The world indoor 400m champion is being driven by her progress rather than competition at this time of great uncertainty
Courtney Okolo remains the reigning world indoor 400m champion for another year following the postponement of the global championships due to the coronavirus pandemic. But the American admits that it is progression in training which motivates her and not just competition.
Here the Texas-based 26-year-old shares insight into her situation.
“I can always find somewhere to run”
“The good thing about being a runner is that you don’t need anything special,” says Okolo when explaining her current training set-up. “We are allowed to go outside so I can always find somewhere to run, it’s not a big inconvenience for me.
“If I was a triple jumper or thrower, I would need to find sand and a weights room because that is super important to their training. But for us runners, it is easier.”
On how her training has changed, she adds: “At this time of the year I would normally be competing and training would be adjusted around your meets. So because there are no meets, and we don’t know when there will be any, it’s not like we’re trying to get ready to compete. It’s more that we’re trying to stay in shape.
“Coaches have ways that they plan their training but with everything at a standstill, they’ve been adjusting to the whole thing.
“I’m in a training group of eight girls – Gabby Thomas, Shiann Salmon, Ashley Henderson, Rushelle Burton, Kendall Baisden, Morolake Akinosun and Ashley Spencer. My coach is Tonja Buford-Bailey.”
“The postponement of the Olympics didn’t really affect me that much,” Okolo says. “Worse things are happening like people losing their job or getting the virus.
“The Olympics are going to be next year so it’s not that big of a deal. No one can go, so it’s not like I missing out on something. If it was like only people in Texas who couldn’t go, then I’d feel ‘Dang, I’m missing out on the Olympics’. But as it is going to happen next year, I’m not missing out on anything.
“And don’t forget, there are still the trials. You have to get through the trials before you can go to the Olympics. No one knew for certain that they were going to be on the team. But it will all happen next year, it’s just been pushed back a year.”
Is it difficult to keep your focus at the moment with no Olympics to aim for?
“No, but I understand that for other athletes it is,” she replies. “I think there are multiple types of athlete. Some are motivated by competition, but I just enjoy training. I don’t have to be training for something specific.
“Okay, that helps, but I just take one day at a time and I like progressing – seeing small progressions in my training.
“I don’t really need a meet for that because I have enough motivation from the day before and to do better the next day.
“But I can see that for some people it’s discouraging that you’ve been looking forward to the Olympics all year and now that it is not happening, your motivation decreases. For me, that’s never been my only motivation.”
Will you defend your world indoor title in China next March?
“Oh yes, [reigning champion] for another year!” she says.
“I honestly can’t call it at the moment, I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow! So I can’t think about next year’s indoor season.
“We know that the Olympics are going to be in July 2021 but I’m not ready to start planning my season yet. I made a plan for this year and that didn’t really go very well so I’m just taking the future as it goes.”
Click here for more athlete insight on ‘coping with the coronavirus’.