Bahamian 400m ace Steven Gardiner has come a long way since his semi-final exits at the 2015 World Championships and the 2016 Olympic Games. Now the fastest man in the world at 43.87 seconds, Gardiner is one of the biggest stars of the 2018 athletics season. Humble and fast, his dreams include winning a medal at the 2020 Olympics.
Sensational so far this year, the Florida-based 22-year-old has lowered his national record from the 43.89-second run that put him in the World Championships final where he won the silver medal. Now, he is level with 1988 Olympic champion Steve Lewis as the joint 12th-fastest 400m runner of all time. "I feel honoured to be one of the best," he said on May 29, "because growing up, I didn't think I'd be in the position I am now in the sport."
He gives his coach Gary Evans high ratings and says maturity is one of the big contributors to his progress. "I'm more mature than I was two years ago," he reflected. In those days, he ran 44.27 seconds at 19 years old and 44.46 at 20, just after he changed focus from volleyball to athletics at age 16. "My body is more mature, and my mindset is different from back then", he extended.
His new mindset is paying off. He opened his 2018 season with a super 200m run clocked in 19.75 seconds and joined Olympic champions Carl Lewis and Joe Deloach at 15th on the all-time world list. He lowered his 400m national record by 0.02 in Doha and later added a fine time of 43.99 in Shanghai. After that, he delighted fans at the Adidas Boost Boston street meet with a big finish to with a straight 200m race in 19.88 seconds.
"Do what we do in practice in the race," Gardiner revealed of the approach that had produced those early season stunning performances, "and the times will come."
Coincidentally, the 200m was his prime event until his high-school coach ushered him into the 400m because of his height.
Humbled by his success, Gardiner is using this season as a springboard to 2019, when the World Championships will be in Doha. "My targets for this year are to run some good races [and] some good times to be ready for next year because what I do this year affects what I'm going to do next year," he projected.
2019 will put the Bahamian face to face with Wayde van Niekerk, the World and Olympic champion and world-record holder. Gardiner is looking forward to racing the super South African again. "Everybody will be there in the sport, and so, if he's there, I just have to be ready," he said with quiet anticipation.