Brianna McNeal, photo by Stuart Weir
This is one of Stuart Weirs’ two features this week. I am just a couple of days behind. Enjoy this piece on Brianna McNeal, part 2 of Stuart’s feature on this fine Olympic and World champion.
15 Questions to Brianna McNeal
1. How did you get into track initially and why hurdles?
I started running when I was in High School. I was always told that I was very fast and very athletic so I tried out for the [High School] track team and from then on, I started running. I wanted to do hurdles because I thought it was fun and interesting and not a boring event. Running over obstacles for 100 metres is an intriguing race and it caught my eye.
2. When you ran 12:26 at the US Champs in 2013, were you as surprised as the rest of us?
I was very surprised at the time but at the same time I always knew that I had a great time within me. It just took hard work and dedication to get there. I just came out there and ran my own race. My goal was to make the US team. I did not say, “I want to break the American record”. I didn’t say “I want to win the US championship”. I just said, “Come out, do the job you can do and make the team”. Everything else came on its own because I stayed focused and stayed determined and continued to stay positive.
3. After winning the World Champs in 2013, you seemed to struggle a bit in 2014 and 2015, why do you think that was?
2014 was my first year as a professional, my first year not competing collegiately, so I had to learn and grow during the year. I got a little complacent and didn’t train as hard. I thought I could get away with a few things, like I did in college. But I realized that year that it was going to take more to make it at the professional level. So, I had to reassess myself, and get back in the game mentally, compete and train and focus on the things I needed to focus on in order to get back on top of my game.
4. What does it mean to you to be Olympic champion?
It means a lot to be Olympic champion. I think about all of hard work I had to do. And I’m so glad He was able to pull me through to be Olympic champion. This year was one of the most difficult years mentally for me. It does mean a lot to me because at first it was a struggle but then I was able to get through. By the grace of God and I’m so glad I had been a champion in the 100 hurdles.
5. 2016 was your first Olympics, did you enjoy the whole atmosphere and experience?
I really didn’t get to do much. I didn’t come in the first week or for the opening ceremony. I got there just a few days before my race. I didn’t want to do too much so it was mainly focusing on my race. I practiced and rested. But I know next time, Lord willing, I will get to experience the city and experience more of the games rather than being so much in competition mode.
Brianna McNeal, photo by IAAF.org
6. Did you go to the closing ceremony?
Yes and had rained!
7. For me the excitement of the hurdles is that one small mistake can ruin everything?
Definitely. That is why you have to be focused and also have fun and all that. And not put too much pressure on yourself.
8. What you mean by having fun?
Having fun, means enjoying the moment, not worrying about doing good; not worrying about doing bad just having fun with it. Being confident about what you came out to do. When you forget about those things is when it goes wrong.
9. The 100H is so competitive in the USA yet you all seem to be friends as well, is that hard?
That’s definitely true but it’s actually fun when you have the competition and you try to blow everybody away. It’s kinda fun to watch, I guess, to see everyone head to head. You have to be mentally tough to compete in the field that we are in. That’s why we have the Olympic trials and everyone has a fair chance.
At the end of the day track and field is only a segment of our lives. So outside of that you want to have friendships. When you’re done with track, you want to have friends to hang out with. We are human too, so we can’t always be in competition mode every day of your life.
Brianna McNeal, photo by teamusa.org
10. Having won World Champs, Olympics and Diamond League are you still motivated
Definitely. Very motivated.
11. You talk about your Christian faith, how does that help your life?
I have always had faith but I suppose you come to point in your life when things aren’t going the way you want them to and you have to ask God and pray about them, be patient and believe that he has a plan for you. Putting God first, not putting anything before him and believing that he has something for me is what got me to this point.
God has given me the ability to run track so he is a big part of it and I wouldn’t be where I am without him blessing me with the ability to run. And I’m blessed to have the opportunity to compete all over the world. It is just the biggest blessing I can have and to be able to be an influence to lots of people in the world is just another blessing. I just want to maximize my potential and glorify him the best way I can so that people know that I’m not doing this alone.
12. If you could choose between a fast time and lose or win slower?
Win – but honestly I don’t know. Winning feels a lot better. Everyone wants to be a winner. But if I ran a PR and didn’t win, I would still be happy with that.
13. Why do you think you are able to win the big races?
I think it’s having things set in stone, goals before the season and meditating on those things just helps me win those races. Having a great mindset and working towards those things, helps me get to that point.
14. You missed the 2017 season, how did you deal with that?
At first it was, ‘I can’t believe this has happened’ but then I just took it as a mental break and time to figure myself out and take up some new hobbies. I like to cook and bake so that’s something I’ve been getting into. And learning about healthy foods and stuff like that.
It helped me to be more responsible. It helped me to work harder and take care of myself better – to take care of my mind and my diet as well. I am grateful for that lesson and I look forward to the future. I got married in 2017 and having the support of my husband helps a lot.
It was also an opportunity to have some time off from the track, to get my body healed after years of competing and training hard.
Brianna McNeal, photo by World Athletics
15. How are you coping with 2020?
Thinking about this season, there are so many uncertainties. This is a weird place to be in. I think the only way to deal with that is to roll with the punches, control what you can control and let everything else pan out and go as it is supposed to go. At the end of the day you have to believe [as the Bible says] that all things work for our good. So you need to find that good and be motivated by it. It made me sad for a short time because I had been working really, really hard in order to have a great season. But then this thing is so big that it’s affecting the entire world.
I think you need to remember that this is happening to everybody and not just you. You have to count your blessings and be grateful for what you have. Things could be an awful lot worse. But this is a very hard thing and perhaps it’s going to help people to take care of themselves because that’s all we have control of; we don’t have control of the external things. We need to control other insides and get to a place where we are grounded so that we are less affected by the externals.
This is not based on one interview but answers from contains extracts from six interviews (2013-20)
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