July 22, 2008
Bubba Thornton (Olympic and Texas men's track and field head coach)
On the Olympic Trials and the U.S. Olympic team: I really want to commend Eugene (Oregon) for putting a little magic back into the community and in the Olympic Trials. What an incredible atmosphere that probably the greatest track meet in the world was held in these last couple of weeks. Sold out, a buzz around the stadium during the competition, and then as the male shot putters started off the competition and we saw Reese Hoffa, Christian (Cantwell) and Adam Nelson. Those guys lined up and really set the stage. Then, we had the 100 meters for both men and women. It's the first time in history that all eight women ran under 11 seconds to make the finals. Then, to run 9.85 and not make the team on the men's side, and then Tyson Gay covered the distance faster than any man has ever covered the distance even though there was a wind assistance, the bar was set. Just one of the greatest Olympic Trials that we've ever had. As you go through the events, as we were doing entries Monday night and going over all the statistics that it takes to make those entries, we only have two athletes that are going to the Olympic Games with a "B" standard. We're three-deep with "A" standards all the way through. It's an incredible team, in fact probably the strongest team we've ever sent to the Olympic Games.
On the recovery period for all athletes after the Trials: I can tell you this in general about all of the explosive events. After the trials, they probably all took five to seven days off. Just rehab type of things. You can imagine how a heavyweight boxer feels after a fight. After you've gone through rounds, take Walter Dix, I'm sure there all taking four to six days off without any kind of real training going on, certainly no competition. That would have been normal, and then you take an injury, that's about a 10-day injury. As all of the athletes have gone through, I know they were all sore and all bruised as they made their way through. There's nothing out there right now that indicates anything is going wrong with any of the athletes. This is just a normal recovery period for all of them. When you're diving for the finish line and doing everything you can to make the team, you can imagine what they were going through during those competitions.
On dealing with the differences in going from America to Beijing: The U.S.O.C. has done a great job of educating all of the team members on what the changes and what's going to happen as we make this journey. To take some of those things and make a positive out of them instead of dwelling maybe on how hard the pillow is, or how hard the bed is. It's going to be different. We're going to a different part of the world, so there's going to be some change. What are we going to do with this change? Are we going to sit there and complain about it, or are we going to use it to make ourselves better? We've talked to most of the athletes about these things and they're ready.
On being the head coach of Team USA: I take this very seriously. I'm extremely proud of the position, but understand my role. It's going to range from coaching, to managing, to giving people ownership in this team to all do their job, to delegate, and to get everybody and make them feel as comfortable as I can. We were (in Eugene) for 14 days, and I felt like I left yesterday. That's how fast the time goes because there's always something going on.
On Leo Manzano: It's easy to talk about Leonel. He represents everything that you're taught growing up in this great country. You show up every day, you work hard, you treat people like you want to be treated, and if you do all of those things, good things can come to you, and that's what he's done. He's been a model student here at The University of Texas and in Marble Falls. You won't ever hear him say one negative thing about anybody. He's been a great student, and then his athleticism speaks for itself. I'm very proud of who he is and where he comes from. What a better example of what really goes on here than have a guy from Marble Falls, come to a great university, make the greatest team in the world, and he did it. This wasn't based on a poll or somebody's opinion. He lined up and did the work, and he made the team.
On keeping a medal count: Here's kind of my answer to the medal count: (The media) are going to do that at the end of each day. It is important. My medal count goal is that at the end of each day, when 91,000 people leave the stadium, they've heard our national anthem so many times that they're humming it as they walk out the door.
On Leo Manzano's legacy: The record book will describe Leo. When you see his name on the board, he's the best that's been through this storied program, and there have been some great people that have been through this program. Time will really tell his history when it's said and done. Is he as good as he's going to be? No. You have to go to the next level and then become engaged in that next level. Jason Vigilante's done a good job of getting him there. He's really close. Nothing he does surprises me.
