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Brathwaite: ‘I will defend my title!’
By Alan Harris
THE time has come for Ryan M. Brathwaite to once more prove himself on the international sporting stage.
At the tender age of 21, Brathwaite became the youngest-ever World Champion sprint hurdler after he won gold in the 110 metre hurdles at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, Germany.
Besides Obadele Thompson’s 100m bronze medal at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, his performance was by far Barbados’ brightest moment in international athletics to date.
Upon his return to Barbados, he formally received the title, Ambassador His Excellency Ryan Brathwaite.
But is Brathwaite, now 22, ready to defend his title at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea?
According to him and his Barbados-based coach, Alwyn Babb, the answer is a resounding “Yes”.
2010 was nothing short a difficult year for Brathwaite. He struggled with his technique and failed to lower his personal best of 13.14secs, his winning time in Berlin.
To compound matters, he suffered a severe hamstring injury halfway through his competitive season.
But things seem to be looking up for the former Lester Vaughn student.
“I feel I will peak at the right time. I’m coming off a hamstring injury, so for me its a matter of putting in the requisite training and peaking at the right [time],” Brathwaite told the Barbados Advocate in an exclusive interview from his training base in Oklahoma.
“I’ve also been losing some weight, so I think I will be in great shape for the South Korea.”
The 2011 World Championships are slated for August 27 to September 4. Brathwaite will be facing off against Olympic champion Dayron Robles of Cuba and former world champion Liu Xiang of China, two athletes who, due to injury, were not present in 2009 when the Barbadian won gold in Berlin.
“I know its going to be a tough year. Whatever happens, I think a sub-12.9sec time will win at the World Championships,” he said.
“I can only say what time I’m hoping to run. I don’t know about my competition. I will do my best and then the rest is up to God. He will guide me. Robles and Xiang will most certainly be good competition but I’ll be ready for them.”
But besides the upcoming World Championships, Brathwaite said his main goal was to win a medal at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
“If I medal there [London 2012], it will mean that I have accomplished my dream.”
“That is the big one we want,” reiterated coach Alwyn Babb.
“Based on the number of athletes who are emerging and the talent they possess, the winning run at the Olympics will be near the world record – currently 12.87secs set by Robles of Cuba. I believe Ryan is capable of it.”
Speaking about Brathwaite’s current form, Babb said: “I am glad that he is not up there at this time. If he were to be at his peak right now, chances are he would hit a plateau. After a year of hard competition and training, you need to back off a bit. The intensity of training would have eased off and it would have given him an opportunity to work on different things in his training regime. He will now take with him those things that worked in training and he will get rid of the things that didn’t. He certainly has the talent to bounce back from his injury.”
And what about having the weight of Barbados’ expectations on his young shoulders?
“The Ryan I know is not nervous at all”, Babb, who just recently picked up his second consecutive ‘Coach of the Year’ award at the 2010 National Sports Awards, said.
“I just want the Barbadian public to back off a little. When he went to the World Championships in 2009, there was no hype about him going. He just went and he did what he had to do. The expectations were not there. What was there was the good luck and the good will. I want that to continue.
“He is the defending world champion and we expect him to defend his title. It’s not going to be easy but lets support him in the efforts that he gives this year.”