|Enjoyment returns as Gillick gets timing right|
Immortality beckons for David Gillick. The Dubliner made history last month when twice breaking the 45-second barrier for 400m -- and his timing couldn't be better.
On Tuesday, he will take centre stage in Berlin's Olympic Stadium for the start of the 400m heats. And a year on from the dreadful disappointment of Beijing, Gillick can't wait.
"Obviously I want to do well, I'd like to win the gold medal but I have to be realistic in my goals," he says. "I'm just looking at it in rounds. I've got races to run there and I'm going to do them. I'll go out, run the heat, hopefully run well to get into the semis and do the exact same thing again. With a bit of luck, I'll make the final."
His two scorching races last month, a 44.77 in Madrid on July 4 (the fastest ever by an Irishman) and a 44.82 in Rome a week later, make him the fourth fastest in the world this year. He has spent the last few months travelling around Europe, improving his times, beating people and winning races. Now he must step up to the plate and join the ranks of the fastest men in the world.
For most athletes, both emerging and established, sharing the track with Beijing gold medallist LaShawn Merritt and world champion Jeremy Wariner would be daunting, but for Gillick it's just another race. He has adopted a new easygoing attitude, concentrating only on what he can control and believing that if you focus on the process the outcome will look after itself. And the results are there for all to see.
"This year I'm approaching everything with a relaxed attitude. I'm not going to try and do certain things at certain markers; I'm just going to get out there and run. I can only control what I do so there is no point thinking about anyone else." Gillick arrived at his new outlook on the back of his disappointment in Beijing. Failing to make it out of his heat he returned to Ireland and took a much-needed break. Three years of his life had been invested, but the results just didn't come. Time out to take stock was just what the doctor ordered and Gillick found himself reverting to basics.
"I looked back to why I started running and I remembered being down at the local club, winning races. It puts a smile on your face and you feel good for a while. I'm really starting to enjoy what I do again and I think that's probably why I'm doing so well now.
"Somewhere along the way I lost that enjoyment. I went over the top on the mental side of things, on the nutrition, on everything. I just let it all get too much. Now I realise that athletics is a big part of my life but it's not all my life. I've changed my approach, I've stopped over-analysing things. When the gun goes I just put my head down and run."
Prior to Gillick's sub 45s, there had been suggestions that he would be better suited to the 800m. Gillick isn't interested but admits the only thing that might tempt him away from the 400m is the 400m hurdles. His first ever All-Ireland was won at this event while at school in St Benildus College. He quickly progressed to the flat but after a recent consultation with his coach it's an event Gillick will return to at the end of the season.
"Nick (Dakin) knows a lot about four hurdles, he coached them before he coached flat. Lots of people have been telling me I should go up to the 800m but personally I don't want to. I'd prefer to do the hurdles again. I have the attributes needed to compete, height and speed. I think I'd enjoy the hurdles and it's quite possible it could go well."
The 26-year-old is aware of the fragility of his talent. Goals have been set for the future but they don't control his life. He runs race by race but London 2012 is still part of the dream.
"I'm not that naive to think I can run forever. You obviously have a shelflife so you really have to make the most of it. I want to go to London and who knows after that. There is a fine line between running well and not running at all. One day you could be in flying form and the next day you could be injured. Sometimes you get so caught up in the athletics thing that you forget and it's nice to pop your head up and realise where you are."
A top class athlete has to be prepared for the highs and lows, but more importantly they have to be able to deal with them alone. Gillick has done that and Berlin is only the beginning. Things finally seem to have fallen into place.
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