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Mark Richardson: my greatest race

Mark Richardson: my greatest race

The 400m runner looks back at the Bislett Games in Oslo in July 1998 when he beat Michael Johnson and won in a PB of 44.37 from the inside lane

Just weeks before claiming European bronze, the two-time Olympic relay medallist became only the second man in nine years to leave the greatest 400m runner in history trailing in his wake.

Mark Richardson takes up the story…

There had been a change in my training regime. Martin Watkins, my coach up until Atlanta 1996, helped me towards winning an Olympic silver in the 4x400m relay. He did an absolutely fantastic job, but I had the opportunity to spark a coaching relationship with Roger Black.

He wasn’t actually my coach, but I guess Roger was so satisfied with clinching individual Olympic silver that he was just more open to inviting the competition in or maybe passing the baton on. I’ve got no idea why, but the time was right.

I was just like a sponge, I wanted to learn from him and I thought what he’d done was incredible so I wanted to model aspects that he brought. We chatted and he said: “Why not think about joining the training group?” It became a no-brainer, really.

His model was having a number of coaches that were almost reporting in to him. Mike Whittingham looked after the entire overall programme, but Roger had inputs from other coaches and I went to a much more speed-based coaching methodology.

Tony Lester was Roger’s sprint coach at that point and ultimately became my coach. They all put that greater emphasis on my qualities and you see what the athletes are doing now over the 400m. It’s scary. You look at how much real speed they’ve got and I just probably got on to it too late. If I’d done that earlier in my career, it could have been really quite interesting.

I had a supreme confidence in the base that I had built up. I felt quick and strong. Everything was pointing towards a good season. 

There’s no doubt that the Bislett Games is one of the meccas of track and field. It’s just hallowed ground. It’s been the host venue to some of the greatest athletes who have ever walked the planet, so that was huge. It was just electrifying. At the time, it was part of the Golden League and it was the first race of that year’s series so that gave it another special dimension.

Mark Richardson (Getty)

The line-up for that race was amazing. With those kinds of meets, promoters move heaven and earth to get the best athletes possible. The quality and depth was absolutely staggering….

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