English Gardner has been through a lot since winning gold at the 2016 Olympics as a member of Team USA’s 4x100m relay quartet.
Gardner, also an individual 100m finalist in Rio, is still on the comeback trail after undergoing surgery and competing only twice in 2018.
“I had an ACL reconstruction and meniscus repair. It was actually my second ACL surgery on the same leg and it took me about four months to walk again let alone run.”
The two-time US National Champion, who is preparing to open her season at the 112th NYRR Millrose Games in the women’s 60m, was nevertheless satisfied with how she came back towards the latter part of the 2018 season. “Last summer when I ran I was probably 89%, I didn’t have full function of my quad muscle and was still numb from surgery but I ran 11.02 which was a pretty good opener for me coming off an injury,” reasoned Gardner.
“In those races I was unsure and ran unsure, however, right now I’m a lot more confident in my leg. If I can be totally honest my surgical leg turns over a little bit faster than my non-surgical leg and I sometimes joke with my coach (dad) that maybe I need to go under the knife on my other leg too.”
The 26-year-old sprinter believes that with her raw talent and behind the scenes longtime motivational coach, she’s now ready to fulfil her vast potential. “I want to double this year, I feel like in past years I was always hurt and not able to do both. This year I’m training a little bit different. I train a lot harder and smarter now. Before I would just go out there and work as hard as I can, now I’m working as smart as I can so I’ll be running more 200m and hopefully, I can make the US team in both events.”
“My dad is someone who doesn’t like the limelight. He’s been my coach, on the side, throughout the years from when I fell in love with track and field at 8 years old and throughout high school. He knows what works for me from what doesn’t.
I’m a very unorthodox runner, although I’m a sprinter I look like a 1500m runner and so I can’t train like a Carmelita Jeter. My dad also knows I don’t need this huge exotic training programme to make me run fast. Once I got hurt, trusting a system that wouldn’t get me hurt again was my biggest issue and I knew 100% that my father had my best interest at heart and the trust was beyond anything else I could find. I just needed someone who believes that I can run fast and my dad truly believes, deep down inside, that I can be the fastest woman alive, so it’s easy for him to train me and genuinely that will make me a better athlete.”
The American who is ranked 7th all-time in the 100m, shared a little secret about her personal best in Eugene, Oregon in 2016. “When I ran 10.74 my meniscus was torn, so I basically ran on one leg. So in my head, if I can run 10.74 on one leg, what can I do on two? Now I’m healthy and I’m getting back with proper training that really fits the type of runner that I am, I’m excited to see what happens. It’s a little scary to know that I have so much untapped potential and I’m finally in a position to unveil it.”
Gardner is super excited for the upcoming season and, outside of the US trials and World Championships, is looking forward to competing at one of her favourite venues. “I usually open my season in the 100m in Jamaica, although I run a bit slower there because the food is so good and I can’t stop eating,” Gardner said gleefully. “I haven’t finalized my schedule yet with my agent but I’m definitely looking forward to going to Jamaica and perform well for the fans. It’s always surprising that I get so much love in that country although US athletes and Jamaicans have such a strong rivalry. I always appreciate the love and support I get there.”