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I do not need to cheat to win: Fredericks

Namibian sprint legend Frankie Fredericks finally arrived for the Afro-Asian Games ? he had missed his earlier flight.

othersports Updated: Oct 30, 2003 00:52 IST

Namibian sprint legend Frankie Fredericks finally arrived in Hyderabad for the Afro-Asian Games late on Tuesday night — he had missed his earlier flight. Coming from a continent of long-distance runners, Fredericks is a rare breed — an African sprinter who zoomed to the top of the world. On Wednesday, he talked about his experiences in the world of athletics in an exclusive chat with HT.

Excerpts:

What keeps you going at the age of 36?

A: What is the difference between a 36-year-old and a 21-year-old? Nothing as far as I am concerned. You can keep going as long as you are fit. I think I can still race and I’ll retire only when I am tired. At least, at this moment I am not tired.

But then, I might start feeling tired right after the Afro-Asian Games and I might quit. This is the end of the season and I haven’t planned my next season yet.

Does that mean you might not run in the Athens Olympics?

A: I don’t know. As I said, if I feel tired tomorrow, I’ll retire. Athens is still far away. I really do not know what’s going to happen in between. But then, I have won a silver in Olympics and not gold. A gold is obviously what an athlete wants.

The Abuja meet was your last All-African Games...

A: Yes, that is true. The Abuja Games were my last African Games and that also means I can retire from running in the four years between the Abuja Games and the next All-African Games.

Most of the top athletes have skipped the Afro-Asian Games. What brings you here?

A: I am a proud African and a proud Namibian. I always love to be seen in African and Namibian colours. When the pride of Africa and my country is at stake, it is my duty to stand up. It really doesn’t matter that other top athletes from Africa are not here. Doesn’t really make a difference to me.

Africa is known to produce long-distance runners, but you have broken that rule by excelling in sprint.

A: It is nice to rise to the top of the world as a sprinter from Africa. Yes, we have a history of long-distance running but when I took to the event, there were a few sprinters in Africa doing well. I started off my career as a sprinter and stuck to it, even though long-distance running was the craze.

Small under-developed countries like Namibia and St Kitts and Nevis produce champions while a huge country like India fails to do so. Why is that so?

A: I guess it is the will-power. We believe we can do it. We believe in ourselves and the people in our country believe in us. You really do not need much to take up running, something which the poorest of countries can provide. What we lack is proper training.

To make up for that, did you ever think of shifting to Europe or the US like Wilson Kipketer or some other Kenyans?

A: Never. As I told you, I am a proud African and a proud Namibian. I am going to run only for Namibia till the end. I get enough opportunities in my country and there is absolutely no need to shift to another country.

Recently, some top athletes tested positive for banned substances. How do you look at this issue?

A: I really do not know how these athletes who take drugs move around with the gold medal hanging around their necks, knowing they have cheated. I do not need to cheat to win. Even if I come second, it doesn’t matter As long as my conscience is clear, I have not cheated. There are 1.7 million Namibians looking up to me. I cannot put them to shame by taking drugs.

Top athletes like Marion Jones have been named in a recent report?

A: That shows athletes are taking short cuts to success. That also shows that the guys trying to control the dope menace are doing a good job. The fact that athletes cannot escape getting caught is a very good sign and I think they should keep up the good job.

We have seen athletes like Tim Montgomery doing very well in one season, but their form sliding in the next season. Why does that happen?

A: It depends on a lot of things, like an athlete’s preparation for the season. Performance has to slide, that is how we will have new champions. We have a new champion in Kim Collins from St Kitts and Nevis. That is an extremely good sign and it is nice to see the focus shifting out of the US. For the time being, let us bask in Collins’ success.

First Published: Oct 30, 2003 00:37 IST