Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
Interviews and

Coach John Smith (August 2011)

John Walton Smith was born in Los Angeles, California on the 5th of August 1950 and became a World Class one lap runner before he actually started coaching. He coached Maurice Greene (2000 Olympic 100m Champion) and Ato Boldon.
   Not  very many people will remember his days as an athlete because, he never stood on the Olympic rostrum but what people will realise after reading this was that he was a 'Great' 400m man in his day.
   His one Championship achievement, outside the United States of America, was  winning the 1971 Pan-American Games 400m in Cali Columbia, on the 1st of August 1971 (John Smith 44.6, Fred Newhouse also USA 45.60 and third Fernando Acevedo Peru 45.3,).
   In 1970 John Smith ran 44.9 which put him second in the World's best times for the year. He won the American Championships at Bakersfield in June in 45.7 from World record holder Lee Evans 45.7 and Wayne Collett 45.8.
   In  1971 he won the USA Championships again in 44.5 from Collett and Newhouse. He headed the World listings for the year with a time of 44.2 (equivalent 440 yards of 44.5).
   In 1972 he was ranked fourth in the World with a time of 44.3. However tragedy struck for Smith.
He went into the Olympic Games at Munich with a leg injury and despite it being bandaged up, he struggled through to make the Final but had to pull out after 100 meters. However, despite the daunting experience, his enthusiasm for the sport did not dwindle and he has been a successful coach with Hudson Smith International.
    Do you regret being the best in the World and not actually winning the Olympic title because Vince Mathews won it in 1972 (44.66 with Wayne Collett 2nd and Julius Sang of Kenya 3rd) or do you look back with some happiness on your athletic career?
   " Hindsight is 20-20. We can all talk about what we could do, should have done but the reason why I coach is partly for a few things that were fleeting. A gold medal was one of them. The only thing I did not achieve
in my career so, it was not that bad.'
   You were fastest in the World with 44.2 one year"
 He quipped
'I was a little late for dinner so I had to rush to the table.' I did that in my National Championship and 44.30 in '72.'
   You have coached some 'Great' runners. Which one's stand out for you.
   ' The present one's that I am working with now Carmelita Jeter and Jason Richardson. These are the people presently in the forefront of my mind. Everything I have done prior to that were stepping stones to get me to this and they are recipients of that. .So, which one's are the best one's, the one's I am working with right now.'
' My best memories are all great fond memories because they all made me, structured me and helped me develop myself the way I am today. NO ONE is more important than the other but they are all  very important to me.'
 Maurice Greene who you coached was a character?
   ' He was a character. he had a particular way and style when he approached a race. Like Inger Millar, Danny Everett or Steve Lewis (Olympic 400 Champion in 1988), Kevin Young (Olympic Champion 1992 & WR 46.78).- He did flips after he ran!. They all had a distinct different way. Marie Jose Perec (100/200 Olympic Champion  96) and Torri Edwards (World Champion 200 in 2003). They all had their wonderful ways which really was quite pleasing."
   Your pleasure as a coach?
    " The process is more important than anything. That is my gold medal. Every day when I wake up I want to make sure that I have given some knowledge to them and I arrive at a resolution between them and myself. I have given them something that day so they can impart and use it, not just in athletics but in life. That is the most important thing.'
    Ato Boldon was a  great character?
   " A complete character a very lovely character and they are all very dear to me. All of them in their own special way'
'I am fortunate as I participated at a level and I am able to teach them how to get to their own levels. I am probably one of the most luckiest persons in the World, to have done something and to teach them to do what I did not accomplish, to get on the medal stand and receive a medallion. I did not get that. It is wonderful for me to say that whole process is what is important to me. Day to day I see a smile ' A little Mona Lisa wrinkle on the side of their mouth.' When I see that to me it's like a job well done."

Alastair Aitken

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