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By LARRY VAUGHT
It’s a little different perspective today, but I got to spend time with four-time Olympic sprint medalist Ato Boldon this week while he was working as an instructor at the Maximum Velocity Track & Field Academy at Centre College. I thought you might enjoy what Boldon, now a NBC-TV track analyst who will be working the Olympic Games, had to say about Lexington natives Tom Hammond and Tyson Gay as well as his take on UK’s national championship.
Question: What is it like working with Lexington native Tom Hammond on NBC?
Boldon: “That is actually a funny story because I have been working with him since 2007 and obviously (Lexington native) Tyson Gay has been a big part of a lot of our broadcasts. After about a year I said to Tom, ‘Why is it that you introduce Tyson Gay’s high school and not anybody else’s high school?’ He went, ‘Yeah, because I went to the same high school.’ Now I understand the Lafayette High School connection.
“But Tom is a pretty big deal everywhere. He is an amazing person and pretty much the best there is. Everybody knows Tom is a great guy, but I got a chance to see it first hand. Tom gave me a lot of confidence by letting me be me. Tom’s greatest gift in his job is that he adapts to whoever sits next to him. He will work with people in basketball, horse racing; he works with me. Everybody is different, but some how Tom finds a way to just let the person who is doing the color analysis do their thing and he does his thing. It’s hard to describe, but he’s the best at it.”
Question: What are your expectations for Tyson Gary regarding his bid to make the Olympic team?
Boldon: “I feel like Tyson and I have kind of grown up together because my broadcast career started with his career at Arkansas. While he was doing great things at Arkansas, I was kind of figuring my way out in the broadcast world. Now he is kind of at the top of his field and I am on top of mine in terms of being a sprint analyst and I can tell you that I did not expect Tyson Gay to look as good ash he did in New York (last weekend). Having said that, I went on the air and said I thought he would run 10 (seconds) flat (in the 100-meter dash) and he ran 10 flat and that was great. But in the back of my mind, I was like the surgeries, the layoff, I just wasn’t sure. It bothered me because I feel like Tyson makes the competition better. When we are talking about the Trials and the Olympic Games, it is better to have the American record holder there. He just such a great competitor and great guy.
“In terms of what I expect of him in the U.S. Trials, I had Justin Gatlin winning until I saw Tyson in New York. I went back home and just submitted my picks to NBC.com and I went to Justin Gatlin and backspaced over that and put Gatlin second. I feel like Tyson has a point to prove even to the critics like me who don’t think he can come back after what he’s been through. That’s good. Every athlete has to find that kind of motivation and I feel like Tyson is going to win the Olympic Trials.
“Now do I think he is going to win an Olympic gold medal? I am not so sure about that. But you never know. Bolt false started out of the 100-meter World Championship final. People get injured. All sorts of stuff happens. Will Tyson have a shot? I think if he stays healthy, yes he will. It will be good for him because even with his resume, he does not have an Olympic medal of any kind, not even a relay. I am eager to see him do well at the Olympics.”
Question: Since you are a basketball fan, what did you think of Kentucky winning the national championship?
Boldon: “I am a huge basketball fan and Kentucky was great. I am not as big a college fan in all honesty as I am NBA, but I was just happy to see them there. It’s a good tie in to the whole Tyson Gay thing. If you are having the Olympic final, you want the American record holder in it. It makes it a better competition. I always feel like when programs like Kentucky, UCLA, North Carolina, Duke are having good seasons, it makes for a better college basketball season. Of course, UCLA is not doing so well, but it is a better college basketball season when Kentucky is having a good year and they had a great year which I am sure people in Kentucky liked a lot.”