Recently I had the honor of meeting Olympic gold medalist Richard Thompson. He is one of the top sprinters in the world and an incredible athlete. From my first interaction with him on the phone, I knew that he was a guy I really wanted to get to know.
It was a beautiful Florida day in December: the sun was shining and the weather was a crisp 70 degrees. As I drove past the guard gates at IMG Academy the school blew me away. If you have never heard of IMG, it is an elite sports academy where the top high school-aged athletes in the country come to train and develop their skills, with the goal to go pro in their area of expertise. Richard is an instructor at this school. The campus is every bit as intimidating as its reputation. As I drove through the campus I was met with shiny, new and monumental sports complexes that would make most universities salivate. In fact, they have been known to tell their students, “Be prepared to downgrade your training facilities when you graduate and move on to college.”
As I approached the running track, which was the designated meeting spot for Richard and me, I couldn’t help but look around in awe of where I was. My hope from the very beginning of O&S was to connect athletes to this brand- and here I was, actually doing it. It was overwhelming, to say the least.
I spotted Richard the minute he turned the corner to the track. He had a presence about him that screamed elite athlete. He walked up and we started our conversation. I told him about the vision I had for O&S and all of the things I wanted to accomplish with the brand. Then he proceeded to tell me his story. He started his running career when he was only 10 years old. One day after school he joined his father, who was a soccer coach at the time, to the fields for practice. He noticed there was a running meet adjacent to the fields and it sparked his interest. He approached the officials at the track to see if he could join the sprint. He played soccer at the time but had never trained track and field in his life. The officials were nice enough to give him a lane even though he looked like he had no business being there. Richard still dressed in his school uniform did not possess any of the standard gear that most runners would need in a situation like this: i.e. a tracksuit, running shoes and spikes. All he had was a desire to run. As he got into his lane he noticed he was up against one of the top runners in the club in his age group. This kid had been training for years and had quite the reputation as one of the fastest kids in his division. In a game-time decision Richard decided to run the race barefoot, which only makes this story more unbelievable. Once the gun sounded Richard took off and to everyone's surprise he was neck and neck with that top runner I mentioned earlier. They kept going back and forth in position until, by a measly 1/100th of a second, the aforementioned runner won the race. Immediately afterwards, Richard’s father was flooded with track coaches wanting Richard to join their team. I mean ,if he could keep up with the top runner with no training or shoes just imagine what he could accomplish!
I was in awe as Richard told me this story. He continued to tell me that was the start of his running career. He went on to set records at LSU and eventually made it to the Beijing and London Olympics. As Richard broke down his highlight reel he never once had an arrogance about him; he told these stories with pride but with a humble heart.
As our meeting progressed Richard tried on the samples that I brought him and immediately fell in love with the brand and the product. We decided to break for the day with the agreement that he would take some time to think about working with us.
A few days had passed and I finally heard from Richard-he wanted to work with O&S and be a part of the brand. I couldn’t help but become incredibly grateful.
Through every step of the process, Richard has been an incredible person to work with. He exemplifies what a true athlete should be and I am honored to have met him.