Norman Looking To Build On His First Big Gold

“Now I truly understand what it takes to be an elite athlete at this level,” says world 400 champ Michael Norman. (CLAUS ANDERSEN)

(This article was written just ahead of 400 world champ Michael Norman’s season-wrapping 200 in Lausanne. In announncing at the end of August he was heading into his post-season brea, Norman wrote on Instagran, ”2022 was a true test of my patience, discipline, and work ethic. I’m happy with the progress I made this year but I’m far from where I want to be.”)

ONE MIGHT CALL THIS the summer of his great content. At last a global champion after his successful third try for a WC or OG gold, Michael Norman wears his heart on his sleeve regarding his joy at having brought home an individual title in the Eugene 400.

Basking in the immediate afterglow Norman explained, “I think just hearing the national anthem and looking at myself in the American flag on the screen, I just kind of spent that time to just kind of reflect on my pro career.

“It’s been a very long journey, a lot of downs. You know, just a huge disappointment in Doha [eliminated in the semis] and then a huge slap in the face after [a 5th in] Tokyo. So it’s just been a very long journey to kind of be where I’m at right now. And I think I just spent that time just thinking about all the hardships and everything I had to do to get to this point.

“So I’m really pleased with my performance. I’m never satisfied, but I’m ready to just kind of elevate and become a better athlete.

“And now I really, now I truly, understand what it takes to be an elite athlete at this level. So I just want to be better.”

Since racing on the victorious Team USA 4×4 in Eugene and adding that relay gold to that of the Olympic variety he scored in Tokyo, Norman — the yearly world leader and undefeated over 400 since his disappointment at the Games — cranked out another full-lap victory at the Chorzów DL.

Despite allowing himself “pizza and pasta and stuff like this” for a brief period after Worlds, Norman again topped silver medalist Kirani James in the Polish meet. He was timed in 44.11 before a boisterous crowd and with a 0.44 margin over the Grenadan that more than doubled his 0.19 edge in Eugene.

“I controlled the race, felt relaxed, pressure free, had fun,” Norman says. “But when I saw the atmosphere at the stadium, I was like ‘Wow!’ Pretty much like in Eugene, you could not hear the starter very much. That was a bit confusing but it was fun.”

At a press conference before his Monaco DL 200 outing 4 days later, Norman assessed that the Silesia lap “probably was the easiest 44.1 I’ve ever run. It just was so smooth, it felt so strong. So I’m really excited to come up here and finally sprint and let loose — cuz I feel like I’ve been holding back all year.”

The 24-year-old Norman, whose next scheduled race will also be a 200 — at the Lausanne DL on August 26 — is relishing the chance to explore the speedier end of his range as the season nears its end. In Monaco, he placed 3rd blasting 19.95 off a steady early summer regimen of 400-specific preparation. No shame in that as now twice-world champion Noah Lyles (19.46) and Eugene’s teen bronze medalist Erriyon Knighton (19.84) were the only two to best the SoCal native.

“I’m sure we’re going to have a couple more races this year,” Norman told the media in Monaco. “We’ll see where I’m at this year. It’s hard to say.

“I know I’m in the best shape of my life in terms of just pure strength, but [before Monaco] I haven’t sprinted in a couple months.”

More like 4 months, actually. Norman opened his world title campaign with a 19.83 clocking over 200 at Mt. SAC in April. “It was my fastest season opener in a 200,” he reminds, “and the earliest I’ve ever run a 200 in my career. So it was a great time.”

It was also the second-fastest on his résumé, inferior only to the 19.70 he ran in June ’19. That Rome DL effort 3 years ago brought a win over Lyles and was Norman’s most recent half-lapper until this season.

“I think as athletes we have a lot of goals and dreams and aspirations,” the USC alum says, “and finally getting that world title this year finally checked one of many boxes that I have. So it was a great feeling, kind of a lift off my shoulders. And I guess now I can kind of just enjoy the rest of the season and just run free, just enjoy sprinting and doing whatever I desire to do.”

With the Lausanne half-lap on his to-do list, and possibly another in Brussels a week later, Norman says of the shorter sprint, “Noah’s already elevated in the 200. I’ve been gone for a while from the 200. So it’s time for me to break through and run faster than 19.7. That’s not cutting it anymore.”

Norman adds, “I feel the same way in the 400. When I see 44 in front of the time, I’m never going to be satisfied.”

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