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Interview with Michael LeBlanc

Posted 1 decade ago

Name: Michael LeBlanc
DOB: February 25, 1987
Hometown: Riverview, NB
Club: South East Athletics
PB's (As of September 1, 2005): 60m 6.84, 100m 10.59, 200m 21.95

1) How did you first get involved in Track and Field? How long have you been training seriously?
Back in elementary school we used to have a “field day” near the end of the year where you could go an compete against other members of your grade in scaled down versions of track and field events. There was the ball toss, ring throw, standing long jump, 50-run, and wall jump. Every year I would wipe everything out, except for the ball and ring toss, and to this day I still can’t throw or catch anything.

It sounds like a cliché, but Donovan Bailey was my first major inspiration. During the Olympics my dad called me in front of the TV and told me that whoever won that race would be the fastest man in the world, and I thought that was amazing. Until I had seen that race track and field was always sort of trivial to me, but watching Bailey really showed me what was possible.

Although I have been around track for a long time, I only started “serious” training in September 2004.

Courtesy: NBIAA

2) The past few years you have made huge jumps with your sprinting. What do you contribute to these improvements?
I was always able to win my races in Atlantic Canada without really doing anything. So although I had a really good natural base, at the same time it kept me from working hard towards improvement. However once I started attending bigger meets, the situation changed drastically.

Last summer at Aileen Meagher I was the last entry in the “A” heat. I lined up against Xavier James, Richard Adu-Bobie, and Luis Vega to name a few. I was totally blown out of the water – I had never lost a race that bad. I also went to Legion Nationals and won 2 bronze medals in the 100m, and 200m; which finished off the summer well. After Legion Nationals I looked back and what I had achieved, and how much work I did to achieve it, and decided I was capable of much more.

In September 2004 I began a comprehensive training program with my long-time coach, Peter Stuart. I would have to attribute my recent success to discipline, quality training, and excellent coaching.

3) What has been your most memorable race thus far in your career?
This year I attended a number of big meets nationally and internationally, of which I remember them all, but to date one race stands apart from all of these. The 2004 NBIAA Provincial Championship 4x100m Relay – Josh Scott, Alex Clark, Bryn Ferris, and I all visited the Salvation Army Thrift Store before the race, and picked out really tacky and tight women’s outfits. The whole thing was a secret, even to other members of our team. We put the clothes on, and then put our sweats on on-top of them, and warmed up for the relay. When they lined the teams up, and told us to take our sweats off, we all broke out into our skimpy women’s outfits. To top it off we had written “Team Awesome” and other cheesy slogans all over the clothes and ourselves.

We got some pretty bad looks, until we won the gold medal.

Courtesy: Mike LeBlanc

4) Who has been the biggest influence on your sprinting career?
Without a doubt my long-time coach Peter Stuart, who has always supported me, even when my own dedicated wasn’t so strong. He has put in countless hours of his personal time for my benefit, and I owe him my success.

Courtesy: Junior Nats

5) Can you tell us about your famous ‘lean’ as you went past the finish line at the 2001 legion Regional Meet in Memramcook?
At this time I wasn'’t really fully versed in the proper lean technique, but that wasn’t going to stop me from breaking it out at the Legion Regional meet.

The lean took place in the 100m dash. Some interesting things to consider are that the race was hand timed, and I was leading quite comfortably. None the less, nearing the end of the race I decided I needed to lean, so I did, and quite aggressively. In fact in about a hundredth of a second my center of gravity shifted from my hips to my head, and I realized I was going down and there was nothing I could do about it. Instinctively I tried to brake the fall by putting my right arm out. Unfortunately bones don’t react well when going from full speed to zero instantaneously. My right arm snapped, so I landed on my left shoulder which also snapped, so I fell onto my back.

I left the track that day with a broken right arm, I broken left collar, and a seriously cut up back (I still have the scars). My shoulder healed on its own, but they needed to surgically reset my arm.

6) Do you ever think about growing back the famous afro that you once had back in middle school? What was the reason for your obsession with afros?
For my entire life I had kept my hair short, like it is now, because whenever it got even a little bit long it started to go curly. My brother (who is 29 now, and a visual effects specialist at Dreamworks, look for his name in the credits of some movies like Shrek 2, Andre LeBlanc) who was going back to school suggested that I let it grow and see what happens. So I did, and my hair grew into really tightly curled ringlets.

I kept it going for a long time because 1) Whenever you grow your hair out, it takes a long time, and you’re scared to cut it off because if it looks bad, there’s no going back. 2) Girls always asked me if they could touch it. 3) Afros are amazing and everyone knows it.

People don’t realize it, but bringing my hair to the length it is now (really short), took well over a year. No one really said anything because it was so gradual, I’d just get it cut shorter each time.

I decided to cut it because 1) It’s a major pain in the ass to run with. 2) It’s REALLY a major pain in the ass to run with. 3) People started saying I looked like Justin from American Idol – which was the last straw.

Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll see it around again sometime.

7) You missed some big meets this summer (Pan Am Juniors, Canada Games) because of injuries. How disappointing was dealing with these injuries?
It was extremely disappointing for me to miss out on these meets, because they were supposed to be the peak of my season when I would be setting new personal bests. When I ran 10.59 on June 12th, I came home and 2 days later I developed micro-tears in my hamstring that kept me off the track right up until a few days before Junior Nationals in July. At Junior Nationals, in the final I overloaded my lower back and it developed a spasm that has kept me off the track right up until now. So all in all, I haven’t had a true track practice since early June, since my injuries I’ve been restricted to stationary biking and weights.

I went to Canada Games with the intention of running, but when I got there and did some practicing it became obvious to me that there was no way I was going to be able to compete. It was really disappointing watching the races, especially knowing that I could have done very well.

At the same time, despite my injuries, this has still been my most successful season ever, and I walk away from it with big PB’s and new provincial records. Right now I am 100% injury free, and looking forward to beginning training for my indoor season at Syracuse.

8) How are you planning to deal with the injuries and return to form?
As far as I can tell, and as far as can be evaluated without actually running, I am injury free. I still get regular physiotherapy treatments as a precaution, and will continue to do so until I run without issues, which should be within the next few weeks.

9) With the current youth movement in Canadian sprinting, how do you compare to the other young studs?
I’m ranked well in juniors, 3rd last time I checked. I also give myself the benefit of the doubt considering my season has been hampered with injuries, I don’t doubt I would have gone faster.

I think overall the Canadian sprint scene is developing well, with Justyn Warner, Marc Latouche, Gavin Smellie, Brian Barnett, and myself in the junior line-up. It will be interesting to see who does what over the next few years. I believe than Richard Adu-Bobie, Hank Palmer, and Jared Connaughton will be familiar faces on national senior teams in the future.

10) What steps do you have to take to make the Canadian Senior National Team?
I think I am taking all the right steps by maintaining a disciplined schedule, training hard, taking care of myself, and receiving good coaches. Everything else is just a natural progression. This year I am starting out in a much better place in terms of physical fitness than I did last year, so I am expecting good results.

My immediate national team goals are for World Juniors in Beijing next August. Once I finish my junior career, national teams will be the focus.

11) You chose to attend Syracuse University in New York this fall. What was it about this University that made you feel it would be a perfect fit? What were some other schools that you thought about attending?
I knew that I wanted to be apart of a reputable division 1 NCAA program, but I wouldn’t sacrifice myself to do it. I wanted a school that was strong academically and athletically, and was also willing to support and accommodate my out NCAA season schedule. Syracuse is very supportive, and recognizes that I am liable to compete far into August and that will mean altering my training/competition regime. Syracuse is also highly rated academically, which is important to me, and although a bit warmer, the weather is in my comfortable range.

I spoke to a lot of schools, but in the end my decision was between Florida State and Syracuse. If for whatever reason I returned to Canada, I would no doubt go to the University of Alberta, I think they have a great sprints program there and should be a force in the CIS for the next few years.

12) How will you have to adapt from high school/university and competing in New Brunswick to university and competing in New York?
I don’t expect a major training shock. I did do a lot of intense training this past year, and I am well adapted to a big training schedule. The biggest change will be the earlier outdoor season.

13) Describe how excited you are in competing against some of the best sprinters in the World next year in the NCAAs?
Very excited. I am a believer that to get better, you need to race people who are better than you. In terms of sprinters, the NCAA has one of the deepest talent pools in the world, and it’s the best place I could be over the next 4 years to maximize my potential.

14) What are some of your main goals for next years track season?
Although I think I am more suited to the 100m, I would like to improve on my 200m time. I only ran it once this year, and I was more or less fooling around when I did it. I think I have a lot of room to develop in the 200m, and it will help my speed endurance in the 100m. At the same time I think both my 60m and 100m times will drop significantly. The facilities, coaching, depth of competition, and team members combine to form the perfect atmosphere for time drops.

15) I hear you are a slow – fast guy. You were always the last kid out the door to go to school and are always the last guy to finish your warm-up at practice. Do you think you will change your ways now that you are at University?
It’s true, I’m always late or waiting until the last minute. But I treat serious things seriously; I’m in a great position here and I am going to take advantage of it and get the most out of it that I can.

16) It has been said that you are the biggest Red Bull Fan in the World (Yes the World). If you had the choice of winning an unlimited supply of Red Bull or the Red Bull Volkswagen Beetle which would you choose and why?
First of all, Beetles are lame, so if anything I’d opt for the Red Bull Mini-Cooper. Even then, no car is worth an unlimited supply of Red Bull (we’re talking like $2.50 a can, at least).

Also, that two can per-day stuff is for beginners, when I hit the Red Bull I go big or go home, 6 cans minimum.

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