WRITTEN FOR SKYSPORTS
Sixteen years on from his finest Olympic moment, former 400m runner Jamie Baulch is set to return to the greatest sporting show on earth in a very different capacity this summer – as an agent to some of Team GB’s brightest track hopes, writes Nicola Bamford.
The 38-year-old Welshman heads the management of World 400m hurdles champion Dai Greene and Olympic 400m final hopeful Martyn Rooney amongst others, and admits to feeling more nervous for his clients than he did for himself in his own athletic heyday.
Based in Cardiff at the Definitive Sports Management offices, Baulch turned to athlete-management in 2009 after hanging up his racing spikes seven years ago.
A silver-medallist in the 4x400m relay at the 1996 Atlanta Games, the British indoor record-holder – with a 45.39 clocking from the 1997 season – revealed:
“Going back to the Olympics will be crazy, really – I actually ran on the Olympic track the other day and I’ve also got a few tickets.
“I’ll be so nervous for my athletes but I tell them the most important thing is to embrace the moment and enjoy the opportunity.”
Also charged with guiding the commercial careers of six-time London marathon wheelchair winner David Weir and Commonwealth heptathlon champion Louise Hazel, Baulch is enjoying being able to pass on the wealth of his expertise in the sport:
"I enjoy managing my athletes – 90% of the time, it’s great and being on the different side of the fence now, I make sure that I guide and nurture my athletes well,” he explained.
“My favourite part is my ‘Jerry Maguire’ bit to the job – getting the sponsorship and commercial opportunities for the athletes and making a difference to their lives.
“I have a big personality – I had my own TV show – so this, together with my contacts and sponsorship, celebrity and elite-athlete knowledge is more than what most agents have.”
The 1999 World indoor 400m champion ended his track career with an outdoor best of 44.57, which still ranks him as seventh on an illustrious British all-time list yet Baulch is hoping one of his clients can leapfrog this performance.
Sixteen years on, Rooney is set to improve his 44.60 life-time best in the one-lap event and thus out-performing his mentor, following an impressive 44.92 clocking in California last weekend.
Speeding to his fastest time since the 2008 Beijing Olympics - where he finished a fine sixth - the 25-year-old from Croydon now faces a promising second Olympic campaign in London this August.
“Martyn’s run didn’t surprise me,” Baulch revealed, “We chatted in a coffee shop in Daegu last summer (after the World Championships) and he was really disappointed in his run to miss the final.
“I told him he could be the best and medal in London so he got his head down this winter and analysed himself – by committing to hurting himself, he was impressive.
“I saw British record potential in him years ago and if he can run under 43.3, he can get a medal in London.”
Shortly returning from a six-week warm-weather training stint in LA, Rooney will next compete at his training base in the Loughborough International three weeks from now before aiming to retain and collect a third-straight British title in Birmingham at the Olympic trials in late June.
Another client set to raise Baulch’s blood-pressure in the Olympic stadium this summer will be one-lap hurdles gold-medal favourite Greene.
The 26-year-old from Swansea took the European and Commonwealth titles in 2010 before clinching the global crown last summer and finished less than four-tenths of a second behind Rooney in the 400m flat at the British Championships and World trials back in July.
Based in Bath and with a best of 47.88 in his specialist event, Greene is closing in on Kriss Askabusi’s British record and will open his season at the Diamond League in Rome at the end of May ahead making his Olympic debut in London.
“It’s been exciting to follow Dai at his races - we’ve had some great experiences and I really enjoyed seeing him win in Daegu,” explained Baulch.
“I was more nervous for him than I used to be for myself and I’m very confident Dai can win the Olympic gold - he’s the most consistent athlete I’ve ever met.”
Despite his forthcoming nuptials set for late August, Baulch additionally hopes to be in London to cheer on Weir – this time in the Paralympic event:
“David’s a legend – such a humble, great ambassador for the Paralympics and Team GB,” he said.
“I will try to be there for him – he’s in the best shape of his life and is having to slow himself down in training so I think he’ll be a hero after the Games.”
Despite being named two years ago as the true 1997 World 4x400m relay champion alongside team-mates Iwan Thomas, Roger Black and Mark Richardson, due to a positive drug finding amongst the original victorious USA team, Baulch has mainly happy memories of his own athletic career.
Now a father to two boys, he collected in his time, two European 4x400m relay titles and placed fifth in the relay at his second Games in Sydney 2000, after exiting the heats of the individual 400m event.
“Atlanta was an amazing occasion for me – I remember receiving the invitation letter at aged 22 was fantastic and my event for the British team was very strong,” revealed Baulch.
“It was an enormous experience and to come away with the silver in a European and Commonwealth record was brilliant – I felt like a kid in a sweet shop, standing on the rostrum at my first Games, I really enjoyed the moment.”
Four years later and it was a slightly different story for Baulch but nevertheless a privileged experience:
“I didn’t have a good Games in Sydney, unfortunately – the 400m didn’t go well and although I ran a storming leg, fifth in the relay was disappointing but it was a great event to be a part of,” he continued.
“They both seem like only yesterday – sixteen years is a long time ago, it’s only when I take my medal into schools that I realise just how long ago it was.
“I also have five World indoor Championship medals so they make me proud as well - people often ask why I always seemed to run better indoors and in the relay and it’s because I found the individual 400m outdoors quite boring – the others were interesting and challenging – it was fun not just sticking to one lane!”
Still running regularly – with a fine 3:51:44 clocking in the 2011 London Marathon to his name – Baulch will be seen contesting ITV’s “Dancing on Ice – Going for Gold” celebrity competition alongside 1988 Olympic 110m hurdles silver-medallist Colin Jackson and 1984 Olympic javelin champion Tessa Sanderson on the eve of the London Games, where he hopes to set a medal-winning example to his stable of clients.