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An interview with Ben Johnson (October 20, 2006)

Source: www.trackie.ca

20 October 2006
By Kris Mychasiw

1) As a young child growing up in Jamaica until the age of 9, what were some of your interests? Were you a soccer fanatic, or did you see forsee a future in athletics?
I enjoyed playing soccer that was my first love even before track and field. I enjoyed going to the movies and swimming with my friends. At that age I was not thinking about my future.

2) What were your main challenges when you emigrated to Canada in 1976? Why did you pick Scarborough as your place of residence?
When I first arrived in Canada I had great difficulty adjusting to the weather and likely the greatest difficulty was at school learning to drop the Jamaican slang and meeting new friends. Actually, I never lived in Scarborough, I lived in the west end of the City, near Keele and Lawrence.

3) Growing up in the Greater Toronto Area in the late 70's must have been pretty interesting, do you have any stories of your early teens of anything that happened? Did you ever have any issues with racism, if so can you please share a story with us?
I never experienced racism that I remember, but I never really believed in it either. I think if you are a good person and treat people the way right, everyone is the same. The biggest thing that ever happened when I was a teen was that one of my school friends was shot and killed.

4) The 80's brought forth many new changes World wide, can you describe your favorite hair style of that era and who was the main face of it?
I loved the Afro and I can't think of his name, but the guy on Mod Squad, Link, I think.

5) A lot of people know Ben Johnson for the explosive starts and the 9.79 in Seoul, could you share your experiences in Los Angeles with us that saw you win two bronze medals, one in the 100m and one in the 4x100m?
LA was great, I enjoyed the relay because I got to run with members from my team and winning the two bronze medals confirmed to me that I was on schedule for what I wanted to accomplish in Seoul.

6) During your reign as a top world ranked sprinter, I have heard stories of Ben the Party Animal and a certain beach shirt that I understand was almost a trademark at social events, can you share any stories of events you were invited to and other high profile people such as yourself who were there?
I think you are referring to my Versace shirts, I actually have a few of them and at that time very bright colours were very popular in Italy. The most memorable party was in Monaco and I was the guest of honor as the Prince just wanted to meet me. Everyone was there, all his friends, movie stars, etc.

7) Competition in athletics is war on the track, have you since crossed paths with Carl Lewis, if so have things changed between you two?
Carl and I never spoke other than to say hello, we did not like each other then and we have never spoke since. We are very differently people personality wise.

8) Who is your favorite sprinter of all time?
Donald Quarrie from Jamaica

9) Today in Athletics we still see many athletes testing positive, do you think that the war on drugs will ever be won? Will Athletics ever be a clean sport?
I don't believe so, as long as you have athletes struggling to make it to the big time, and then seeing all the financial rewards once they make it there, it is a big influence. In addition, you can't clean up one country without ensuring the rest are on the same level.

10) Do you feel with the recent efforts of WADA, that athletics is now cleaner than it was in the past?
I don't really know no comment.

11) Had you not raised your arm 15m before the end of the race, what time do you think you would have clocked? I am still baffled by the way you left Carl and company in your dust, a sheer example of raw talent and hard training!

12) The 100m world record in men's track isn’t as exciting as it once was as we have the likes of Powell always putting forth a solid effort at lowering it, when do you think that record will reach a plateau?
New drugs, better tracks/equipment, who knows.

13) Ben's House- York University
When going into the York University Field house, do you have a life time membership there or do they require you to pay a day pass? It was your house and you helped put it on the map, do you still workout once in awhile there or have you taken a leave of absence from working out?

York was home for me for a very long time. I have a lifetime membership, but have to pay for parking. It is still a really comfortable place for me to go to train, I am also training a few young athletes there at the moment.

14) Who is the most talented training partner you have ever had?
Calvin Smith

15)I have heard that Donovan Bailey had called you before his big night in Atlanta in 96, can you share with us any advice and or some details of the conversation?
He was extremely nervous and could not get it under control, in addition, the other sprinters were up to their psychological games and he was not dealing with it very well. We were on the phone for almost two hours and when I hung up from him he was strong. I have always had a very strong mind, nothing gets to me, I don't let it, I have been known to be having a nap an hour before a race. I could never have got through the aftermath of Seoul if my mind was not as strong as it is.

16) Can you share with us your thoughts in 88 when you stepped into the blocks until you crossed the line? How did it feel to finally beat Carl Lewis and company at such a large venue after years of being his understudy?
I knew in LA I was capable of accomplishing this and when I left the blocks in '88 I knew I was going to win. It felt great.

17) Diadora track spikes any idea why they disappeared from the market? One of my friends has a pair and I used to work out in them from time to time just to see what was so special about them, any comments?
Diadora developed those spikes for me, they used my foot as the cast, they were light and allowed you to grip with all five toes. After Seoul, obviously, I lost this sponsor.

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