We talk Rio 2016 with Matthew Quinn
08 August 2016
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Brad Brown: Welcome onto this edition of Old Mutual Live, great things start here, great things start now and what a weekend it was, the start of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. I love the Olympics, it’s a pity I have to work, I could literally sit in front of the telly non-stop. I’d actually need more than one telly because there’s so much sport on, I think it’s brilliant.
It’s a sports lover’s dream over the next couple of weeks. We’re joined now by someone who not only loves sport in general, but he loves track and field. Former South Africa sprinter, Matthew Quinn. Matt, welcome onto Old Mutual Live, thanks for joining us.
Matthew Quinn: Absolute pleasure Brad. How’s it going buddy?
BB: Very good. Matt, the Olympics, there’s just something special about it?
MQ: It’s an amazing event every four years, the build-up has been great, there’s so much energy around this Olympics. I know there’s been issues coming into it, but right now everyone has got their eyes focused on Rio and the athletes are having a great time out there and they’re performing, so that’s what we want.
Wearing the Green and Gold
BB: Matt, you’ve represented South Africa, you’re a World Championship Gold Medal winner in the 4 x 100m relay. From an athlete’s perspective, what’s it like representing your country. We’ll talk about just track and field, but there’s something special about Olympics and we’ll touch on that in a moment. What’s it like putting on the Green and Gold, knowing that you are the best in your country. Representing everyone, the entire nation, on a stage like the Olympics or a World Championships for example?
MQ: Now that you put it that way, it makes me kind of nervous. Athletes don’t really think like that! I’m joking! It’s one of the highest things we can do. As an athlete you really want to represent your country. Track and field, you’re all about yourself, you are an individual. But at the end of the day you’re still putting on that Green and Gold vest and that’s what it’s about.
You strive to perform and run as fast as you can, jump as far as you can, jump as high as you can or throw, whatever it is. But you aim to do the best you can when you put that vest on. Because it comes around once a year, you’re either at a World Championships, or a Commonwealth Games, but every four years the special event comes around called the Olympic Games.
It’s just the one event that is clear head and shoulders above the rest where you really just want to perform out your socks, make the country proud. Because you know the entire country is watching. Olympics not just about athletics fans or swimming fans, it’s about an entire nation watching to see what their athletes are doing. So it’s an incredible experience.
BB: Matt, the Olympics is special in the sense that if you go to the World Championships, as an example, for track and field, it’s just track and field athletes there. You go to various meets throughout the year and you see the same sort of people over and over.
But the Olympics is truly special in the fact that it’s so many different sporting codes and we see it time and time again at opening ceremonies. I had a friend who was at the London 2012 Games and they were taking photos of Novak Djokovic and they were taking photos of this one and that one. It’s the whose-who of world sport, it’s not just whatever your sporting code is. You get exposed to such more at Olympic Games.
MQ: And that’s exactly what the Games are all about. I mean I’m a track and field freak, I won’t even deny that. But come the Olympics, suddenly I’m watching basketball, I’m watching gymnastics, swimming, diving, synchronised swimming, whatever it is, you just get excited by what the Olympics is about. You’ve got the best in the world, well, excuse golf this year. But other than that, you’ve really got the best in the world competing for a Gold Medal.
The allure of the Olympics
It’s about becoming the Olympic Champion. Yes, you could have won Wimbledon, you can have won Diamond League or a swimming Grand Prix; but when it eventually comes down, at the end of the year when you look back, if you haven’t won that Gold Medal, it actually means nothing.
BB: Matt, it’s no disrespect to individual athletes, but I think of someone like Wayde van Niekerk as an example, he’s a phenomenal athlete in his own right. In track and field he’s this massive star, but for instance in the world of football, no one knows who Wayde van Niekerk is.
He’s going to stand on the same stage, essentially, as someone like Neymar who is playing football for Brazil and that’s a huge thing. I’m not sure if Wayde’s a football fan, he might be, he might not be. Neymar might not even be a blimp on his radar, but it just gives everyone the same opportunity to shine on a global stage.
MQ: It does and Wayde, Liverpool fan, freak, absolutely. So he’s an absolute legend, leave it at that Brad, let’s move on. Yes, football, Neymar, this is exactly what you’re saying is that when it comes to Olympics, you’ve got the world’s greatest stars.
Wayde and track and field, there’ll be hundreds of people, millions of people that know Neymar who won’t know who Wayde is. But this is his opportunity to shine on the same platform as everybody, as Djokovic, as the Bubba Watson’s of the golf world.
Everyone comes up there and they all hang around the village. There’s no such thing of some guys staying differently, most of the guys will stay at the village and that’s what it’s about. You walk into the dining room, there’s Usain Bolt, there’s Djokovic, you get guests coming in that you would never expect and it’s an amazing place to be.
That’s exactly what this Olympics is about and it really puts people on the platform where suddenly, I have no clue who the gymnasts are, but by the end of this two weeks, I’m going to know who the Gold Medallists are, what they did and who they are. I might forget them in a years’ time, but their experience is what the Olympics delivers.
BB: It’s funny you say that Matt because there will be stars that no one has ever heard of who are going to write their name in sporting history over the next two weeks. I think that’s what I love about the Games as well. Let’s talk about some of those athletes that could be writing their name in those history books from a South African point of view. Let’s talk specifically track and field. We’ve got a pretty good team at the Rio 2016 Olympics from a track and field, particularly a track perspective.
Who to look to from South Africa
MQ: We’ve got some real good stars out there at the moment. I mean right now going in, before the start of the Games, we’ve got, most probably 5-6, maybe even seven athletes in the top five in the world and that’s seriously impressive. If you think about Caster number one, you’ve got Wayde, he won World Champs last year, but on time this year he’s most probably third. Rushwahl Samaai in the long jump is 5th. I think Simbine, after his 9.89 is ranked 5th in the world at the moment. LJ van Zyl is 5th. So there’s an incredible amount of talent in this team and it’s really about delivering.
