Words: Alice Ramsey
At the age of 35, English sprint athlete Marlon Devonish is definitely not lacking in energy or youthful enthusiasm. A veteran of three Olympic games and gold medallist in 4 x 100m relay in 2004, Devonish insists he has “every intention” of competing in the London 2012 Olympics. But what would the competition mean to him this time round?
“Everything. I struggle to imagine exactly what it would feel like. Competing for my own country in my home capital would be the biggest and best experience of my life. I remember walking out into the stadium at Athens, seeing the English flag, and it filled me with patriotism. The Olympics being in London means it has access to everybody in Great Britain, and to have the population behind you, spurring you on, would be incredible.” And it seems like nothing can get in the way of Marlon’s burning ambition. “I feel completely focused and I’m making sure that I’m in the best possible position to represent my country. I want to gain at least a medal, if not a gold.”
Yet with less than a year to go before the games are under way, it’s not just Devonish, ambassador for the new Sony W Series Sport Walkman (www.sony.co.uk), who is aiming to be stood on the rostrum with the crowd singing his national anthem. The rest of the world’s elite are training hard and the competition is tougher than ever–something Marlon knows better than most. Surprisingly though, this does not deter him. “I’m extremely driven and motivated. I’m capable of mixing with the best, and I am always adapting my training to do so.”
Does he feel the same way about competing against racing phenomenon, Usain Bolt? “I am not phased by him. I’ve raced against Usain many times, and I’m very aware of how well he is currently running. Although he is one of my main competitors, I know I can still execute a great performance.”
However, the question for Great Britain’s nation is also whether we can expect success from our sprint relay team. At the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Marlon was disqualified and eliminated in the qualification heat, together with Simeon Williamson, Tyrone Edgar and Craig Pickering. But he is adamant that the team will get it right this time–“I am very confident that we can be the best team out there.” And although Devonish has not spent a great deal of time with the group as it is still early on in the season, team mentality is something that is clearly very close to his heart. “As cliché as ‘there is no I in team’ sounds, I truly believe in that saying. It is absolutely fundamental and crucial that your team gels together to achieve the ultimate goal.”
“The most important thing is to believe in yourself”
Yet alongside team rationality, Marlon also stresses the importance of a personal connection with sport. “To an extent, you do have to be single-minded. The most important thing is to believe in yourself, because without belief, you cannot succeed. An athlete’s mentality is very significant.”
We are well aware that Devonish has experienced frustration and disappointment at various racing events, though. Is it difficult for a sportsman of this calibre to remain positive in the face of defeat? “What people often forget is that I always enjoy the experience. You have to take each day, and the season, as it comes, really. You will sometimes lose, but you shouldn’t ever be disheartened by that.”
“I guess you have to surround yourself with the right people, so that on days when you don’t really feel like training, your teammates can get you motivated and out onto the track.”
To get motivated personally, Devonish uses the Sony W Series Walkman mp3 player, as it is water resistant so great for long work-outs in the rainy English weather.
“When you get older, you understand more about how your body works”
One thing is for certain–his confident and self-assured nature is definitely genuine. But has it always been so? With over thirteen years of experience competing against the world’s elite, has anything changed and developed? “Primarily my attitude. When I was younger, I just used to throw myself into anything without thinking in depth about it, but when you get older, you understand more about how your body works.”
“You must always ensure that no energy is wasted”, says Devonish, “and it is absolutely imperative that you have a slow progression to allow you to peak at the right times.”
So could the London 2012 Olympics be the ‘peak’ performance of his racing career? We will have to wait and see. He certainly views it as a momentous event: “When you compete on a smaller scale, there is a lot less fuss. But with the Olympics, literally everything is done on a massive scale. It is huge.”
“An active child makes an active adult”
“I have already seen the stadium in London, and judging by my three previous experiences, it looks and feels very ‘Olympic’. Any seat is a good seat, and no matter where you are, you are guaranteed a grand view of the action. It will be an experience of a lifetime.”
The Olympics such a huge event they are bound to have repercussions throughout British society. “I predict it being a massive catalyst for getting our kids involved in sport. An active child makes an active adult, and I hope that the legacy of the games will inspire the nation, (particularly the younger generations), to go that extra mile. It will make us known to the world as a sporting country, and we should be proud of that.”
Whatever happens, Devonish promises to bow out of racing once the 2012 Olympics are over. What does the future hold in store? “I would like to do some coaching, because I want to put something back into sport. I love to challenge myself, so I wouldn’t just want to coach for athletics, I’d like to do it for many sports because I can apply my experiences in reducing speed, staying motivated and understanding technicality to almost any discipline. I would also like to pursue art–I’ve never really had the opportunity to because of how time consuming my training has been.”
With a hugely successful career behind him, and many opportunities open to explore once the Olympics are over, his biggest aspiration and motivation now lies in 2012. Let’s hope he goes “out with a bang”.
Olympic relay gold medalist, Marlon Devonish, ambassador for the new Sony W Series Sport Walkman – www.sony.co.uk
“The most important thing is to believe in yourself”