Gordon Williams, Gleaner Writer
MOSCOW, Russia:It's hard enough to perfect one skill. So entering multiple individual events at a massive meet like the IAAF World Championships in Athletics (WCA) here may seem a bridge too far.
Several athletes, Jamaicans among them, have figured out that "doubling up" at the highest level is not for the feeble. It's a test, as tough as it gets in track and field. Yet some are learning to maximise preparation and execution.
"I think I feel much better than I did the last time," Jamaica's Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce said, following up here on her sprint double debut in 2012. "The last time I was drained."
This time, fully trained physically, hydrated and rested, Fraser-Pryce raced six times in six days to win the WCA 100 and 200 metre titles. Psychological preparation, however, appeared key.
"(Coach) Stephen (Francis) has been working very hard with the mental aspect of our training," said Fraser-Pryce. "And I think, for me, that has definitely paid dividends."
Attempting multiple individual events appears simple for select athletes like Jamaica's Usain Bolt, who won the 100 and 200 metres at Beijing and London Olympics. But, he admitted, doubling takes a toll.
"I feel heavy after the race," Bolt said, following his 200m semi-final here August 16, his fifth run in seven days, which included winning the 100m title. " ... Tired, feel like I can't go."
But Nickel Ashmeade, fifth in the 100m and a 200m finalist, didn't complain.
"It's not that bad," said the 23-year-old. "I'm young."
Mental make-up, coaches believe, usually decides who copes best attempting multiple events. Self belief is vital.
"You have to be extremely well prepared and talented," said Maurice Wilson, technical leader of Jamaica's WCA team, "and psychologically tough."
Prime quality, in at least one event, counts heavily too.
"Essentially, you have to be good or almost certain to win one (event)," explained Francis. "And then you transfer that to the other one."
Nigeria's Blessing Okagbare puts the 100 and 200 metres, plus long jump, on her WCA schedule. She won silver in the long jump, placed sixth in the 100 metres and third in the 200. By Day 7 here, Okagbare had made seven jumps and run six races. There's no reprieve. Like Fraser-Pryce she is scheduled to run the 4x100 relay.
"It's not easy," said Okagbare.
Desire is battling conventional wisdom. And, like Fraser-Pryce last year, Okagbare is in virgin territory.
"I want to do all three (events)," she said. "I have the talent to do all three of them. It's just that this is my first year actually trying all three."
Athletes with talent to do well in multiple events are becoming more selective. American Allyson Felix, a 200m Olympic and WCA champion, is also world class in the 100 and 400m. This WCA, however, she ran the 200m only.
"It's different," Felix said. " .... (With less events) it makes me more anxious sitting around waiting."
Felix fell injured in the final.
Excelling in multiple events holds promise of more financial rewards as a professional. Some athletes, however, use the events to improve skills in both. Others use one event to mentally prepare for another. In Fraser-Pryce's case, the 100m, her best race, comes first. Success there fuels the 200m.
"It helps you a lot because after you have had one in the bag then it's just a question of doing the best you can (in the others)," said Francis. "It's huge."