US sprinter Richard Browne returns to action for World Para Athletics’ Beijing Grand Prix in China this weekend (11-13 May), almost a year after injury forced a premature end to his season and his dreams of World Championship gold.
“I’m still looking to push the boundaries. I guess I feel stronger now than I did in 2015, which is a great feeling because I felt great then. I still feel strong, I still feel like I can run faster than 10.61,” said Browne, who suffered a hamstring injury in the build up to London 2017 and was unable to defend his 100m and 200m T44 world titles from 2015.
Circumstances were all the more devastating for the American, who had been forced to withdraw from the 2016 Rio Paralympics after suffering a similar fate. Browne’s great rival, Briton Jonnie Peacock, claimed both the Paralympic and world titles in his absence.
After the heartache of missing Rio 2016, Browne initially announced that he would retire from track and field, but he came back in 2017 only to be thwarted in his quest for major championship medals once again.
Now the 26-year-old is back on track – physically stronger, and mentally too. He looks after two of his young children – three-year-old Brooklyn and two-year-old Aea – full time, balancing parental duties with athletics.
It’s a situation that has brought Browne the routine and stability that he now thrives off.
“I feel good this year, I feel healthy for a change. My days are fun and jam-packed with things to do. There’s definitely been an adjustment to make, making sure that I’m still available for the kids and taking care of myself too,” said Browne, who works long-distance with UK-based coach Hayley Ginn.
“I’ve learned that being injured comes with the territory, especially when everything else is going on. I wasn’t taking care of my body well and things happened. I’m in a better place than I was even when I was at my fastest. I’m just happy to be back and ready to go.
“It was frustrating that I wasn’t in London, but I’m glad things worked out the way they did, because I’m a single father now and it’s been awesome to have the kids and take care of them and train at the same time.”
This will be Browne’s first visit to Beijing, and he’s hoping the new environment will help kick start his season, with races in Osaka, Japan and Arizona, USA, still to come. The more races he can get under his belt, the better.
“I’m looking forward to hearing the gun go off, hearing a different language, travelling, just getting back into the swing of things as an athlete. I’m kind of nervous but it’s about getting the jitters out,” added Browne, who now competes in the T64 class for single leg below-knee amputees.
“It’s a Grand Prix event and having a world record holder there might bring some awareness to the sport too, so I just want to get out there, run, and let that part of the world see the best Para athletes.”
Browne opened his season at the Mt. Sac Relays in California in April and while he admits his performance wasn’t great – he clocked 11.23 seconds – his focus is no longer on ‘chasing the clock’ but on building a strong and healthy base that will allow him to compete at the highest level when it matters most – the 2019 World Championships, 2020 Paralympics, and beyond.
“I’m hoping to run kind of quick, I didn’t run so well at Mt. Sac, so I’m definitely looking for redemption and just want to get out and push the race,” added Browne.
“I’m hoping that training translates to the track and we see some fast times, but I’m definitely more focussed on making sure the body is strong first. I think I did a lot of things premature because I was just chasing the clock. Now it’s more about the process.
“I don’t think too much about the Jonnies and Jarryds (200m T44 world champion Jarryd Wallace) of the world anymore, I think I’m kind of beyond that in my career.
“At this point I’m just excited to run again and I don’t think I have anything to prove because I’m still the fastest guy out there.”