Dix past challenges, preparing for Beijing
Walter Dix has already beaten the odds and defied the critics. Now, it's his time to reap the rewards.
The All-America sprinter, who put Florida State's track program on the map and helped the Seminoles win three consecutive national titles, spoke with the Tallahassee media Wednesday for the first time since earning a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team.
Dix clinched that trip to Beijing for the 2008 Summer Games by placing second in the 100 meters at last week's U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore. He followed that up with a breathtaking win in the 200. And though he won't leave for China until early August, Dix has plenty to focus on between now and then.
He will run at a tune-up meet in Stockholm, Sweden, later this month. He will continue training and perfecting his technique. And at some point - as soon as this week - he will sign a lucrative endorsement contract with either Adidas, Nike or Reebok.
"I'm now a professional athlete," Dix said matter-of-factly. "And my next goal is to get some gold medals from the Olympics."
Dix was criticized by some in track and field for not signing with a sponsor before the Olympic Trials, when several suitors were trying to secure his services. But Dix and agent Kim Holland never received an offer to their liking.
So while the nation's other top sprinters were wearing their gear from Nike and others, Dix was content to sport his Florida State gear.
"That was a dream come true to wear my college garnet and gold," Dix said, noting that his endorsement offers have soared following his performance at the Trials. "It was kind of a gamble, they would say. But regardless, I think it would have been fine. To go out there and run in my garnet and gold after the season I had, I think it puts a perfect ending to a Cinderella season."
Fairy-tale references might seem odd for an athletes who has established himself as one of the nation's elite runners the past four years. But after missing several races - and vital training time -- due to injury, Dix knows that many people dismissed him from Olympic contention.
"You've got people out there running 9.7s [in the 100] and I'm still 9.8," Dix said. "You've got people out there still [with] faster times in the 200. So I think I'm being overlooked a lot. But that's just going to motivate me to train harder.
"I think I'm still an underdog. So I'm just going to keep quiet and let them sleep on me until the Olympics."
He won't be quite that anonymous, however. Though new Olympic teammate Tyson Gay remains the biggest name in U.S. sprinting, Dix already senses the greater expectations that come with winning at the Trials.
"When you win [there], it's more of you're the favorite for the whole country," Dix said. "When you're second, there's not as much pressure. When you run at the U.S. Olympic Trials, that's the toughest meet in the world. To win at that meet, you're expected to go to the Olympics and win that race."
Though he insisted that he wouldn't make any bold predictions, Dix is clearly confident about his chances at Beijing. The fact that he won the 200 and took second in the 100 with limited training time only adds to his optimism.
"I think I can get a lot quicker," Dix said. "I still feel like my best race is inside me. I still feel like I need a little bit more training, a little bit more technical work. I don't think the world has seen the best of me yet. I think at Beijing, I will run faster. And I will be in a position to win.
"I definitely don't think I've peaked. Hopefully at Beijing I'll peak exactly at the right time in the right race."
Whether he wins the gold or not, Dix said he always will cherish the opportunity to simply be an Olympian. Minutes after he placed second in the 100, Dix and the other top finishers were ushered into a holding area where they were measured for their Olympic uniforms.
Dix said he hasn't received his yet, but he is expecting it to arrive any day. Then the real fun will begin.
"I'm definitely going to try it on," Dix said with a smile. "I'll probably wear it around campus a little bit."
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