BERLIN - The official Team USA Press Conference in Berlin held in conjunction with the 2009 IAAF World Championships in Athletics took place Friday at the interview room adjacent to the 1936 Olympic Stadium in Berlin.
Participants included Team USA Head Coaches Chandra Cheeseborough and Harvey Glance, who were joined by the following athletes:
Stephanie Brown Trafton: 2008 women's Olympic Games discus throw gold medalist; two-time Olympian ('04, '08); currently ranked #1 in the world by Track & Field News; 2007 NACAC champion; current world leader (66.21m/217-2).
Allyson Felix: Two-time World Outdoor 200m champion; Two-time Olympic women's 200m silver medalist; 2008 Olympic Games 4x400m relay gold medalist; ranked #1 in the world at 200m three of the last four years by T&FN; current world leader (21.88).
Bernard Lagat: 2007 World Outdoor 1,500m and 5,000m champion;2004 Olympic 1,500m silver medalist; 2000 Olympic bronze medalist; 2004 World Indoor Champs 3,000m gold medalist; 2001 World Outdoor Champs 1,500m silver medalist.
LaShawn Merritt: 2008 Olympic men's 400m and 4x400m relay gold medalist; ranked #1 in the world at 400m by T&FN; 2007 World Outdoor 400m silver medalist and 4x400m gold medalist; 2009 USA Outdoor champion; current world leader (44.50).
Jeremy Wariner: 2004 Olympic 400m & 4x400m relay gold medalist; 2-time World Outdoor 400m & 4x400m relay gold medalist ('05, '07); 2008 Olympic 400m silver medalist & 4x400m relay gold medalist; 2-time USA Outdoor champion ('04, '05).
Excerpts from Friday's press conference follow:
We hope to have the finest World Championships we have ever had. I think we have the talent on this team to make that happen. We are a pretty talented country. We are considered the #1 track and field team in the world. I hope by the time we leave Berlin, with the talent that we have, that we continue to hold that title.
(On the relay teams)
We have practiced several times in the 4x1. Our 4x4 has yet to practice because we don't put a lot of emphasis on the 4x4. There's a lot of depth and experience. The passes are not quite as difficult as the 4x1. We have the number down on our 4x1 to six athletes. We have had some training sessions. We've had a couple of track meets as well. We ran the team in London. The team ran 38.04. We had a little practice meet up in Cottbus about a week ago and the team ran 37.85. We've run twice and got positive results in both races. But mostly, we have been working on the mental aspect of the relay. We know physically we have the athletes that can do that. Mentally and emotionally, there are some things that we need to heal and work on. We've had a lot of close-door meetings. All six athletes (Tyson Gay, Wallace Spearmon, Michael Rodgers, Shawn Crawford, Darvis "Doc" Patton and Terrence Trammell) have been in attendance. We are fired up about the possibility of what may happen here at these championships.
(On relay teams)
We have a really solid team this year. I am excited to be working with the young ladies. We've had great relay passes. We are moving in the right direction. We chose our six-Carmelita Jeter, Muna Lee, Lauryn Williams, Alexandria Anderson, Allyson Felix and Marshevet Hooker. We are excited. We went to London. We had a great time. We ran 41.7 in London and came back and ran 41.5. We are heading in the right direction. We are very excited. Everybody is just excited about what we are doing and the direction we are headed in.
When we talk about mental, we know that we have speed. It's about timing and sometimes athletes want to put their hand back as the baton is approaching and you need to wait one more step or one more pump. We are just making sure that they call stick, don't give the stick when you call stick, wait and then give the stick. With the speed, we know that's not a problem. It's just making sure you have your eyes on the target. That's some mental mistakes that we have made in the past. We have been working on that to make sure that you call stick and then you wait. Make sure you see the target, and place it in.
(On younger women's team members to watch)
We have an up and coming 400-meter runner Jessica Beard and Debbie Dunn. We are looking for great things from them. Also in the steeplechase, we have Jennifer Barringer. She's young but very talented. We are expecting special things out of her as well.
LaShawn Merritt, 400 meters, Suffolk, Va.
I'm glad to be here. The season has been going well. I'm hoping for a victory in the 400. I hope to run well. I'm feeling good. I'm also hoping for a victory in the 4x400. I have great memories of this track. But it's a new day. It's a new year. I feel like I am a lot better than I was then. The competition is better. It's like an any given-day type of thing. I'm feeling good. I'm really looking forward to running.
Allyson Felix, 200 meters, Los Angeles, Calif.
I'm really excited. I'm pleased with where I'm at in my season. I'm looking forward to getting started. Things are coming along nicely. I feel like everything is coming together at the right time.
