Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
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James Carter - USA 400m hurdles Champion 2002 and 2004

JAMES CARTER
BY ALASTAIR AITKEN

It was a chance meeting at a London hotel in August 2006 that James Carter, the USA 400m hurdles Champion of 2002 and 2004 talked to me.
Later that day he ran at the Crystal Palace Stadium, in the Norwich Union Grand Prix and was second to fellow American Kerron Clemont (48.63) in 48.79, with the United Kingdom's leading hurdler Rhys Williams in sixth place in 48.94. It may be a surprise to those that don't know the amiable, James Carter, when they read what he had to say "Regarding this year (2006) I got hurt three times and yet I was still able to be competitive; that goes back to the training and doing a lot in the fall. It had helped me carry over, with the rehab, good weather, then get back to the track and still able to compete against the best in the World'
   The most satisfying result in 28 year old, James Carter's track career, up to then, was the World Championships Final on the 9th of August, 2005 at Helsinki. (1 Bershawn Jackson (USA) 47.39; 2 James Carter (USA) 47.43; 3 Dai Temesue (Japan) 48.10; 4 Kerron Clement (USA) 48.16. That was a personal best by Carter and by the end of the year he was the 12th fastest man ever on the 'All Time List' over 400m hurdles). 'That felt fine' he said ' The first two rounds felt good. Then on the final day it was pouring with rain. I just wanted to be focused. I worked really, really hard for it. I had switched coaches to my present coach I have now, Antonio Pettigrew. I worked with him all last year. By the time I got to the final of that meet I knew what I had to do and stay focused through the rain and wind and everything. I came out with a new PR and got my first major championships medal.'
Antonio Pettigrew, his current coach, won the World Championship gold medal over 400m in 1991 with a time of 44.57 and is currently a relay World record holder (4x400 in July 1998 in New York 2:54.20 Young, 44.3; Pettigrew 43.2; Washington 43.35 and Johnson 43.2).
     About his coach and the training he gave James Carter he said ' He gives me a lot of strength work. Anything we were doing was totally different to what I did previously. He does not take you to a track and run you into the ground. He says ' This is what we have got to do to get there.'
       'As a 400metre hurdler you have got to be knowledgeable to do the event. You can coach someone to run but you can really make mistakes on it. You have to have that base, you have to have speed and you have to have endurance. You have to be coached in between being a 400 runner and 800m runner. It is very hard!'
   James Carter prefers the 400 hurdles to the flat 400. 'A lot of people think that the 400hurdles is a harder event and that it hurts a lot more. To me, I think the open 400 hurts more than the hurdles. When I jump over the hurdles I can focus more on something. I think it is lot easier than the open 400'
    James Carter was born in Baltimore on the 7th of May 1978 and his parents enjoyed sport in their school days.
As a child everything did not go perfectly for him. He had a thymus tumour removed from his chest after he was stricken with myasthenia gravis, neuromuscular disease. He even had difficulty lifting a fork at the time!.
He went to high school followed by a stay at Hampton College, Virginia. He actually enjoyed running since he was 11 years old and later ran 46.5 fro the 400m at high school, which showed he had potential to get to a very good level.
   ' I was a 200/400 runner but I did high hurdles as well (14.00). I really did not know about the 400 hurdles till I got to college.
I was 20 then and tried the 400 hurdles because my coach at college, Art Foster, suggested I try it. I did do that and ran
52 seconds. and, I liked the event straight away. I got down to 50.17 by the end of the season in 1998'
In 1999 he ran 49.45 ' I had taken more time on it and focused on it a bit more' he remarked.
In 2000 in Sydney he was 4th in the Olympic Final in 48.04. He ran 48.44 in 2001 and 46.21 for 400m, the latter being a personal best time. In 2002 he won the World Cup hurdles in Madrid in 48.27 and, a significant fact was that he ran in the USA 4x400 team that came 2nd to the Americas in 2:59.21. Carter ran 44.75 in the lead off leg. That time definitely showed he had the essential speed for the 400 hurdles at World level. In that team, funnily enough, was his future coach Antonio Pettigrew, who ran on the final leg.  As a matter of fact James Carter's best time for the 400 hurdles, till 2005, was 47.68 which he did in 2004 in the Olympic trials in Sacramento, before coming 4th in the Olympic Final in Athens in 48.58.
   Who did he think were the 'Greatest' hurdlers of all time ' I would say Edwin Moses. To have the streak and to have done what he did. To be on top for years that was just amazing that he was able to do that."

Alastair Aitken

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