Richard “Torpedo” Thompson will be in Florida in the first week of November, training under the watchful eyes of his new coach Ato Boldon.
Thompson, who cut short his 2015 season because of a knee injury, told the Express he is eagerly anticipating his partnership with Trinidad and Tobago's quadruple Olympic medallist.
“I'm looking forward to the move. I can't want to start training with Ato. It's the change that I need. There's no guarantee that it will work but I think any athlete has to give himself the best chance and opportunity to perform at a high level.”
Thompson earned silver at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, finishing second to Jamaican sprint legend Usain Bolt in the men's 100 metres dash. Thompson also has two Olympic 4x100m silver medals, as well as a World Championship sprint relay silver. Individually, though, he has not been able to reproduce his Beijing 2008 podium success at the global level.
“I always say out of any bad situation something good comes. Being injured this year gave me a lot of time to sit back and reflect on the past couple of years as a professional athlete. I know I haven't performed to the standard I expect for myself and what others expect from me as well. As a result I decided to make a switch.
“I wanted a new environment,” the triple Olympic silver medallist explained, “and I wanted a new programme. I'm extremely grateful to coach Dennis Shaver and everything coach and the LSU (Louisiana State University) programme has done for me over the years. They've been great to me and moulded me into the professional athlete that I am today.
“But I just felt like I had gotten to a point in my career where I had been stagnant. I had literally been doing everything, from massages, strength and conditioning training, all the different things, and utilising the necessary resources and tools to get myself better, and I wasn't seeing the improvement that I wanted to make.”
Boldon, meanwhile, was coaching teenager Khalifa St Fort in Florida. The American-born teenager made huge strides under Boldon's guidance. She lowered her personal best in the 100m to 11.19 seconds, and earned silver for T&T at the 2015 IAAF World Youth Championships and gold at the Pan American Junior Championships. She was also part of the women's 4x100m squad that bagged bronze at the IAAF World Championships.
“It came to my attention,” said Thompson, “that Ato was coaching Khalifa, who I believe is a huge talent and has great potential to do big things eventually. I always said that I think Ato would make a great coach. He's very knowledgeable, he's very up to the time, and he's a very proud person so if he puts his hands on something he wants it to be done in a particular way.
“I thought about it for a while,” the Torpedo continued, “then I picked up the phone and I called him, and I asked him if he would be interested in helping me to prepare for the 2016 Rio Olympics. He jumped at the opportunity, he was extremely enthusiastic about it. We started planning one time. It's a great, great relationship. It moved from Ato being my idol to becoming my friend to becoming my mentor and motivator, to now being my coach.”
Thompson is currently in Trinidad, preparing for his move to Florida.
“Shayne Cooper is helping me, Orlando Ortega, Peter Campbell. They are pretty much preparing me to be ready for Ato. I know Ato's programme is going to be tough, and I want to show up ready for whatever he has in store for me to do. I had a knee injury this year and that's something we had to focus on as well.
“I will officially start training with Ato in the first week of November. Ato is the head of the table. He is the one in charge and has the final say.”
Thompson said he will benefit from being part of a small training group.
“There's Khalifa, and also the possibility of another athlete coming over. Regardless of who it is, it still means intimate work. It wouldn't be a big group of us. That way Ato has time to have a special eye on us. That's essentially what I need right now. I need eyes on me full-time to straighten out some of the mistakes I've been making. These little details sometimes make a huge difference.”
Thompson, the national record holder in the 100m at 9.82 seconds, is confident he can still compete with the world's best sprinters.
“With the level Bolt and (Justin) Gatlin are performing at right now, and young kids like Trayvon Bromell and Andre De Grasse coming up and medalling in World Championships this year, it's tough competition. In order to put myself back in the mix again, there's a lot of work to be done.”
Bolt, the reigning world and Olympic champion in both sprints, will be the man to beat at the Rio Games.
“Just mounting the podium again would be a huge success for me,” said Thompson. “Bolt proved himself to be not just a physical champion this time, but he proved himself to be a mental champion, and he's a very difficult person to overthrow. People always say to shoot for the stars and you could beat whoever you put your mind to, which I essentially believe.
“But I also believe,” the 30-year-old T&T track star continued, “it has to be incrementally done, and you have to take small steps to eventually make it to the finish line. Right now I'm just taking those small steps, and it means me being 100 percent healthy again and working very hard running amongst the elite again. A medal in Rio would be the icing on the cake.”