(This is the second in a series of reports describing Baylor’s former student-athletes “Going for the Gold” at the Olympics that begin with the opening ceremonies in Tokyo on Friday.)
Through Jerry hill
Baylor Bear Insider
Whether it’s a district track competition at Waco High School, the Big 12 Championships in Baylor, a pro competition in Atlanta, or the Olympic Trials, Wil London doesn’t like to lose.
As nice as it sounds to be part of the US track team for the Tokyo Olympics – Waco’s first Olympian – his eighth place in the 400-meter final at last month’s Olympic trials in Eugene, Ore. , still does not hold well.
“Me and Coach (Clyde) Hart and Coach (Kenneth) Wiethorn and my family, we always go into every race with the desire to win. It’s always the wait,” said London, who is part of the group for the men’s 4×400 and mixed 4×400 relays.
“I know these guys are always proud of me. But me personally, my goal is always to win. I feel like if I didn’t win, I didn’t achieve the goal that I am. I was fixed. I still want to be proud of myself for going out there and doing my best and just being an Olympian, then resting and getting ready for next year. “
That’s the thing, at 23, the former Baylor All-American still has a championship life ahead of him. It will be at its peak for the 2024 Olympics in Paris and could still be at its peak for the Los Angeles Olympics in 2028.
“After the Olympics we actually have the World Indoors and then the World Outdoors next year in Eugene,” said London. “I think there are going to be three major championships before we get to the next Olympics. So a lot of records to break, a lot of quick times and a lot of money to win.”
The big stage is certainly not new for London, an eight-time All-American at Baylor who has won four straight 400-meter titles at the Big 12 Outdoor Championships. Still a teenager in 2017, he finished a surprising third at the US Championships and won a silver medal in the 4×400 relay at the World Championships in London, England.
Even the year before, London had reached the semi-finals of the 400 at the 2016 US Olympic Trials, narrowly missing a place in the final.
“I really didn’t go into it with too many expectations,” he said, “because I didn’t even know I was going (to the 2016 trials) until a week before. Coach Hart told me, “I want you to go for it, just to get some experience. I’m not asking you to go there and be part of the team. But, I want you to be able to run on these stages as soon as possible, so that next time you will be ready. ” ‘
After finishing his college career with a third place finish in the 400m at the 2019 NCAA Outdoor Championships, London has had a busy summer and early fall with trips to Lima, Peru for the Pan Am Games; Minsk, Russia, for The Match, an inaugural meeting between the United States and Europe; and Doha, Qatar, for the world championships.
Added to the relay pool, although he did not make the finals of the United States championships, he won gold medals at the world championships with the men’s and mixed 4×400 relays.
“A lot of people don’t realize that this sport is primarily mental more than physical,” he said. “Physically the work has already been done. It’s just a matter of mentally preparing yourself for the race. As Coach Hart said, ‘Run or be executed.’ It’s more about mentally executing my race. If I don’t, it doesn’t matter how fast or how strong I am. “
The hidden blessing of last year’s COVID-19 pandemic that delayed the Tokyo Olympics by a year is that London has had its first summer off since. . . he doesn’t remember when.
“Since my first year at Baylor I have always made a team and I come back with a medal,” he said. “Even when I was a kid, we still traveled with the AAU summer track and basketball. When COVID hit, I was like, ‘Ah, I finally have a break. “But honestly, I was bored. It was weird for me to have this break. Overall it helped me, but I think it bothered me as well, because I have the I felt like I didn’t start the season with that mental advantage. I also relaxed. A lot. “
In what was essentially his first full season as a professional, London won the 400 in three meetings. At the American Track League meeting two weeks ago in Atlanta, he clocked a winning time of 45.08 to beat Trinidad Olympian Machel Cedenio and American teammate Trevor Stewart.
“It was hard for me to figure out when I wasn’t running the times I wanted,” said London. “Coach Hart knows I want to run fast every time I step on the track. But, he said to me, ‘As a professional you have to run when it matters most.’ My times are running out and I’m running faster now, I just wish I could have done it in practice. Guess it wasn’t my time yet. “
Whether or not he shows up at the Olympics, London said he would be grateful for the chance to make the United States squad and wear the red, white and blue uniform.
“I said to Coach Hart and my dad, ‘Whatever happens, it happens,’ he said. “If I run and get a medal, I’ll be happy to have that experience. And if I don’t, if I have to sit in the stands and watch the others win medals, I’ll know I don’t want to feel that way anymore.
“That’s just how it works in this sport. I have to make sure that I now put myself in the position that no one else can control the narrative. I can control the narrative: just go there. down and win when it matters most. I want to put myself and others in a position where they have no choice but to put me on the track. “
“SEARCH FOR GOLD”
John Peers, Men’s Tennis, Australia