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Trayvon Bromell is the 2015 World Championship 100 meter bronze medalist, the 2016 world indoor champion in the 60 meters and was a 100-meter finalist at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. However, it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster for him as he’s battled Achilles injuries and setbacks with a bone spur in the past three years. In this episode, I told him straight up that I thought he was done. Then, last month, he popped a 9.90 in a small meet in Florida. In early August, he ran a wind-aided 9.87.
It looks like the comeback is real. In this episode, we address everything that’s taken place since he came up as a high school star, losing some years in his 20s due to injury and why this has been a long road not only to success but out of poverty.
I really enjoyed this conversation. Definitely think Trayvon could be a regular on the show because I’ve changed my mind on him being done and his upcoming year will certainly be interesting to follow.
On the Tokyo Olympic postponement:
“I definitely think it was a benefit for me but, of course, I hate that the Olympics had to get postponed. We all look forward to it. It’s every four years. When something like this happens, it’s not like you get an opportunity for a Super Bowl or NBA Finals every year like every other sport. We wait for this big dance every four years.”
Why he doesn’t feature any photos of him at the Olympics or include ‘Olympian’ in his Instagram bio:
“There’s no reason for comparison to the athlete that I was to who I am now because if I reminisce and think about the things that happened before the injury, then I’ll be stuck in the mindset of trying to compare myself. Obviously with the injury, my body how to re-learn how to run with my mechanics and everything. Dwelling on the past is going to do nothing but hinder me. I really honestly don’t try to think too much about it. I was definitely blessed with the opportunities to be a world indoor champion and in 2015 I was a bronze medalist. These are things to definitely be thankful for. I just can’t look past the injury of 2016 at the Olympics so I try not to think much or dwell on it because I’m trying to focus on the present and what’s going on now.”
What was the hardest part of his career at 20 years old when so much was going right for him:
“Being young and being in all of that, the hardest part was understanding the maturity and the responsibility of being in everything. I turned pro at 19 years old. I got a big contract but everyone knows me coming from humble beginnings. I came from having nothing to being able to afford anything I wanted. It was hard at first but I’m definitely blessed that I have people in my circle who told me to chill out and understand what I needed to do.”
When things took a turn for the worst:
“I don’t think it took a turn for me in 2016. Yes, I went down and had complications. I think the biggest turn for me was in 2018. In 2017, I was able to go to USAs and run a 10.2. I thought, ‘OK. This is something I could build off of.’ In 2018, I had nothing. I couldn’t run. I couldn’t do anything. The injury wasn’t getting any better. I wasn’t improving. I was just at a halt. It was a big turn for me and not knowing where I was going to land in all of this and understanding how my future will go. I hit a blank spot asking, ‘What’s next for me?’”
His approach to the 100 meter final in Rio de Janeiro knowing he was hurt:
“After the semis, I was like, ‘Man, I don’t even want to run. Just take me out of the final.’ But, this was a dream come true. This was an opportunity I’ve always prayed for. Who would I be to turn this down? If it was anyone else, they would have gone out there…I said, ‘Tray, this is what you’ve always dreamt of. This is what you’ve always prayed to God for. If you turn this down, you may never get this opportunity ever again.’ Bump it. I’m just going to go out there and run. It is what it is at this point. First or last, I was in an Olympic 100 meter final so you can’t take that away. That’s just how I thought about it. I didn’t think ‘Oh, I’m going to go out there and try to win.’ I’m a realist. I had to understand that I was in a predicament where it was hindering me to even go out and attempt first place. That was what was going through my mind, ‘Just go out there and make your dream come true.’”
The doubt during the comeback process
“I think the most frustrating part and I think it would be for anybody…people know me. They know I’m a competitor. I’m cool. I’m chill but when I get on the track, there’s something about me where I don’t care what your name is. I don’t care what your PR is. I’m about to get out these blocks and you’re either going to catch me or I’m gone. That’s just always been me. I grew up being the smallest guy. I’ve never been that big name person growing up. Any opportunity I get to compete, I’m going to represent for the little people. Real talk. I’ve always had the odds against me because of my deficiencies. Me not being the tallest guy, everyone always counted me out. Once I step on the track, I have to give it my all…The frustrating part with not being able to run to my ability is that mentally I’m always there. That’s what always led to more injuries. In 2019, when I ran at Dennis Mitchell’s track meet, my mindset was ‘I feel fine so I’m going to go and try to attempt the impossible in some people’s mind.’ In trying to do that, my body was like ‘Nope! I’m not ready for that.’ It led to more injuries. Mentally, I wanted to run fast. Physically, I wasn’t ready yet.”
