Brian Wellman shares secrets to success
Not having overseas spectators at the Tokyo Olympics this summer because of Covid-19 will be a disappointment, however Brian Wellman, a four-time Olympian, doesn’t think it has to be a major setback for the athletes themselves.
Wellman addressed the issue yesterday when he appeared as the guest speaker for Hamilton Rotary Club’s weekly meeting via Zoom.
“To me it’s not a massive variant,” said the former top triple jumper. “You hope to go to a stadium and have people cheering for you, you hope your parents could be in the stands and people you love can see you perform at your highest level. But that’s not a massive component to it.
“As a jumper once I start down the runway I couldn’t hear anything. The energy post-jump, yes, when you put up a big mark and people go crazy and you love that.
“But I think the Japanese fans are knowledgeable and they will cheer for everybody, though obviously they will cheer a little harder for their own.”
Wellman added: “When I went to the Worlds [Championships in 1991 in Tokyo] it was at the same stadium where Mike Powell broke the world long jump record and if I remember then it was majority Japanese fans and the atmosphere was great.
“I don’t see it being a deciding factor, it’s just something that is and you have to deal with the issue at hand, not let it distract you and basically try to put yourself in the best possible spot to perform at your best.”
Wellman was asked about the mindset of an athlete like himself or triathlete Flora Duffy during the peak of their performance at a major Games like the Olympics.
“Whether it’s the World Championships or Olympics, the preparation is long and vast,” said the former University of Arkansas student. “You have to put yourself in situations when you’re competing and when you realise you’re expected to win or do well, how do I handle that scenario mentally?
“Same thing with Flora, she’ll have to figure our what’s her happy place, what she needs to do mentally before she gets to the starting blocks of the swim to get the triathlon going.
.“You have to learn how to deal with the expectations and pressure. The thing I’m proudest of, if you go back and look at my major performances, is I would say I put up my personal or season’s best when it counted.
“That’s why people hail Usain Bolt, because, I think, every world record he has, except for one, happened at an Olympic Games or World Championship. That’s because he showed up when it counted … and that’s the key.”
Wellman competed in four Olympic Games, Seoul in 1988, Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996 and Sydney in 2000. He was voted Bermuda Athlete of the Year five straight years between 1992 and ’96, the first five-times winner of the award.
It was during that period that Wellman was ranked as one of the world’s top triple jumpers.
“It’s no smooth , straight road, there’s always going to be obstacles, tribulations and difficulties,” he advised. “You have to refuse to lose at any cost, it’s something you either have or don’t have.”
Wellman singled out Gerry Swan, the former national track coach, as someone who was a big influence on his career.
“There are a lot of great coaches and mentors and Gerry Swan was that for me,” Wellman revealed. “He was a triple jumper himself, had been through the process before I went through it, competed at University level and for the country and educated himself on the next level.
“We had a discussion about what I wished to do and how do we get better. He was like my second father.”
Wellman’s greatest achievement in the sport came in 1995 when he won the World Indoor Championships in Barcelona, Spain where he set a new indoor record of 17.72 metres. His best outdoor jump was 17.62 metres, both Bermuda records.
Last September the Department of Youth and Sports named the long and triple jump runway at the National Sports Centre the “Brian Wellman Runway”, in honour of Wellman for his accomplishments in the sport.
The plan was to unveil the runway at last year’s Carifta Games which were cancelled, so it was done months later. The wall will be there for the athletes to see when this year’s Carifta Games take place in August.
“We have tons of talent in Bermuda but the key is how serious are we about it,” he asked. “How much work are we willing to put in and when things don’t go right can we analyse what went wrong and fix the things that went wrong,” he said.
“I made a promise to myself a long time ago that when I got to the stage where I can’t triple jump at a world class level, I don’t concern myself with ’I should have done X,Y,Z’.
“I know more now than I did then but that’s life, hindsight is 20/20. But in the situation I put myself in, and the time I dedicated to my sport, I felt I didn’t short-change myself, which was the goal.
“At the end of the day, when you can’t do it any more, can you look yourself in the mirror and say ’I did the best possible job with the talent, tools and opportunities that I had’, which is ultimately what I did.”