I think the rivalry between us and Jamaica is exciting. It has gone beyond last year. It's nothing new to us. But I am looking forward to it. It's motivating. I think it will produce a lot of fast races. I've just been focused on myself. I haven't changed anything there. I'm focused on different aspects of my race in my mechanics. I'm feeling really strong and ready to compete.
Stephanie Brown Trafton, discus, Galt, Calif.
It's an opportunity to have a repeat. I'm still new on the international scene. I still feel like I have something to prove. It's really going to be cool because I am competing against Franka (Dietzsch). She's the hometown favorite. We have that little rivalry going on ever since the 2004 Olympics, my first Olympics. We've got that little friendly competition going on. So it's going to be awesome to be out there and compete with such a legend in the sport.
Bernard Lagat, 1,500m, 5,000m, Tuscon, Ariz.
I'm really honored to be here again in Berlin for these World Championships. I'm excited that it's going to start tomorrow. I've been waiting for a long time, especially after having last year not go really well. I'm real excited that everything is going really well. My training has been going great. I can train at 300 percent now. I feel like where I am supposed to be. I know last year we were sitting in Beijing and we were talking about how excited I was and how ready I was, at 100 percent. But at that time, I really wasn't at 100 percent. But to be honest with you, my dad told me that sometimes when you go to a battle and you cannot tell your enemies, "I can't see my eyes," because they come and attack you right away. They don't have to hide. To be honest with you guys, I'm really feeling excited this time. I've been able to train. My competition has been going really well. I can't wait to start and try to do what I did in Osaka.
Jeremy Wariner, 400 meters, Waco, Texas
This year has been a slow season for me. I haven't run that many races as in the past. But I am looking forward to come out here and try to defend my title and run the best race I can. Training has been going great. Each week I am getting better. My times are getting where they need to be.
All the athletes were asked what it means to them to compete in Berlin where Jesse Owens won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics. Team USA athletes will honor Owens' memory by displaying the letters JO on their competition singlets.
I'm really honored to be on the U.S. team. I'm so excited that I am going to be running in the same stadium that Jesse Owens did an amazing job in 1936. For me, Jesse Owens, as I look at it is that he opened a lot of doors, not only for the U.S. athletes, but also for the whole world. That is why it's a great message that we are coming here to celebrate his life. It's going to be feeling really good for me wearing that uniform that has "JO" on it. I know what he had to go through was hard. He was able to focus and train and be a champion through a lot of adversity in life. That's the message that Jesse Owens would like us to remember. We have to work hard. If I win, that's like giving back to a great legend.
I ran here before. There's a lot of great history here on this track. To come back here and run again is a great honor, especially it being a championship year. To have his initials on our uniform is a great honor for me to run with just knowing all the things he went through when he was running. He always competed to the best of his ability, and never gave up. He fought his hardest every time he stepped on the track. That's what all of us are here for is to fight to be No. 1 and to go out and show what we train for.
Stephanie Brown Trafton
I took a walk around the stadium this morning and the first thing I thought about is how intimidating it was and how imposing it is with the rock and all of the columns. I can just imagine how Jesse must have felt walking into the stadium, too. Not only walking into this imposing stadium, but into a situation where people definitely weren't rooting for him. I know that coming to the stadium for the competition next Wednesday will be... I will have the same feeling of intimidation, but at the same time, I'm going to know that the Germans love discus. I'm really excited. Most of the fan mail that I get is from Germany. I know everyone will be rooting for the discus throwers. Since I have a target on my back, I know my competitors won't be rooting for me. I hope everyone out there will be really excited to see a really great competition. Hopefully I'll throw 66, 68 meters. I feel that's possible for me.
I feel like it's an honor and a privilege to be here. I feel like Jesse Owens paved the way for us to be here. I feel extremely grateful to him for this opportunity. To do what he did, such an amazing athletic achievement during such a difficult time. And to be such a class act off the track as well. He's just really a role model and someone I look up to. This competition will be all the more special to be back in Berlin, and I just want to represent well for the U.S. as he did.
I ran here a couple of times. 1936, Jesse Owens came here and won four gold medals people didn't think he would. I just want to come in and follow in his footsteps. I'm not going for four, I'm going for two because I am only running two events. I plan on running well. I know the history. The "JO" on our uniforms just lets me know that it's bigger than just me going out running for myself. It's for my country and the history that's going into the U.S. actually coming back as a team. I just want to run well.
For more information on Team USA at the 2009 IAAF World Championships in Athletes in Berlin, visit: USATF.org.
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