RunBlogRun opines: In this third column on the WeltklasseZH by Stuart Weir, I was impressed by the sense of humanity he notes with CJ. I have observed this sprinter before, but never interviewed him. I want to though, as the British athletes have different challenges than the American athletes, and that is part of what makes this sport fascinating.
Stuart will be covering Brussels and Newcastle for us, I look forward to reading our friend’s observations on those two fine end of season events.
Chijindu Ujah, by Stuart Weir
CJ was the surprise winner of the Diamond League 100 meters, beating Ben Youssef Meite by one thousands of a second in 9.97. CJ described it as “I redeemed myself” in what had been an “amazing season”.
I feel well qualified to write about CJ, having seen him run in the World relays in Bahamas, Rome DL (winner), Oslo DL (second), European Team Championships in France, London DL (winner), Monaco DL (fourth) and Birmingham DL (winner) as well as the World Champs, UK Champs etc this year.
For someone who had won four Diamond League 100s (five including Zá½•rich), plus, a gold medal in the 4 by 100 relay at the 2017 World Championships, to feel the need to redeem himself says a lot about the man. He is referring to the fact that in London 2017 – as he had done in Rio 2016 – he was the fastest man not to make the 100m final. His celebrations in Zá½•rich were tinged with disappointment as his first comment afterwards was, “It is a shame I did not get it done at World Champs”.
Still only 23, he comes across as confident but not arrogant, making comments like: “I knew what I was capable of” and “all season that I have been in good shape and I proved myself today” and “I knew I could win tonight”. At the same time he realistically admitted that: “Any one of the seven guys could have won it”.
Some athletes make it all sound very complex. With CJ it is all about simplicity: “My coach said of tonight ‘The person who makes the least mistakes wins the race’ and I did that”. His race plan for the Diamond League final was “Keep in smooth, keep it simple”.
His attitude to beating the USA and winning relay gold was typically feet on the ground, don’t get carried away: “Winning the relay at London 2017 was nice but I needed to make sure the next few races were good”.
He was also very aware of who he was running against in Justin Gatlin and Asafa Powell: “I watched some of these guys in the Golden League and Diamond League and now it is amazing to run against them and rub shoulders with them and now to get the victory shows where I am heading in the next couple of years”.
That was his last race of the season. Time to rest and then prepare for 2018 where he will target the World Indoor Championships in Birmingham in March, the Commonwealth Games in Australia in April and the European Championships in Berlin in August. Winning all three might be a tall order so the down to earth Ujah says “I want to win at least two of the three”. And who would bet against it.