July 16, 2012
U-M at the London Olympics
Former Wolverine track standout Kevin Sullivan (1994-98), a veteran of three Olympic Games, will be absent from the starting line for the Olympic 1,500-meter run for the first time in 12 years. He finished fifth in the event at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and advanced to the semifinals in 2004 and 2008. Sullivan won four indoor mile and four outdoor 1,500m Big Ten crowns at U-M and was a four-time NCAA champion (indoor mile, 1995, 1998; distance medley relay, 1995; outdoor 1,500m, 1995).
Now the owner of Capital City Runners in Tallahassee, Fla., Sullivan will work as an editorial research assistant for Canada's CTV for the London Games. He took some time recently to reflect on his own Olympic experiences.
What stands as your most memorable Olympic Games experience?
I think for me the most memorable experience was walking out during the opening ceremonies in Sydney. It's probably a tossup between that and walking out into the stadium for my first round of the 1,500, just walking out for that very first experience at the Olympics. I had been hurt in 1996, and I wasn't sure I was ever going to get a chance to get back to that point. There was a lot of emotion involved in it.
Were you able to find a balance between taking in whole Olympic environment and focusing on your competitions?
I would say I didn't really take in the whole environment. I think that's what really separates athletes that are really there to perform from those who are kind of just there to take in the experience. I went to a few other sports and did a few things in the village, but at the end of the day, my job was to compete. In Athens and Beijing, my event was earlier in the track session, so I was done before the end of the Games and was able to do a few things afterwards. But in Sydney, where I had my best performance, I didn't do anything other than stay in the village.
What are your plans for these London Games?
I am working for CTV, which is the Canadian broadcaster for the games. I'll be an editorial research assistant for track and field and triathlon. It's definitely going to be different from anything I've ever done before. I've done a little bit of broadcasting, but in terms of the whole research aspect of it, I haven't done a lot. It's going to be a lot of work, it's going to be long hours, and it's going to be pretty tiring. I won't be in London. I'll be based in Toronto, so it's going to be a little different than actually being there, but I'm looking forward to it. It's a way for me to stay involved in the Olympic moment so to speak.
How was the experience of sharing several Olympic moments with fellow Wolverine athletes?
That was great. There's a great photo from Athens with me, Ronnie [Warhurst], Nick [Willis] and Tim [Broe]. You've got three different countries represented, and we're all there in our uniforms just hanging out in the village. Those are guys you go to the track with and train with every day, and it's nice to kind of see your friends and training partners realize their Olympic goals as well. There's a lot that goes through your mind when you're working with several guys that you are really close to and that are working under the same program that you're working under.
What kind of advice would you give to aspiring Olympians?
It's tough. You've really got to take it on one day at a time. Sometimes it's easy to look at the end goal without realizing all the steps you have to take in between. It's about keeping an even keel; you can't get too high on the highs and too low on the lows because you'll find you don't just have this linear improvement all the way to the Games. You're going to have a lot of two steps forward, one step back type of situations. It's about keeping everything in perspective and keeping your eye on the goal but not forgetting how to take every day and work toward that goal.
Going into 1996, I was so driven and focused on running well in Atlanta that I wasn't listening to my own body. I ended up breaking down, having surgery and putting the rest of my career in jeopardy because I wasn't going day by day. I was only looking at the end goal and just trying to push through everything rather than realizing I had 11-12 months to get ready and could afford to take some time off in order to get my body recovered and healed. When I say a lot of it is about taking it day by day, I think that is where I learned my lesson from.