(12-Feb) -- Reigning World Athletics 800-meter champion Donavan Brazier's 2021 campaign got off to a false start two weeks ago when the Nike-sponsored athlete was forced to scratch from the second leg of the American Track League after coming in contact with a person infected with the novel corona virus. Brazier, 23, was not infected but was forced to quarantine for five days in a hotel room in Fayetteville, Ark. He wasn't able to train, besides doing core exercises on his hotel room floor.
PHOTO: Donavan Brazier winning the USATF 600-meter indoor title in 2019 at the Ocean Breeze Track and Field Athletic Complex in Staten Island, N.Y. (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)
"Two weeks I was supposed to race Arkansas but I had a COVID exposure," Brazier explained to reporters via video conference today in advance of tomorrow's New Balance Indoor Grand Prix which will be held for the first time at the Ocean Breeze Track and Field Athletic Complex in Staten Island, N.Y. "Luckily I didn't get it, but I was exposed to COVID so I wasn't actually allowed to race. That was supposed to be my gauge race to see where I'm at at this time of year."
Brazier has a short, but sweet, history on the grey and green Ocean Breeze track. When the USATF Indoor Championships were held there in 2019 he ran in the 600-meters and clocked a world best 1:13.77 in the final. That performance set him up for a triumphant outdoor season where he won the USA, world and Diamond League 800-meter titles and broke Johnny Gray's vaunted 1985 American record clocking 1:42.34 in the World Athletics Championships final. He ran sub-1:45 six times that year.
For tomorrow's meet, one of only six gold category events of the World Athletics Indoor Tour, Brazier will run the 800-meters and not clash with his newest rival, Bryce Hoppel, who will be running in the 1000-meters instead. He said today that he felt good, but since he hasn't race in nearly six months he's not quite sure what to expect.
"For tomorrow I don't know what I'm going to go for," Brazier said. "When I go into a race I'm just looking to do my best." He continued: "Since I didn't get the opportunity to race there this meet will kind of be what two weeks ago was supposed to be."
The track at Ocean Breeze is fast, and Brazier --who thinks of himself as more of a long sprinter than a middle distance runner-- is excited to test his speed.
"I've very excited to race on it," Brazier said. "It's a beautiful track. It's a beautiful facility. It's obviously a fast track." He continued: "I like racing there more than I think most indoor tracks."
Under coach Pete Julian, Brazier has remained on a low-mileage diet when compared to other half-milers. He revealed today that his longest long run has been 8.4 miles (13.5 km) and that he enjoys doing most of his running on a treadmill.
"I love running on the treadmill," Brazier said. "If I have to crank out a 45-minute run I'd like to go on the treadmill if the opportunity is there. I like to do most of my runs on the treadmill."
Like other top Americans track athletes, Brazier's two primary goals this year are competing well in the USA Olympic Trials in June to qualify for the Olympic Games, then competing for a medal in Tokyo where he is among the favorites for gold. While he's thought about bettering David Rudisha's 2012 world record of 1:40.91 --something he thinks he can do-- that goal will have to wait for later.
"I think a lot of people can agree that it was probably one of the most beautiful races they have ever seen in their entire lives," Brazier said of Rudisha's audacious world record run in the London Olympic final. "Just the way he ran it and the time on top of it and just the perfect stage to do it on. It's amazing." He added: "The 1:40.9 I believe is an attainable goal, not only me but many other 800-meter athletes. But, it's just got to be a special moment, right time, right place if you would. I'm hoping I can get there some day."
Tomorrow's New Balance Indoor Grand Prix begins at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, but the televised portion runs between 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. on NBC (free-to-air). Live results will be available at the meet website at http://www.newbalanceindoorgrandprix.com