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McKenzie fit again... Eager to break 20 seconds

Published:Wednesday | January 18, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Leighton Levy, Gleaner Writer

Declaring himself fit, Ramone McKenzie, the former Calabar High School star athlete, has announced his intentions to break the 20-second barrier this season and make Jamaica's team to the 30th Olympiad in London this summer.

McKenzie, who turned 21 last November and who engaged in some stirring battles at Champs with the St Jago duo of Nickel Ashmeade and Yohan Blake, turned professional in November 2009, but has endured hamstring injuries since that time.

The 2007 200-metre World Youth Champion made the Jamaican team to the World Athletics Championships in Berlin in 2009, but failed to advance beyond the quarter-final round.

Now trimmer but much stronger, McKenzie said he wants to finally realise his immense potential.

"Right now I am 100 per cent healthy," said the athlete who was known as 'Batman' in high school. "I've got over all the injuries in the past that came from inflexibility, not being strong enough and doing most things incorrectly in terms of technique, lifting weights, eating properly. Those were the things that I have been working on over the past two years and, so far this year, have been paying off."

While at Calabar, McKenzie's body had taken a beating competing over 200 and 400 metres, as well as the sprint and mile relays. After he went pro, over the ensuing two years - a period he described as a learning process - McKenzie had his injuries treated and worked on strengthening the weak areas of his body, most notably his hamstrings that he said suffered from wear and tear, and his back that was hurt because he was lifting incorrectly.

"When I left high school, I was advised to take the year off so I took the year off, and in the second year I started to learn to do things differently in order to make me better," he said.

By doing things differently, McKenzie had to learn from coach Lance Braumann how to sprint all over again. Braumann has guided athletes like Veronica Campbell Brown and Tyson Gay to international success.

"I wasn't running correctly, learning running techniques in terms of starts, how to run off the curve properly and how to judge your pace in a race, all those things," he said.

What is significant, McKenzie said, is by virtue of his corrected eating habits, he has dropped a stunning (10kgs) or 21 pounds, but has not sacrificed his strength as he is now adding some of the weight in pure muscle. He claims he is about now about 60 per cent stronger than last year.

His goal for this year is simple.

"My number-one goal for this year is to stay healthy because if I do stay healthy there are a lot of good things that could come from it," he said. "And I am definitely looking forward to making the team to London. I have definitely been putting in the work. I am stronger, faster, lighter. So my number one aim is to be healthy and my number two is to make the team to London."

His schedule, he said, includes getting on to the track a lot earlier this year than he did last year, and gradually progressing to faster times as the season unfolds.

"Last year, I started running in April, this year I will be running 4x4s from in February and probably some 200 metres in March, just to get race-ready for trials. Then after trials it's up to my agent to decide where I go, based on my results," he said.

"I am working towards going sub-20 because that's my lifelong dream. That would be satisfying to me, but leading up to it I want to get down to the low 20s, 20.2s, 20.3s, run it more than once so I am able to get the feel of it and then try to take it from there," McKenzie said.