Back to the future

By his standards, Kareem Streete-Thompson’s 2006 season may have appeared mediocre, but there was plenty of reason to be upbeat, says Cayman’s fastest man.

‘In July I ran 10.34 [100 meters] at Lucerne [Switzerland] and won,’ he said. ‘It let me know that I was on the right track. It felt very gratifying to win again and the time was pretty good considering where I was coming from.’

That place Kareem was coming from was major surgery. After being hindered for years by a nagging hip injury that time clearly was not healing, Kareem decided to go under the knife. He barely cracked 11 seconds at a February meet in Brisbane with a 10.98 in his first race after the surgery. Then he got down to 10.59 at the Commonwealth Games. He closed out the season on a high with the 10.34 win in Switzerland.

‘This year was an experiment. I didn’t have the frequency of races you need to get into that groove necessary to run really fast times. What was important was for me to see if the hip was responding favorably and to see if I could still run worldclass times.

At this point in my career, it’s not enough to just run again. I need to get back to the World Championships and the Olympics.’

Kareem says he feels good about his chances in 2007 when the World Championships will loom as the big prize. With a solid base of training in the off-season, he says he will be ready to run fast times.

Surprisingly, Kareem won’t just be toeing the line against the world’s fastest men in 2007. He also says he intends to return to the long jump wars. The long jump is the event that put Kareem on the world map as a Caymanian high school athlete and then as a worldclass athlete at Rice University. He has ranked as high as second in the world and has a best of 8.63m (28 feet 3.75 inches). That lofty mark, coupled with his 9.96 personal best in the 100 meters, makes Kareem the only human in history other than Carl Lewis to have long jumped beyond 28 feet and dipped below 10.00 in the 100. But the long jump has been a love-hate relationship for the 33 year-old Caymanian. While he has popped big jumps, bagged a bronze medal in the event at the 2002 Commonwealth Games and silver at the 2001 Indoor World Championships, the long jump has also inflicted cruel heartbreak. He has missed qualifying for finals at big meets and had to endure whispers about his mental toughness as a result. His frustrations with the event proved so aggravating that he finally decided to walk away from it and concentrate on the 100 meters. But that exile will end in 2007.

‘I want to jump again,’ declared Kareem. ‘But I don’t want to just jump for the sake of jumping. I want a medal. I’m very positive about next year. I think I can do well in both the 100 and long jump.’

Kareem says he is not worried about his hip holding up under the stress of long jumping. He says he did enough plyometrics work this season to be confident that he won’t re-injure it. In order to jump farther and run faster, Kareem wants to drop his weight down to 195. He’s a lean 212 now so it won’t be easy. Less time in the weight room and more time spent running should do it, he says.

The goals for 2007 will be ambitious, Kareem admits. He aims to make the finals of the 100 and long jump at the World Championships in Osaka, Japan.

‘Everything will have to be just right but I believe I can do it.’