But the one thing about an Olympic Games and you just mentioned it, is that people come out of the woodwork, come out of cracks. People we’ve never heard of deliver incredible performances. We’ve got all these athletes that are most probably in the top five in the world. There will be people that will out-shine and run their socks off to get a medal. That’s what makes the Olympics so special.
BB: It’s all about big match temperament, that’s what it boils down to. Really having things together on the day. Someone who has definitely got BMT’s is Wayde van Niekerk, we’ve spoken about him at length, it’s a pity about the football team he supports apparently…
MQ: Only good people support Liverpool!
BB: I had to get it in there, sorry Matt, but let’s talk about him, he proved that –
MQ: How’s Aston Villa?
BB: Let’s talk about Wayde and his BMT. He showed what he’s capable of at the World Champs last year, he shows that he’s got what it takes and he can step up on the day. I don’t want to put too much pressure on the guy, but he is, if not our best medal hope at these Games?
Wayde and Caster the big medal contenders
MQ: I think Caster, for me, Caster is a definite medal. Caster probably in the same category I’m going to put Wayde in. Between Caster and Wayde, we’ve got two medals. What the colours of those medals are, we don’t know, but Wayde and Caster have got serious BMT going into this. Serious form and serious BMT. They’re not scared, they don’t mind taking on a race.
You’ll find a lot of people that hang back and see what everyone else is doing, these are two athletes that will go out there and will lead from the front. That’s what makes these guys so special, they’re not afraid, they’re at the top of their game. They are ranked one and three in the world at the moment and that’s just on time. If you go back to Wayde did last year at the World Champs, he absolutely demolished Merritt and Kirani James in that final. He has the potential, he’s shown it.
We haven’t had too many match-ups this year, especially when it comes to Wayde running against Kirani and Merritt. So this is going to be one of the most talked about, the men’s 400m final is going to be one of the most talked about events. Because you’ve got three athletes that could potentially win the Gold Medal. My money is going to be on Wayde, so I’m going Caster and Wade going for Gold there. But really, Wayde and Caster, both serious athletes, top of their game at the moment and should deliver us a Gold Medal each.
BB: Matt, let’s just finally touch on the 100m and the 200m. Obviously the 100m is the big event that everyone watches at the track and field side of things of the Games. Akani Simbine’s performance just a few weeks before the Games started was phenomenal. You watch the replay of that and the TV guys didn’t even know who he was.
All of a sudden here’s this guy winning this race in a phenomenal time. He’s shown that he’s world class, he’s really good. Chances of a medal there, is that a bit of a stretch too far, would making the final be a good goal for him or does he have an outside chance of a medal?
MQ: Definitely an outside chance of a medal. But I think we’ve got to be realistic and he’s got to go through the rounds and execute his race plan properly. The difference between Akani in Hungary when he ran his 9:89 and everywhere else when he’s run 9:97 to a 10:03, that’s been his average this year, has been a start. When he’s run 9:97 and 10:03, it’s been something that he’s been working on for a while, he hasn’t quite worked his start up. He kind of steps off the block and then he gets running.
What he did in Hungary is he actually blew out the block. We know he’s got a top end that can match the world’s best, so it was all about trying to execute that start. That’s exactly what he did in Hungary. If he can reproduce that in the rounds, going in, so he’s got first round, semi-finals and then finals. If he can reproduce that start, absolutely, he’ll make that final. Once you’re in the final and especially in 100m, it’s then seriously about your BMT. Because if you can execute your race, then you’re in for it. If he can run a 9:89, he’s got a very good chance of a Silver/Bronze Medal.
BB: That would be amazing. One of the disappointments, I feel, is the 4 x 100m. Matt, we’ve been following our sprinters for the last year or two and there’s been some amazing performances. Disappointing that we’re not entering a team in there? I think we would have had a good chance?
MQ: Look, I think the rules changed this year, well actually it’s been for the last couple of years. So I think ASA did drop the ball on this one, Just to get some background into it is that, what was it last year they had the World Relay Champs. The teams that made the final were automatically given the first eigth berths at Rio.
Then what happened between then and qualifying, which ended on 11th of July is that every other team that wanted to compete had to fill the eight spots that were remaining. Because only 16 teams would be invited to the Olympic Games. The other eight teams would had to have run, on aggregate, they took the fastest eigth teams, sorry, that’s really not making sense.
World Relay Champs, they took the top eigth teams, then they said to the rest: For the other eigth spots, the fastest eigth teams on an aggregate of two times. They would take the fastest eight and that would complete the 16.
What happened is that ASA never got the team together. They never organised races, they never got the guys to race and actually compete. They left it until the African Champs when they ran the 38:84 and then the Saturday before the cut-off they went to Belgium, they went a B Grade team out. I think they ran 40:03, absolutely doesn’t get you nowhere in the world or relays.
Not once did we have a team that was Akani, Wayde, Anaso and Bruintjies running, because that’s your top four. You’ve got three sub-10 athletes and you’ve got a 19:87 200m athlete, that’s disappointing. There has been some hiccups in it. Where the blame lies? Maybe it’s ASA, maybe it’s the athletes fault, who knows. But at the end of the day, the guys never got opportunity to race and they never got an opportunity to race the four fastest guys in a relay.
BB: Matthew Quinn, thank you so much for your time here on Old Mutual Live, I love chatting athletics with you, enjoy the rest of the Games. Let’s hope you’re right about those medals, I think it would be amazing.
MQ: Listen, I think track and field is going to deliver some good medals, some good performances. I think we’re going to get a host of athletes in the finals and hope that’s going to produce some really good medals for us.