Ato Boldon | "The shoes are better, the tracks are better. No doubt I’d record faster times"
The year is 1988 in Queens, New York. A young Ato Boldon is spotted playing football at school when coach Joe Trupiano notices his speed on the field and recruits him into the track and field team. Little did Trupiano know what he was about to do, he was embarking this young man onto an incredible career in which he would become a four time olympic medal winner and a national record holder for his home country, politician and sports broadcaster.
Ato, born in 1973, moved to the US after his parents separated four years earlier, he came from Trinidad & Tobago to live with his mother’s father. A year later after being spotted for the track and field team Ato, no longer a mere raw recruit, qualified for state competition, clocking times of 10.83 and 21.44 for the 100 and 200 metres in his first full season. After high school Boldon went on to attend community college but eventually made his way to UCLA; a school known for being a powerhouse in athletics. He went on to win the NCAA title in the 200m in 1995 and the 100m in 1996. He was world ranked in the top 10 of the 100 metres every year from 1995-2001. In the 200 metres he was world ranked #1 in 1998 and #2 in 1997 and 2000.
After college Ato Boldon went on to be one of the greatest sprinters of all-time, although becoming one of the best competitors never to win an Olympic gold medal. He did win four Olympic medals, with bronzes in the 200 in 1996 and 2000, and the 100 in 1996, adding a silver medal in the 100 at Sydney in 2000. Boldon was World Champion in the 200 metres in 1997, won a silver medal in the 4x100 for Trinidad and Tobago in 2001. He was also the 1998 Commonwealth Games Champion in the 100 metres. Boldon was chosen to be his nation’s flag bearer at the 2000 Olympic Opening Ceremony. He also holds the Trinidad and Tobago national record in the 50, 60 and 200 metres events. Holding the 100m national record at 9.86s, having run it four times until Richard Thompson ran 9.85s on 13 August 2011.
After retiring from his track career, Boldon was an opposition senator in the Trinidad and Tobago Parliament, representing the United National Congress from 2006–2007. He now spends his retirement as an NBC sports television broadcast analyst for track and field, notably on NBC and ESPN, and worked on NASCAR coverage and for NBC at the Winter Olympics.
An impressive resume, an Olympian with four Olympic medals, national record holder for your home country Trinidad & Tobago and much more. As hard as it must be, can you name a favourite moment from your career?
A favourite moment was in 2001 when we brought home the world title for the first time in my country's history.
What was your schedule when preparing for the Olympic games?
Usually for the Olympics it involves being away from home for the month leading into the games as you fine tune for the biggest meet of your life- so sticking to a strict food and workout routine to prepare. No alcohol when preparing
Few athletes can be so recognized for the sunglasses they wore during their career, can you describe how you came about wearing Oakleys over the head glasses at Sydney?
Oakley offered me the opportunity to debut the “OverTheTop” glasses in Sydney, Australia in 2000 at the Olympics and at first to be honest I had two concerns. 1. Would they fall off? 2. Was the world ready for something this outrageous? To convince me, they added some money to what I was already being paid under contract and that did it – 22 years later I see that image of me on social media EVERY DAY, so I think both Oakley and I were happy with the outcome. They did an anniversary model of 20 glasses in 2020 that sold out in minutes, and gave me number 1/20 so that was lovely.
You’re currently a sports analyst for NBC, was working in sports media in the plans when you retired from competing or something you fell into?
A little of both. Never thought early in my career that I would do that after I was done competing, but towards the end of my career I got a chance to work for British television at the world championships because of an injury, and that was when I knew that’s where I’d go after retiring from competing.
You attended UCLA, how was your time at the school?
UCLA is the best. I wasn’t exactly Mr. Social but the friends I made during my time there are for life.
With the advancements in training and technology over the years do you think if you were competing now you could have been even better then you were/ pushed yourself to new heights?
We know more now about sprinting. The shoes are better, the tracks are better. No doubt I’d record faster times now than then.