BENGALURU:French legend Marie-Jose Perec, winner of three Olympic gold medals, is in town. The former women’s 200 and 400 metres Olympic champion is the Brand Ambassador for the World 10K run, to be held here on Sunday. The 47-year-old also won 400m gold at the 1991 World Championship in Tokyo and the 1995 World Championship in Gothenburg.
Perec is only the second woman athlete to achieve the 200-400 metres double in an Olympic Games (Valerie Brisco-Hooks in 1984 being the other). She won the 200 and then the 400 at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, the latter in an Olympic record time of 48.25 seconds, still the third fastest of all time. In a chat with Express, the down to earth and soft-spoken Perec spoke on various issues.
On her visit to India
This is my first visit to India. During my career, I always wanted to come here, but it did not happen. Now I have come, though it is very short. I want to see as much as I can.
On which victory she cherishes the most
Yes, I cherish the Olympic gold medals the most. I won the 200 at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona and felt over the moon. But the double in 1996 at Atlanta was memorable and I can never forget that day. I always wanted to achieve what Valerie (Brisco-Hooks) by winning both.
On the Olympic double
Preparations for the double were very difficult. I never worried about the 400m but 200m was different. I won it in 1992 and there was more pressure. I wanted to do 400 in 48 seconds or so. I prepared with that time all along, and I knew if I could get it, nobody would beat me.
On the issue of drugs in athletics
I think it’s there in many sports, but most don’t expose it. The IAAF, however, is doing a good job by making it public and punishing the guilty. It’s good for the sport, but not all are doing that. There are some individual cases, no doubt. But I feel it’s the athlete who must be educated not to cheat. They must have the awareness. Once I won an event and my grandmother, who was 80-plus, was watching me on television. After I won someone passed me a bottle of water and I had a sip. When I telephoned home to tell my people that I had won, she scolded me saying I should not have that water as I could be in trouble later. You don’t know where this water came from, she said. So it all must start at home. You don’t have to be in the sport to teach your kids not to cheat or to be careful.
On her organisation — Champions of Peace
Yes we do a lot of work and try and help as many athletes the world over. We even raise funds for them, for the coaches, for the education of athletes etc. We also go out and talk to athletes and help them in many ways.