David Brown won’t quit until he’s the best – and he doesn’t believe he’s there yet.
The track star set world records in both the men's 100 and 200-meter races in the T11 (visually impaired) class two weeks ago at the Mt. SAC Relays in Walnut, California.
In fact, Brown became the first visually-impaired athlete in history to break 11 seconds in the 100. His time of 10.92 shattered the previous world record by more than a tenth of a second.
“I was expecting something fast, but I wasn’t expecting that fast,” Brown said of his performance at Mt. SAC. “My goal going into every race is pretty much to execute. I know that if I execute my race the right way, then the time will be there.”
So right now, Brown can technically be considered the fastest visually-impaired sprinter in the world.
But he doesn’t think that way.
“I still don’t consider myself the best, even though I have the world record,” Brown said. “I’m not going to be satisfied until I’m faster than Usain Bolt. Right now, I’m just trying to be faster than my guide runner.”
Brown began his Paralympic career in 2010 when he was invited to compete on a team at the Penn Relays. There he was introduced to U.S. Paralympics Track & Field High Performance Director Cathy Sellers, who saw him compete and encouraged him to try out for the national team.
Now, Brown is a resident athlete at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California, where he moved just before the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
When he was named to the U.S. Paralympic Team for London, he thought just making the roster was a dream come true.
Then he saw what he was capable of against the world’s best.
In London, Brown was separated from gold by just 0.5 seconds in the 200 and just 0.2 seconds in the 100m. Seeing those times, his ambitions grew. He made it his goal to reach the top of his class.
“My goal is always No. 1, so I did my research and looked up the world records,” Brown said. “Last year I came close. I ran 22.73 in the 200 and thought, ‘This goal is definitely possible, to break the world record. I’m going to go for it.’”
And now that he’s accomplished that goal – in two events, no less – he just wants to get faster. Faster than his competitors, faster than more sighted divisions, and ultimately faster than some able-bodied athletes.
Every day, he’s in the gym and on the track. He’s tweaking his form, fine-tuning communication with his guide, and perfecting his race strategy.
There may still be others faster than Brown, but few are as motivated to constantly improve.
“What motivates me every day to get up and do what I’m doing is of course the world record and the gold medal,” Brown said. “But also my friends and my family, representing my country and representing God, and just keeping my goals in front of me.”
Now that the competition season is here, Brown will have a chance to showcase the hard work he’s put in over the past several months. He plans to focus on his key races, the 200 and 400. Training-wise, that means transitioning from the high volume he put in over the winter to faster, race-pace workouts.
“In the offseason I worked on mechanics and did a lot of core, just getting stronger and staying healthy,” Brown said. “Now my volume is going down and I’m doing more quality work – getting a lot more rest but going a lot faster.”
Two months ago, Brown made another significant change. He began working with a new guide runner, Jerome Avery. Avery has been to three Paralympic Games as a guide runner, and he finished in the top-15 himself at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials - Track & Field.
The two call themselves “Team BrAvery”.
“It’s going great,” Brown said. “He’s been doing a great job guiding me. Jerome is fast, and he’s also been guide running for a number of years now. He can adapt to pretty much any kind of runner. So when I paired up with him, he was able to adapt with me and we kind of took off from there. It was really smooth.”
And while Brown has earned world-record glory in the 100 and 200, it’s the 400 that gives him the most adrenaline.
“I love the pain it brings,” Brown said. “The 400 is one of those ‘willing’ races. You come to the last 100 meters and everybody’s tired, so it comes down to who wants it the most and who’s going to get out the fastest. It just comes down to willpower, and I love that.”
He has the willpower. He has the drive. And now he has the world records to prove it.
Brown will compete next at the Desert Challenge Games, which are part of the International Paralympic Committee Athletics Grand Prix series. The meet is set for May 9-11 in Mesa, Arizona.