THE 1996 HONOR ROLL

DONOVAN BAILEY

'Sprinters are usually very selfabsorbed and selfish

JAMES DEACON December 23 1996
THE 1996 HONOR ROLL

DONOVAN BAILEY

'Sprinters are usually very selfabsorbed and selfish

JAMES DEACON December 23 1996

DONOVAN BAILEY

'Sprinters are usually very selfabsorbed and selfish

Donovan Bailey's house says a lot about its owner. The new two-storey brick home backs onto a leafy ravine in Oakville, Ont., just west of Toronto, giving him the privacy he wanted—"It's kind of like a little gated community in here," he says. The sprinter was training in Texas when the house deal closed last May, but he agonized over every detail, even the driveway. Instead of asphalt, he bought interlocking beige bricks to match the house itself. Inside, he and his companion of three years, Michelle Mullin, of London, have not yet fully furnished every room, but they have meticulously outfitted heavy-traffic areas such as the den, with its plush leather sofa, big-screen TV and framed prints of jazz greats Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Bailey laughs when a visitor suggests the house is beginning to look settled. Plotted on an atlas, his 1996 schedule would look like an airline route

map. "I like having a home, a real home," he says. "But I don't stay in one place too long."

Little wonder. At the Atlanta Olympics last summer, in front of a worldwide TV audience of more than one billion people, Bailey defeated the best 100-m field in history, and set a new world record of 9.84 seconds in the process. The 29-year-old native of Manchester, Jamaica, who moved to Oakville when he was 12, later joined with Robert Esmie, Glenroy Gilbert and Bruny Surin to win the 4 x 100-m relay. Those triumphs were celebrated wildly in Canada, but Bailey had little time to join in. From Atlanta, he embarked on a gruelling schedule of meets from Europe to the Far East. Last month, after a few weeks at home, he returned to Austin, Tex., to begin training for the 1997 season.

A shy man leading a public life, Bailey can be confounding. He is keenly interested in the business of sport, yet he has refused interview requests from U.S. magazines and TV networks that would have gained him—and his sponsors—a windfall of exposure. He has no trouble performing in front of thousands at a stadium, yet gets nervous when asked to give short speeches before only dozens of people at sponsors' functions. "I was born in a small town in Jamaica and I grew up in a small town in Canada," he says. "It's my nature."

Shy perhaps, but not meek. The sprint world is filled with chest-thumping mercenaries and, while he is more easygoing than most, Bailey is no choir-boy. No one succeeds in the withering heat of a 100-m race without a killer instinct. "Sprinters are usually very self-absorbed and selfish," he says. "I am that way sometimes, too." His immediate ambitions are to beat American Michael Johnson in a 150-m match race next spring, and to set the world relay record with Surin, Gilbert and Esmie at next summer's world cham-

pionships in Athens. "We're like brothers now, " he says. His long-term goal, however, might just keep him going until the 2000 Games in Sydney, Australia. "Running the perfect race—that's what I shoot for," he says. "And I haven't run even close to that yet. "

At home, his transition from gunslinger to regular guy is enforced by the couple's daughter, two-year-old Adriana. Waking up from an afternoon nap, she immediately climbs onto her father's lap and the interview stops. "At first, I didn't see myself being a father, " he says softly. " But it's amazing how quickly you become Mr. Bailey. " The sprint king, it seems, does everything quickly.

JAMES DEACON