On whether the injuries take some quality years out of his prime:
“I started track at a young age, yes. But, I also played football. I played a little bit of basketball. I wasn’t a one-athlete person so I was doing other stuff to try and figure out where I fit in. I got injured in 2008 with my right knee and then in 2009 with my left knee and then in 2010 my hip. In 2011, I was running female times. That didn’t take my body through anything. I was running 11 seconds. My senior year of high school and got the 10.1 and then obviously the 9.9. I got to college and ran in the 9s. Then the second year went 9.90. When I went into the pro circuit, I went 9.8 in my first year. Now if I fast forward, I didn’t run at all because of the injuries so really when is my prime? Because I don’t have miles on my body from running as a professional. So if we think about it, my prime now gets pushed back to this age because I wasn’t doing anything for three years. Now, I’m able to build and build and build to get back those times missed. People see the 9.90 and are in shock but they forget that I know what it feels like to run 9.8. I know what it takes. I just need the training and the training that I missed out on because I was missed. When is his prime peak because he was really not doing much while sitting in his house for three years?
It’s like a car. I’m pretty sure you can go and buy a fast car right now and not drive it for a long time. It’s still going to be fast. You just have to warm it up a little bit. It doesn’t have any miles on it but that’s why it still costs a lot. You gotta put things in perspective. My coach makes fun of me all the time while I’m working out. I’m like, ‘Coach, I need a break.’ He’s like, ‘You had a break for three years.’ If we’re being honest, I still feel young. Even though I am young. I just turned 25. I still feel like I’m at that 21 years of age because I don’t have that mileage on my body.”
On what it’s like to watch the evolution of the 100 meters with Christian Coleman and Noah Lyles emerging while he’s been out:
“It’s not too much of a surprise to me to see the names that are obviously the big names right now. I’ve seen them develop. I’ve seen that they had the potential to be great before they even came onto the scene. It’s not really a surprise. The only thing I look at is that I wish I was out there. Who is to say that me running against Christian or Noah what my PR would be if I wasn’t injured? In retrospect, I was 19 and ran 9.8. Who is to say what I would’ve run if I didn’t get injured. That’s the only thing I’ll probably think about. My friends always call me and ask, ‘How’d you feel about that race? Man, I wish you wasn’t injured because if you were there…’ Man, I can’t think about it like that because I’m injured. It’s out of my hands. I wish I was in those races that we’ve seen in the past and in the championships. It’s hard being at home watching when you love this and you put your all into it and can’t do anything about it.”
How does fast competition drag him to faster times:
“It’s a mindset. I’ve been around a lot of competition. A lot of people when they meet fast people, they scare themselves out of a potentially good race or how the track world sees an upset. Whenever I raced against Gatlin, Tyson or Usain, I always thought to myself, ‘Tray, they’re supposed to run fast and win. They’re supposed to because society in the track world says they’re the big dogs, the vets and the top guys. That should take less pressure off of you as an athlete. As an up-and-comer, if you can run with these guys, that’s a benefit for you.’ When I first raced Tyson Gay in 2015, everyone was like ‘Tray, how are you so calm?’ Tyson is supposed to win. He’s Tyson Gay and that’s how the world sees him. My job has no pressure. You are the young NCAA cat who is just coming here to see where he sits in this circle of life. That’s how I think.
In the future, whenever I race Christian or whenever I race Noah, my mindset is that they’re the top dogs. OK, no pressure on me. I’m just going to go out there and do whatever my coach tells me to do. Whatever happens, happens. People let fear take them out of the conversation of how fast they can run. I’ve always looked at it where if I know Tyson, Gatlin or Bolt is running 9.7 or 9.6 and I can be close by them, I’ve got a PR. Why run from an opportunity to run against these fast guys? It can help you.”
