Friday, March 15, 2013

Q&A with Olympic Gold Medalist Chip Jenkins

Here's an interview with former Villanova All-American Chip Jenkins, who won an Olympic Gold Medal in the 4 x 400 relay at the 1992 Games. His father Charlie was also a Villanova All-American and won two Olympic Gold Medals (400 and 4 x 400) at the 1956 Games before eventually becoming head coach at Villanova. During his time at Villanova (1982-1986), Chip Jenkins was a 9-time Big East champion, a 7-time IC4A champion, was part of the 1986 Penn Relays 4x400 meter championship quartet. He left the Main Line as part of the school record-holding 4x400 team, as well as the school record holder over 600 yards. As detailed below, his American Record over 600 meters stood for 26 years before being broken in 2013. The interview appeared at the website Speed Endurance.

Interview with Chip Jenkins


Q1:  You held the American Record in the 600 meters for 26 years, and now it’s broken three times in a month (1st Dwayne Solomon 1:15.70, then Erik Sowinski 1:15.61, then Cas Loxsom 1:15.42 on an over-sized track). Usually the 600m is dominated by 800m guys but you’re a 400 guy.  Why did the record take so long to break?

Chip Jenkins: In my opinion, the record took so long to break because I feel maybe in the last twenty-six years there were not that many 600 meters contested. The emphasis is on outdoor running these days. Indoors is a way people who are outdoors specialists get a season to earn some money. A lot of runners aren’t in shape for indoors or don’t take it seriously. I grew up on the East Coast where indoor racing is valued. I never was the kind of guy who took any races lightly indoor or out. A race was a race and I always made sure I was prepared for it. The other thing is that record was not an easy record to break either. It was very fast and people have been specifically preparing to break that record. So when the guys looked up And saw that there was an old record to break during a non Olympic year they were prepared and broke it.

Q2: Let’s talk about the race, since I was there.    You split in 47.5, Marcus Sanders was in the race, and there was the bump at the end that could have cost you the World Record?

Chip Jenkins:  Yes, if it wasn’t for that bump with Marcus I might have run 1:15:00 or even 1:14 high, obliterating the record completely. That had happened to me one time in the 500 meters where I should have run 1:00 flat.


Q3: You ran in Barcelona 1992 4x400m rounds (see image on left, with Quincy Watts).  You were running in the same era as Quincy Watts, Butch Reynolds, Steve Lewis, Michael Johnson.  Having 3 Americans in any major finals was assumed.  How fierce was the competition?  Did these guys “duck” each other as we see in today’s top sprinters?



Chip Jenkins:   No we never ducked each other in the 400 meters. This is why America is so good in the 400. The 400 meter runners are the Marines of Track and Field. As a group, we are collectively fearless. The best of the best. Running the 400 meters in America is nasty. You need to come ready to compete all the time or you are going to be embarrassed.

Q4: Can you give a quick sample overview of your training?  I assume it was a long-to-short over-distance type of training?  Lots of 500’s and 600s?  Short recoveries?
Chip Jenkins:  It depends on the training. Indoors, it’s three 600′s short rest around 1:22. Or it may be two 600′s long rest around 1:18. There are lots of fast 300s. Outdoors, it was 160′s, 350′s, 300′s in 33 seconds, one hundred meter rest, and then another at around 33 or 32 seconds.

Jenkins_Charles_Senior Q5: Your father (pictured on the left) was the 1956 400m and 4x400m Olympic champ.  I assume that was a huge influence growing up?  What advice can you give to father/son or father/daughter combos?  (I get a LOT of emails where the father is the coach, and is micro managing their child’s running career, from 9 year olds right up to high school!!!)  In our era, I can think of Calvin Smith Sr (and Jr) and Wallace Spearmon Sr (and Jr).

Chip Jenkins:  If there is any advice I would give with the father-son thing. Don’t push your kid. If he enjoys it great. If he doesn’t enjoy it, he won’t be good. The son (or daughter) has to want it to excel in the sport. The kid must have the desire to be good. If there is no desire there, forget it.  It’s pointless. I wanted to be really good. My father could have won 10 gold medals. I wanted it for myself not for him or anybody else.

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