Longhorns Olympic Trials Q&A: Trey Hardee
June 12, 2012
AUSTIN, Texas -- The decathlon is one of the most epic physical tests in all of sports. Comprised of 10 events, as far-ranging as the 110 meter hurdles and discus throw, and competed over two days, the decathlon identifies the world's most versatile athletes.
Trey Hardee, an NCAA champion in the event while at Texas, has won back-to-back decathlon World Championships - just the third athlete in IAAF decathlon history to garner repeat titles.
He qualified for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing but did not finish the decathlon because of misses in the pole vault. Hardee responded, however, with a 2009 World Championships victory in Berlin with a career-best total of 8,790 points.
Hardee's last decathlon was his 2011 World Championships win in Korea last August, and he recently visited with TexasSports.com as he sets his focus on London.
How are you a better athlete for the decathlon now than in 2008? It's not so much that age, the number, matters. You just have more experience. I've been fortunate enough to make a few teams now and get in some international experience. You know what to expect a little better, and you can plan accordingly. The success that I've had also gives me confidence. Whereas, traveling to the Olympics last time, I really didn't know what to expect. Honestly, I wasn't even thinking about what to expect, I was just going over there. I was hyper-focused on myself and winning a medal, but I got into the moment and when it wasn't all going perfectly, I kind of let my guard down. I wasn't prepared for both the physical and mental tests, and what that was going to feel like.
How many actual decathlons do you compete in per year? Two to three. You kind of let the calendar year dictate that, and my health dictates that as well. In an ideal world, you do one in late May, the U.S. Championships and then whatever is after that - World Championships, Olympics, or whatever it might be.
Has your diet evolved into a significant part of your training regimen? I've heard coaches say this since I was in middle school - if you want your body to perform well you have to give it good fuel. That for me has been a trial by error and really a process of fine-tuning. It's hard to just give up junk food and soda. I went from eating fast food daily to now I rarely even eat processed food. I can tell when I've eaten poorly a couple days in a row because of how I feel. I'd say my diet is just really sensitive. I can feel my performance increase or decrease based on what I'm putting in my body. I listen to my body. I eat when I'm hungry.
Can you describe the physical aftermath of a decathlon? You're just relieved. Finally, I get a good night's sleep, because it's two hard, miserable 12-hour days. A huge weight is lifted off your shoulders. When you get home, just take a couple days and all we'll do is go to Barton Springs or stand-up paddle board, just something to get off the track. You still want to sweat a little bit, but really won't get back into full-on training for about seven to 10 days.
You've won back-to-back World Championships (2009, 2011). How were those two wins significant for you? The first one was confirmation that I was doing things right. It was the initial goal I set for myself at the beginning of that season. I knew I could win if I was on and healthy. So, that win was gratifying to know that the things we do, and how we train, were the right things. The second one, I was ready to set the world on fire, but got sick right before the meet. My emotions and and goals had to change a little bit. The mentality was the same as in 2009, but after getting sick, it became about more about finishing and hopefully winning a medal.
How is your training so far? I had Tommy John surgery in September, so we wanted to let dictate how everything would fall in. The outdoor season has been going great. I'm in that time now where a lot of attention is being paid to the details, and you have to try and not get anxious. We know we're ready. I feel fit. I want to be excited but not anxious.
Is patience sort of the hidden ingredient in your training? It feels like everything is so far away, but when you're training and looking at a calendar, there's never enough time. It's a delicate process.
What is a training day like for you? Training is both complicated and simple. I'm up here every morning doing strength stuff, general body maintenance stuff. As early as I can make myself get up, I'm in the weight room. Then I'll take a couple hours to regroup, and eat lunch, then it's on the track for technical sessions and running until the sun starts going down. It's like that pretty much day-in and day-out.
That's not a bad day job, is it? I am a professional athlete. I get paid to do what I do. But there are not many sports like track and field, where it's so pure and black-and-white. Everybody is a specimen of physiological wonder. It's cool just to be able to compete with those guys and do the training and constantly try to figure out how to get faster, get stronger, throw farther. It's fun to learn and grow with a set of coaches like I have here at The University. We've tweaked things every year.
I always wanted to be a professional athlete. Growing up, my main goal was to play collegiate basketball. But I went from one sport to the next, and that was football to basketball to pole vault. I began pole vaulting and loved it. That got me into college and the decathlon became the next thing.
The UT tradition at the Olympics is pretty special. How does it feel to be part of that? Back in 2008, it was just an honor. It was really cool to be there in the village and be around Team USA as a whole, and we had close to 30 athletes and staff from UT. It was a cool experience, because you don't feel alone. This year, I'm really excited to actually lead the charge and represent The University of Texas better than I did the last time.