Reunited and it feels so good
Allen Johnson, the Olympic gold medal-winner and seven-times world champion, might never have become a friend of Bermudian Brian Wellman had it not been for lost luggage.
Olympic triple jumper Wellman, who is also a former world champion, came to the American hurdler’s aid after his luggage went missing en route to a track meet in Europe. They have remained good friends ever since.
“The airlines lost my bags and I met up with Brian, who I did not know previous to that, and told him my plight and he hooked me up with some clothes to hold me up for a couple of days till my bags came,” Johnson said.
“It’s those types of relationships that this sport affords the participants. You get to travel the world, get to see different cultures and meet all different types of people.”
Wellman, who won the gold medal at the 1995 World Indoor Championships in Barcelona, Spain, added: “His luggage got lost and he had nothing. I think he had his competition gear, but nothing else.
“I set him up as best I could, I split up what I had, which wasn’t going to totally inconvenience me. But he was in a spot where he didn’t have anything.”
Johnson won Olympic gold at the 1996 Games in Atlanta as well as four gold medals at the World Championships competing in the 110 metres hurdles and three world indoor golds in the 60 metres hurdles.
Asked what was the crowning achievement of his illustrious career, he said: “My first World Championships in 1995 when I got my first win. That was the first global title for me and the one that kind of put my name on the map.
“Obviously, the Olympics are bigger than the World Championships and that holds a place. But that first global title for me is what I cherish the most.”
Johnson and Wellman were reunited at the National Stadium yesterday when the former was among a visiting delegation of elite athletes and thought leaders from USA Track & Field’s Athletes Advisory Committee, which held a clinic for the island’s youth.
Johnson was thrilled to give something back to the youngsters during a clinic that was jointly organised by the Bermuda Tourism Authority.
“You definitely feel good by giving something back,” he said. “Sport has afforded all of us so many opportunities and to be able to come here and give back to the youngsters really means a lot.
“It helps the sport grow and shows us a little bit of goodwill to you guys in return for the extraordinary amount of goodwill that you guys have shown us since we’ve been here.
“It’s exciting working with young people, showing them what this sport is about and get the chance to hopefully introduce new people to the sport and increase our fanbase. Maybe one day somebody that’s out here today falls in love with the sport and goes on to represent Bermuda at the Olympics.”
Jeff Porter, the USA Track & Field Athletes Advisory Committee chairman, and former US Olympic hurdler, added: “Track and field as a global entity needs to do more outreach and we felt that if we are going to come to a country like Bermuda the least we can do is give back and hold clinics for some of the children in the community so that they can learn from some of the best athletes in the world about their event and the things they actually do.”
Mia Black, the Bermuda National Athletics Association vice-president, hopes the advice the youngsters gained will inspire them to strive towards their goals.
“This is a great opportunity that a lot of athletes have not had, to be in the presence of athletes of this calibre, particularly so many of them at one time,” she said.
“They [elite athletes] have a wealth of information to share that we hope the athletes learn from and use moving forward to inspire themselves to work towards achieving long-term success.”
The visiting USA Track & Field Athletes Advisory delegation has travelled to Bermuda for a series of meetings and development training for the athletes.