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We have made it through the worst of winter, and spring is just on the horizon. With spring comes the promise of renewal. It is along those lines that I am excited to start sharing new interviews with you again. I thought the best way to get things going again was to share with you an interview with an exciting and explosive track athlete, sometimes known as the Brad Pitt of track and field, 2-time Olympic athlete Nick Symmonds.
Nick is an 800M specialist, having competed in both the Beijing and London Olympics. He currently trains with the Brooks Beasts Track Club under the guidance of coach Danny Mackey. When he is not training, competing, or working on promoting his performance gum Run Gum, he can be found fishing, hunting, surfing and paddling. He is passionate about an athlete’s need for sponsorships so they can focus on what needs to be done to follow their dreams.
Nick was gracious enough to share his thoughts on some questions I posed regarding his book, his training, his opinions on the USATF’s policies, and advice for aspiring track athletes.
5 Questions With: Nick Symmonds
In your book Life Outside the Oval Office, you share some pretty intimate details about your life both inside and outside of running. What motivated you to share your story?
I’m a pretty private person by nature, but my job requires me to share a lot of my life with my fans. I don’t see myself as a professional runner, I see myself as a businessman and my business is marketing and entertainment. The athletes who get paid well in the sport of track and field are those that are willing to put themselves out there and entertain their fans by showing them who they are as a person.
Writing a book allowed me to do that in ways that running and social media could not. I also believed that there could be some stories in there that might help a young runner with some of their own personal challenges.
In my January interview with fellow professional athlete Lauren Fleshman, she discusses (with a strong opinion) the USATF’s marketing policies and the need to protect “athlete’s rights to make a living.” What are your thoughts on how the USATF is addressing athlete’s concerns?
My opinion is that USATF’s primary focus is making money for USATF. Their leadership thinks that in doing so they are doing their job to support athletes by letting a tiny fraction of their earnings trickle down to the pros. In reality, they have confiscated advertising space that belongs to us, sold it to the highest bidder, and are now stuffing their pockets with money that we, the athletes have earned.
The worst example of this is the 20+ year deal that they recently signed with Nike. If USATF cared about the professional athletes, they would not have signed such a long contract. In fact, if they really cared about all of the athletes they would not sign contracts with endemic sponsors in the first place as it is a huge conflict of interest.
You recently announced that you will be competing on Season 7 of American Ninja Warrior. How will you specifically be training for this, and how competitive do you feel you will be?
My primary athletic goal is to make the 2015 World Championship team and win a medal for my country in Beijing. Training for that goal takes up most of my time which doesn’t allow very much energy left to spend on Ninja Warrior training. That being said, I work hard in the gym to be a well-rounded athlete and feel that I am in good all-around shape. I think that I can be competitive through the early stages, but will struggle a bit in the later stages when climbing becomes more important.
You have your sights set on the 2016 Olympics in Rio. What does 2015 look like for you in terms of training and competing, and are you where you want to be right now?
It was hard to take 2014 off due to injury, but my body really needed the rest. That time off allowed me to start building my base earlier than usual, and as a result I am stronger now than I have ever been this time of year. I am exactly where I want to be in my training and believe that I am on pace to reach my goals in both 2015 and 2016.
What is your outlook on the strength of US track and field as a whole on the world stage, and who do you feel are some top up and comers to be on the lookout for?
I think that Team USA is as strong as it has ever been. For a while there it was pretty much our sprinters and jumpers that were carrying the team, but in recent years our middle and long distance runners have really stepped it up and started to bring home medals as well, no doubt due in part to increased support for elites from brands and track teams like with the Brooks Beasts. Aside from the usual suspects, I am interested in seeing how younger athletes like Cas Loxsom and Ajee Wilson do on the world stage.
Bonus: If you could impart one important piece of advice on aspiring track athletes, what would it be?
Get off the internet and go for a run. It seems to me that so many kids want to find the magic secret to being great. They are online reading and asking questions and following their favorite athletes in the hopes of learning that secret.
While all of those things are good, the magic secret is hard work.
If you want to be the best, train harder than everyone else.