Athletics

Culson admits to Olympic pressure

When you realise that Puerto Rico has never won an Olympic gold medal in any sport, or a medal of any colour in athletics, you can understand the pressure hurdler Javier Culson is under at the London Olympics.

 
Culson admits to pressure - AthleticsReuters
 

The 28-year-old has been in the form of his life this year, running four of the five best times in the 400 metres hurdles to establish himself as the clear favourite to win the event in the Olympic Stadium on Aug. 6.

Taking a short break from training at the Olympic Park warm-up track on Friday, Culson stretched his long legs one by one on a crash barrier while he spoke, as if he was concerned not to waste a moment of time.

"I'm feeling very healthy and ready, physically and mentally," he said, switching between his own English and enlisting the help of his physio to translate his Spanish.

"I feel a little bit of pressure because right now I'm the first in the world, I have the best time and my country is watching me. But it's going to be okay.

"My people think I'm going to win the gold and I'm going to work hard for that and to follow my dream."

If Culson does achieve his goal, it will be at the expense of one of Britain's biggest gold medal hopes in world champion Dai Greene.

The Welshman caught and overhauled Culson on the final straight to win the world title in Daegu last year, leaving the Puerto Rican with a silver to match the one he won at the 2009 worlds in Berlin.

A question about whether he was concerned about upsetting the host nation by beating Greene prompted a trio of exaggerated headshakes from athlete, his coach and his physio.

"He is last year's world champion and he is very strong," Culson said.

"I'm just thinking about my own race. That's the important thing. My own race."

At 6ft 6in (198 cm) tall with diamond ear-rings and a small metal arrow piercing his left eyebrow, Culson cuts a distinctive figure on the track and off it, particularly when he sports one of his trademark headbands.

It makes him difficult to miss in races even when watched online - one of Culson's favourite pastimes when he is not training for his date with destiny.

"I stay in my room and I watch my best races this season," he said. "It inspires me."

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