Shaping Olympic Dreams

The Santa Monica Track Club is celebrating its 40th year anniversary since it was first founded in 1972 by legendary coach and manager Joe Douglas, and even after decades, Douglas is still acquiring fresh new talent to train with him at Santa Monica College. “I want to be the fastest 400m girl that Joe has ever had,” said Charlotte Johanson a sprinter from Stockholm, Sweden.

Douglas is a legend in the Track and Field community and has been the coach of many well-known track stars including icon Carl Lewis.

The track at SMC has been the training ground for these Olympic hopefuls for the past few years, and has also been the starting point for these up and comers as they get ready for their qualifications this summer.

Four international athletes, from Zambia, Sweden, Uganda and the United States are training at Santa Monica College as part of the Santa Monica Track Club this year with one goal in mind; to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games to be held in London.

“Prince Mumba of Zambia, and Richard Jones of the United States, are two very talented athletes,” said Douglas. “But you’ve got to remember that too many hurdles are going to come up.”

It is a constant challenge for the SMTC athletes to maintain their health and take care of themselves.

“If they get sick or something happens, that creates a problem and we have to come back from that,” said Douglas. “They both have the talent. Now we’ll see if we can develop that talent.”

Mumba has already qualified for the Olympic trials and will be representing Zambia at the 2012 Olympic Games. Mumba first attended the Olympic games in 2004 but he didn’t reach the finals, and in 2008 an injury kept him from competing in Beijing. He is hoping that his third attempt training under Douglas will be the charm.

He keeps his timing goal for this year “tattooed” on his left arm in ink with goals to run a 1:43 in the 800m and make the finals at the Olympics.

“Just like coach says, winning does not define success, but doing your best,” said Mumba. “I'm going to do my best to attain my goals.”

Athlete Richard Jones is the only American to be part of the Santa Monica Track Club’s Olympic hopeful team. Jones will try to qualify in the upcoming United States Olympic Team Trials that will be held late June 2012 in Eugene, Oregon.

Originally from Benicia, California, Jones attended junior college at Central Arizona College before getting a scholarship to Louisiana State University where he later won various 800m races.

“He’s a once in a lifetime coach,” said Jones who believes that Douglas can help him reach the Olympics. “His vision for my career is pretty far out. Coach Douglas sees things in my career that even I haven’t seen.”

Sprinter and also UCLA law student Johanson of Sweden wants to prove that an athlete can excel both in the academics and athletics. “You have to be very structured,” added Johanson who will try to qualify in the Stanford Invitational on April 29th along with SMTC’s distance runner Tony Okello from Uganda.

For Okello, it is easier to follow faster runners rather then lead in front. “I am hoping that this year they're going to place me in the fastest section,” said Okello who holds a current time of 28:23 in the 10,000m which should place him in section 1 of the race. His timing goal for this year is to run 27:40.

To improve his stamina and resistance sometimes Okello runs for 18 miles starting in Santa Monica to UCLA and back to the Santa Monica Pier. “I am trying to qualify, that is why I am working so hard,” said Okello.

His athletes have described Coach Douglas as not only a legendary coach who has trained some of the biggest names in the athletics sport history, but also a tough and good man.

“Nothing would make me happier to see Prince and Richard get a medal. If they run their best I'm going to be super happy,” said Douglas. “But wouldn't it be great to have somebody in Santa Monica win another medal?”