Former Longhorn Sanya Richards runs on final day of Texas Relays
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- His eyes hidden behind the trademark sunglasses, Jeremy Wariner spelled out his two goals for 2008 -- an Olympic gold medal in the 400 meters in Beijing and that elusive world record.
The defending Olympic and world champion, Wariner exudes nothing but confidence that he can get both.
"It's in my grasp," Wariner said of the record of 43.18 seconds set by his agent, Michael Johnson, in 1999. "Once I put the perfect race together, I'll get it."
Wariner ran Saturday at the Texas Relays, pulling his regular anchor leg for the Waco All-Stars in the invitational 1,600 relay. His team cruised to an easy win in 3 minutes, 0.65 seconds, the fastest mark in the world this year. It was one of several top marks set Saturday set on a sunny and warm track after Friday's chilly weather.
Wariner has talked about the record before, but he surprised many when he abruptly split with longtime coach Clyde Hart in January in a contract dispute. Hart is internationally regarded as a king maker in the long sprints and tutored Johnson before he coached Wariner.
Wariner is now coached by Baylor University assistant Michael Ford and said he is very happy with his training in the run up to the Olympic trials this summer.
"My training is going great. I'm exactly where I want to be," Wariner said.
Ford said a big reason Wariner picked him as his coach was that he wouldn't change much during training. He thinks Wariner is ready to set the record.
"Every year is a year to shoot for a record. He's set that as his goal for this year," Ford said. "I told him when I took over, 'You put a lot of pressure on me to get that world record.' I think mentally he's there."
Wariner said Johnson regularly tells him he wants him to break the record.
"My race has to be perfect for me to the get the record," Wariner said. "A lot of people might think my race is perfect (now), but in my mind, I know it's not."
Other top Olympic champions and hopefuls for the 2008 games at the Texas Relays included Tyson Gay, the defending world champion in the 100 and 200. Gay didn't run an individual sprint, but anchored the USA Blue team in the men's invitational 400 relay and ran the opening leg of the 1,600 relay.
In the first race, the team of Preston Perry, Leroy Dixon, Mike Rodgers and Gay finished in 38.63 seconds, best in the world this year.
Gay said he's shooting for Olympic gold in the 100 and 200 but will leave chasing records to Wariner.
Sprint rival Asafa Powell of Jamaica holds the 100 world record of 9.74 set last year. Johnson set the record in the 200 in 19.32 in 1996.
"I'm definitely not going to chase any records. I'll take a gold medal any day," Gay said. "I want to focus on gold medals first."
Gay said he had to run through some soreness in his right foot but thinks it won't be a nagging problem.
"It's going to be OK. It's a little scary being an Olympic year," he said.
With Gay concentrating on the relays, Richard Thompson of LSU won the invitational 100 with a very fast time of 10.0 seconds.
Sanya Richards, the dominant 400 meters runner in the world, just hopes she can get to the Olympics in her best event. She missed the world championships in the 400 when she was hampered by chronic illness and failed to qualify.
She won an Olympic relay gold medal in 2004. But Richards, the 2006 world female track athlete of the year, is still seeking a top individual medal on the world stage.
On Saturday, she ran the anchor leg for the USA Red team that won the women's invitational 400 relay with a time of 42.25, also the fastest in the world this year. She also ran the final leg of the 1,600 relay as he team post another world's best in 3:23.49. Richards was already in the lead when she took the baton and cruised to the win.
"It was awesome to be on the track today," Richards said.
Missing the world championships "definitely humbled me," she said.
"But it also allowed me to focus on what I have to do. I'm training as hard as I can."