JUST off the highway bearing his name, Kim Collins can sit back and relax in the house that two decades of sprinting excellence has built, this most famous son of the island of St Kitts returning home each winter to recuperate from the toils of flitting from one track to another, pushing his body to the limit for ten seconds or less in the name of sport and entertainment.
Defying the ageing process into his 38th year, the 2003 world 100 metres champion requires more recuperation more than his younger peers. Yet it will soon be time to emerge from hibernation, with Glasgow’s Emirates Arena his maiden destination for next year for the annual Indoor International on 25 January.
For many among the elite, it will be the first of three visits in 2014, with the Diamond League meeting serving as an appetiser for the Commonwealth Games. Bar an end to the feud with his country’s athletics federation, however, Collins will not be granted an opportunity to match the gold he claimed in Manchester in 2002. Being a national icon has its perils.
The Kittian flagbearer at last year’s Olympic Games, Collins never made it back into the Stratford track. What was claimed as a routine escape from the village to see his wife and coach at a nearby hotel created a storm which saw him expelled from the team. Eighteen months on, there has been no rapprochement despite an approach, via a third party, to obtain his reinstatement ahead of August’s world championships.
“Honestly. I think the problem is that people are not willing to work honestly together,” he proclaims. “Me, as an athlete, I do my thing and they do their thing. Sometimes, people don’t accept who others are and what they do. They’re the people who wish they could do what you do. I wish I could be a doctor and medicate, but I’m not. This is what I do. So just love and accept me for what I do. Leave me be. Stop trying to fight against me. That makes it a problem because this is how I make my living. When you’re stopping me from working, it hurts my family.”
Even down an imperfect phone line, his indignation is clear. It remains an emotive divorce. “This year, they said the reason for not sending me to the worlds was because I didn’t come to the trials,” Collins declares. “That’s makes absolutely no sense.” It will not, he vows, stop him from attending the Commonwealths as a fan. Having competed in Glasgow numerous times, he will pay his own way. “A lot of times, people make me feel like a local there. I’ll feel sad to watch it, but the show must go on. It’s going to be a great thing.”
Similarly, his personal odyssey is not ready for a curtail call. Last July, the veteran became the oldest man ever to break the 10-second barrier for 100 minutes, dipping in at 9.99 seconds at Hungary. Remarkably, he had gone marginally quicker the week before while men almost half his age trailed behind.
It is an atypical accomplishment. At 27, most feel Usain Bolt, while imperious, is past his prime. Why give up when the legs still work, Collins asks? Sitting back and counting his appearance fees can’t be as much fun as taking the acclaim of the crowd. “You think of how long your career can last,” he admits. “Nobody wants to think about the end. You just want to continue for ever and ever.”
Indoors in Glasgow, he will take on the new British hope James Dasaolu over 60 metres, new kid on the blocks against the old hand. The Londoner, second only to Linford Christie in the UK rankings, will be among those tipped for European and Commonwealth medals in 2014, but Collins, understandably, insists he has plenty of time to hit his peak. “Dasaolu has the speed and the potential, but the British love to put their people under pressure. He needs to do it naturally without pushing too hard. That could break him.”
• Tickets for the 2014 British Athletics Series are now on sale.