An interview with Morgan Uceny on her banner 2011 year and preparing for next week’s Olympic Trials
Q: Last year you won the Diamond League women’s 1500-meter championship. What was that experience like?
A: Early on in the season I was just hoping to accumulate enough points through the season so I could get to the final and just be a player. To actually come away with winning the Diamond League was just a huge surprise, but also it was just a testament to the hard work that I’d done all season. It always feels good to be rewarded for the work and effort that you do and just being consistent, I think. I think once I got going I was the most consistent. That’s one of my strengths and it ended up paying off in the end, and, yeah, I’m really happy about it.
Q: You were tripped up at the IAAF World Track & Field Championships in Daegu, South Korea last September, costing you a shot at the championship, but you bounced back to win the Diamond League championship two weeks later at the Van Damme Memorial track meet in Brussels, Belgium. Was your experience at Worlds made any more palatable by your Diamond League follow-up?
A: It would have been a little more bitter taste in my mouth if my season ended just at the worlds, but having that extra opportunity to come out and race some of the same people and come out with the win and ultimately the Diamond League championship left me feeling better about the season and definitely put me in a more positive frame of mind coming into this year.
Q: Along with last year’s Diamond League championship, you also clocked the fastest 1500 time of the year — 4:00.06 — and finished the season ranked No. 1 in the world by Track & Field News. How have your accomplishments last season impacted you going into next Thursday’s Olympic Trials?
A: Probably the biggest benefit I received from last year was just the confidence in my abilities. Each year I’ve learned a little bit more about myself, and I’ve gained a little bit more confidence about my running. It’s just been kind of accumulating over the last four years, and now I can put the total package together. This year I’ve been lucky enough to remain pretty healthy; I haven’t had any major setbacks or illnesses. I’ve had a really consistent training base all year, which I think is key going into the trials. I’m confident, and I’m just really ready to bang out some performances.
Q: The 2012 Olympic Trials are the second of your career after the 2008 trials, where you finished fourth in the 1500 and sixth in the 800. And you’ve been in numerous other high stakes races since then. Do those experiences also help your confidence going into next week’s trials?
A: The more races that you’re in, the more high pressure situations that you prepare for, when it comes time to be in that situation again, I think you’re a little more at ease — it’s somewhere you’ve been before, you feel comfortable. Anything can happen. You definitely can’t take for granted any other players. Going through the rounds, you just need to make sure you take care of business early on. I’m confident in my ability to make the Olympic team, but I need to make sure that I just perform on each day. Stuff happens and you’re not feeling well or you get sick, but none of that’s going to matter. It’s about putting together a solid race on that one day.
Q: It sounds like you’re ready from a mental standpoint. How are you feeling physically?
A: I’ve been in the best shape that I’ve been in ever at this point in the season. I would say right now I’m in as good a shape now as I was in July of last year. Having the consistent training and just learning the last year, I’ve been able to put in a lot of miles and intensity and stay healthy. That gives me a lot of confidence because I know I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in.
Q: On paper, you’re one of the clear favorites to make the top-three cut to the Olympic team. But even after all that you’ve accomplished, competing at the Olympics has always been your goal. So you still have to be feeling some nerves, right?
A: When you have something as big as making my first Olympic team, there’s obviously going to be nerves and a little bit of anxiety. But at the end of the day I can look back on the training that I’ve done, and I know that I’m prepared and ready to do that. I think you’re always going to have a little bit of nerves, whether I’m not probably as nervous as I was four years ago or in other instances. The 1500 is just such a strong event, and I know that there are a lot of women that are also probably in good shape and are running well, so you can’t take anything for granted.