On his favorite Manzano memory: When we visited in his home, and Jason (Vigilante) and I were driving back to Austin, we talked about what a special person this guy was. I remember when he got his citizenship, a big concern was that he was going to get qualified because our first indoor meet was in Virginia, and while we were there we were going to get to go through the White House. Leo won his first race there which was a 1,000-yard run in typical Leo style, and then to watch him go to the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, and the White House, I remember all of those things. He was proud. You could see it. We talk about how we talk, how we walk. He's always had that little Leo walk that you knew he was bringing it. The pride that he has in everything he's done. To get a degree, to win a NCAA title, to be on a world record-setting team, and then to make an Olympic team probably surpassed some of our thoughts.
On if he feels any pressure: There's not any pressure. Our charge is to help this team get there; to be sure they're ready to go. We know how to do that. We know what we've got to get done and we know how to do it. The pressure is beating the world. It's an exciting time. I don't look at it as pressure; I just look at it as what I do.
Jason Vigilante (Texas associate head coach and Leo Manzano's coach)
On if Manzano has surpassed his original expectations: To make the Olympic team at the point he's done it, his first professional race, I think, would exceed anybody's expectations. However, as a true freshman he won the NCAA 1,500 in 3:37.1, which was I think one of the fastest victories ever in that race, and he beat some amazing opponents. So, I learned very early not to put a lid on my expectations of what he can do. It wouldn't be fair to him. He's a fantastic competitor, so whatever he can do physically will be exceeded by his desire to win a race.
On when he knew Manzano was a special runner: His junior year (of high school), he won the Texas Relays, and he ran 4:06 at the Jerry Thompson Mile. His last 400 was 56 or 57 seconds, which shows a lot of closing speed ability. If you can do those things, you have a chance to win at any level, and he's proven his ability time and time again.
On what has surprised him about Manzano: I saw him run at the Big 12 Indoor this past year. He's running the Distance Medley Relay after the preliminary of the mile, and he got the stick in the lead, and the (runner) from Texas Tech was close enough behind him he could make a race of it. Leo didn't really have the benefit of a jumbotron screen or knowing where the guy was, but he has such natural perception, it's almost like he has eyes in the back of his head. The guy just kept moving closer and closer and closing this gap that wasn't very big to start with, and it seems like at the middle of the final turn with only 75 meters in the race that this guy might actually give Leo a run for his money. And in five, no more than 10, meters distance the race was decidedly over, and everybody in the building says, `Oh my gosh, that was not even close.' He can accelerate so fast, that that is probably one thing that I should not have been impressed by considering all of the races that he's won and everything else, but for an athlete to respond like that is absolutely amazing.
On the outdoor 1,500 meters at the NCAA Championships: There were 15 guys in the field. If (Manzano) were to get caught up with that many people, it's easy to run a race that isn't your own. What I needed to make sure as his coach is that he could use his talents the way he needed to. In doing such, I felt it was best to lead the whole way despite the wind, despite the other competitors who were some fantastic athletes, that he would have to set the tempo and determine the outcome of the race before it really started.
On if there is anyone left in the NCAA to challenge Manzano: I think that it's kind of an unfair question in the sense that he won the NCAA indoor and he won the NCAA outdoor. Obviously, people are going to speculate about Andrew Wheating, who is an amazing talent, but they just ran different races. He's done everything he's been asked to academically, athletically, and he's done it so well. He has (lost) one competition all year, and that one competition was the Olympic Trials to the world champion. He's never lost a race on the (Mike A. Myers Stadium) track in college.
On Manzano's training regimen: We had a lot of respect for the other competitors in the Olympic Trials, so he had to rest quite a bit there. We knew the NCAA was not going to be a gimme, that he wasn't going to be handed that win. In fairness to the guys he raced, he had to rest. He had to make sure he had a great day, because he wasn't going to be able to finish second and close his career the way he wanted to. For the past four weeks, he's been at a reduced volume and a reduced intensity. This week, he's still on cloud nine. He's got to decompress a little bit before we build back up to go to Beijing. We'll be back out here doing some repeat 200s on the track and getting ready. Before that, he's got to let it soak in that his whole life-long dream of 23 years of being an Olympian has come true and he gets to represent the United States.
