express Newspapers for access to all our articles via our e-paper.
T&T RECORD HOLDER: Mikel Thomas