Alex Hartmann on the little one percenters and that “magical” sub-10-second 100 metres. By Richard Cooke.


On the fast track: Alex Hartmann, 23, sprinter

I was working at Big W not long ago. They were quite supportive – they pretty much said I could pick whatever hours I wanted. So I’d work in the morning from about 7.30 to 12.30, and then I’d go home and train.

Since I’ve left, I’ve been able to get up whenever. But when I say “whenever”, I get up about 8 o’clock to do a session, then eat my food, get all my physio and recovery sessions done. And then I train in the afternoon as well, and then go to bed and repeat. So there’s been a massive change, living the life of a professional athlete.

I was an average sprinter at school. I’d win the school carnivals, and I’d win the districts sort of level after school, and then when it came to racing the kids from private schools, they’d just smash me.

When I found my coach Travis [Venema], he took me under his wing. He taught me how to run properly. And we’ve just gone from strength to strength.

Travis was a bit standoffish at first. He’s had a lot of athletes in the past where they’ll have a chat to him, and they’ll do one or two sessions. He thought I was just going to be one of those kids who do one session and then bugger off.

When he saw I was committed and kept turning up to the sessions and getting to the car park and vomiting and doing all the work, he knew I was serious, and he started to put a bit more time and effort into me. We’re good mates now.

Getting to the Olympic level has taken seven years. But we’ve just learnt lots of little things along the way. Every year we learnt something new technique-wise or training-wise, or whatever it might have been. And the little one percenters add up, and become the complete package that we have today.

I’ve never really fancied the longer distances. I did cross-country at school just because it was more or less mandatory, and I enjoyed running. But as far as passion goes, for me it’s always been the 100- and 200-metre sprint. I think I would be okay at the 400 if I’d trained and given it a crack. But anything over 200 almost feels like a chore, so that’s why I’ve stuck to the short distances.

The 400 is the only race I get nervous for. We’ve done a few with training, and I’ve done the odd one in a competition every now and then, and it’s butterflies and all these hours leading up to the race. And then because you have lactic everywhere and you throw up afterwards, I’m completely written off for the hour or two after. That’s why I stay away from it.

Everyone likes the 100 metres because it’s quick and to the point. Unless Usain Bolt’s in the race, it’s usually within say two or three metres of each other, and it just makes it that exciting, you-never-know-who’s-going-to-win sort of thing.

There’s not many in history who could run a sub-10. I think it’s just that magical barrier of 10.00 and getting past that. A lot of people see it as a wall they have to break. Certainly it’d be exciting to do but I think we’ve got to put a lot more work in. I think Josh Clarke will give it a fair nudge in the coming years, and I’ll certainly be chasing at that as well.

Every year I set times I’d like to run. Initially my coach sort of questioned it. I’d always say I want to run at some ridiculous time and he was always like, “How about we be a bit more realistic; how about we make it this.” But I’m reaching what I suggested, these ridiculous times. And he’s now just accepted when I say I’m going to do something ridiculous to go with it and just make a training program for it. 

The process is huge. I thoroughly enjoy the pain of training. It’s crazy. We train our whole lives, the hours of dedication, just eating the right foods, not going out … and it’s all for 10 seconds or 20 seconds of a race. And we wait for the Olympics, which comes around every four years.

I love watches. Collecting watches and that sort of stuff. I haven’t got heaps – we’re starting different collections. It’s a time thing, I think. Being an athlete, always racing against the clock.



This week’s highlights…

AFL: Collingwood v Geelong

Saturday, 1.45pm (AEST), Melbourne Cricket Ground

• Super Rugby: Queensland Reds v Sunwolves

Saturday, 3.05pm (AEST), Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

• Soccer: FA Cup final – Manchester United v Crystal Palace

Sunday, 2.30am (AEST), Wembley Stadium, London

• Netball: Queensland Firebirds v Adelaide Thunderbirds

Sunday, midday (AEST), Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre

• NRL: Penrith Panthers v Gold Coast Titans

Sunday, 2pm (AEST), Pepper Stadium, Penrith, NSW

• Tennis: French Open

Sunday, from 7pm (AEST), until June 5, Roland Garros, Paris

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on May 21, 2016 as "On the fast track".

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Richard Cooke is a contributing editor to The Monthly, and the 2018 Mumbrella Publish Award Columnist of the Year.

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