On Manzano's work ethic: I think he'll forever be proud of the fact that he was born in Mexico, that's who he is. His family coming here with such a work ethic has taught him so much. I think being able to go The University of Texas (from) Marble Falls High School and race here, he feels grateful that he's been able to grow so much and that as a result of being grateful, representing the United States is almost in a way representing who he is and what America is, really. You have to work for your dream, and he has certainly put in the work and he has certainly earned his spot on the Olympic team, and really that is the American dream.
On Manzano's relationship with his hometown, Marble Falls: The last thing I told him before he went out to run the final at the Trials was to remember those people back in Marble Falls are going to be watching you, and that's big for Leo. He feels so much support, and he's so proud to say he's from Marble Falls. He really does derive a sense of pride, a sense of family, belonging to that community of Marble Falls, I think, forever is going to be in his heart, and he's really grateful for that.
Mario Sategna (Texas assistant coach and Trey Hardee and Andra Manson's coach)
On if he's proud of his athletes qualifying for the Olympic Games: Very much so. It's an awesome opportunity for everyone involved. Anytime a track coach at the collegiate level gets to see athletes do what both of these athletes have been able to achieve, and continue that at the next level, is great. You knew that they were capable of that, but when it all kind of came to fruition, it's a special time.
On Trey Hardee's goals for the Olympics: I think for Trey, he realizes that he's not just going there for experience. He wants to do the very best that he can and put himself in position to medal.
On Andra Manson's goals for the Olympics: Andra's biggest task right now is going to be getting through the qualifying round. He knows he's going to have to jump at or near his best to survive that because when you take all the best jumpers in the world, when you look at all the rankings coming in, most likely it will probably take a 7-6.5, 7-7, somewhere in that range, to advance. He's very capable of doing that, that's what the training is geared towards right now.
On the training schedule between the Trials and the Olympics: I think the first week for all those guys, coming off such an emotional high after the Olympic Trials, they needed to just kind of have some down time. There's enough time now, with the preparations here before they depart for Beijing and go through the team processing, to go back and go in the weight room and get some general training in. As we get closer to the actual event, then we'll obviously start to fine tune more and more with the technical components.
On the support given to the athletes from the Texas track and field staff: It's been a special time not just for me but for everybody involved. These guys have been supported, whether it's in the strength and conditioning staff with Trey Zepeda, with our equipment managers making sure all of their stuff is taken care of, Tara (Burnett) our trainer has worked numerous hours making sure these guys are ready to go. It's special for everybody.
On each athlete's attitude going into Beijing: Andra was one jump away in 2004 from making the Olympic team. There's some pluses that came out of that. Now, he's on his way to being a graduate of The University of Texas and had a stellar career here for us. I think when Trey Hardee broke the collegiate record in the decathlon; you very much knew that he was well on his way. It is very, very tough to make the Olympic team in the U.S., but the nice thing is if you get over that first hurdle, that first barrier, then you're one of the best in the world. Not only are you going to the Olympics for the experience, but you're putting yourself in medal contention. That's the next dream for these guys. They don't just want to be a part of the Olympics and take that for granted, to say, `Well, in four more years, I might have the opportunity to come back.' They realize they want to seize the moment and take advantage of the opportunity and compete to their very best.
On what he will tell the athletes before they leave for Beijing: Enjoy the moment. Enjoy every part, from the Opening Ceremonies, understanding that we're going to be in a completely different environment. Expect the unexpected; obviously they're going to do everything they can to provide access for the athletes in terms of their meals and the training is as closely related as they would have here in the U.S. But at the same time, it's the Olympic Games. Access to coaches and trainers and all of that might be completely different. We're going to plan for worst-case scenario, but still at the end of the day, it's going to be about being in the top three.
On what it means for The University of Texas to have so many Olympians:
This is a special, special time for The University of Texas because in our own weight room a lot of times you're getting a chance to see a lot of the swimmers work out, you're seeing some of the divers that have made the Olympic team along with some of the head coaches in Coach (Bubba) Thornton and Coach (Eddie) Reese. To have three guys, with Andra, Trey and Leo Manzano, it's kind of a dream come true for a program. It goes to once again show the support that the university provides for these guys. When they were done with their eligibility for us, they could've gone anywhere in America and trained, but they realized the opportunity that's available to them here at Texas, and they've chose to stay and it's great that it worked out.