Why didn’t he quit:
“It’s the people around me. You have to have a solid group. They never let me give up and they never let me be in the dark of everything. In 2018, I was lost. I didn’t know what it would be for me. I just wanted to be done. The people around me said ‘You have to keep fighting.’ My late coach (Garlynn Boyd) was a fighter. I remember her a lot because she fought her situation. I can’t give up. I just had to keep pushing. It’s definitely hard but the love from Baylor I got kept me going…That’s the big thing with being an athlete, you have to have a foundation that’s there to help you when times get hard.”
Will he bring back the short shorts?
“I was just telling my coach that next year, I’m going to bring them back. It’s just trying to get back into the swing of things.”
On his beginnings:
“I grew up not having a lot. Me and my momma were able to have what we were able to have. I slept at people’s houses a majority of my life. Even in the home that my mom worked hard for our own, I was sleeping with holes in the floor. I was borrowing clothes and shoes. I came from nothing. I am one of a few people in the pro world who come from that real-deal humble beginning. That’s not to take away from anyone else but it was hard. It was different. I grew up with robbers going through my backyard. I heard police sirens every night going to sleep. Gunshots and dodging bullets is real life. It’s hard when you make it and situations happen because the scariest thing in your life to think about is going back to that. That was the first thing that ran through my mind: ‘If I’m done, even with me having a degree, I don’t don’t want to be back in the trenches trying to figure put how I’m going to move and maneuver.’ That’s the hardest thing. What I love doing and why I do this is to motivate people.
I tell people all the time that my little brother is in jail right now. Me and him talk all the time. We talk about how we can be better people. To see someone incarcerated for a very serious crime, he got his GED and he’s reading the Bible. I can motivate more than just him. I can motivate communities. I think a lot of people can relate to me….I’ll tell you right now. There ain’t no superheroes where I’m from. I’ll be honest with you. We’re talking about people who are killers by the age of 13. Really killing people. Straight up. It ain’t no joke. That’s why I take it so seriously.”
“I can’t wait for COVID to be over so I can step in some of these schools and juvenile delinquent centers to talk to these people because they need someone to talk to. I tell people all the time that I hated growing up and hearing “No” my whole life. ‘Oh, I want to be that.’ ‘No.’ ‘Oh, I want to work.’ ‘No. You’re going to be a worker and work for somebody.’ Your whole life you hear that. ‘Oh, you want to be an Olympian. That’s funny.’ That’s what we grew up in and we’re the product of our environment. If we don’t have people coming into that environment to make the product better, then we fail.”
“I told people I wanted to be an Olympian. I can’t tell you how many people I said to ‘I want to be an Olympic gold medalist. I wanted to be a medalist.’ These people would laugh at me when I was a youngin. They’d be like ‘Nah, that ain’t happening. You’re too small.’ It started to be a reality. Even after I started talking to coach (Michael) Ford and I was getting ready to figure out what I was going to do with my life. He recruited me to go to Baylor. We had complications with getting into the school because I didn’t care about school so obviously my grades weren’t good. I was coming out of the Southside. The school I was going to was like an F school. We threw a party when we became a D school. C’mon now. Now too many people are making it out. I remember telling Coach Ford, ‘Man, I don’t want to go to college. I already know what I want to be. It’s as simple as that.’ If we want to save kids that are coming up in this – I don’t even want to make it a race thing. Kids in general because all races come up in these situations. If we want to get kids out of there, we have to start fighting for them. That’s one thing that coach Ford did for me. My whole life, I heard that I was going to be nothing. The only people that believed in me were my coach, my family and my momma. Besides that, let’s be real, your parents will always tell you that you’re going to be somebody great. But when you hear everybody else on the outside saying that you’re not, it started to become like, ‘Maybe I’m not.’ That was the biggest thing for me: Was the reality of the things that I dreamt about going to manifest or was everything that everyone spoke about going to come true?”
Plus: Does Trayvon Bromell think he can run under five minutes for the mile?