INDIANA UNIVERSITY'S Derek Drouin was minding his own serious business, preparing for takeoff on the high jump carpet at the Penn Relays 2 years ago when a fully clothed streaker entered the stadium.
It's difficult enough concentrating with 50,000 shuffling in their seats and craning their necks to get a look at the world's fastest human. Even the high jump purists were stealing glances.
Usain Bolt's cameo had the timing and potential of turning Drouin's event into the low jump. Yet, instead of cursing his fate, Drouin embraced it.
"Absolutely it was a giant distraction but it was awesome," said the three-time NCAA champ who is back in Franklin Field this week to compete after a year off with a fractured foot. "I was getting ready to jump while Bolt was waiting to get the baton. I was glad I was that close to see it."
Drouin had a front-row, standing-room-only seat with a slightly obstructed view of Bolt in his bright yellow jersey as a hoard of officials in red hats and blue blazers massed near the anchor leg to watch the Jamaican Flash. Geographically, high jumpers start their approach inside the stadium maybe 20 yards from where anchors ignite.
Bolt's mere presence forced the starter on the relay heat before to lift the athletes from their set position and try it again. High jumping can be an afterthought at some venues but not on the last Saturday in April at Franklin Field. Trackheads take in both the glamor events and those off the beaten track. Everyone had to stop what they were watching when Bolt appeared.
"I don't like a lot of attention when I'm jumping," said Drouin. "But it's comforting at the relays because the fans are so knowlegable. I felt people were really paying attention."
Until Bolt showed up. He spent less time competing than walking to his spot on the track and working the crowd after his otherworldly 8.79-second stint over 100 meters with the running start a relay allows.
Drouin won the event anyway with a leap of 7-3 1/4. No one should be surprised. Drouin wins despite distraction. He did it again in the first outdoor meet last year even though he broke his launching foot. His only blah season might have been his first, in third grade, after following his older sister Jillian's footsteps into the sport.
In fourth grade, he cleared 5-2.
"I guess I had good instincts for it,'' Drouin said.
Now he's dealing primarily in hopes. The 6-4 guy with above-normal hops from Corunna, Ontario hopes he can hit the Olympic standard again and join the Canadian team at the Games in London this summer.
This week he hopes to clear both the bar with ease and any doubts about his foot. He hopes to jump higher than competitors like returning champ Maalik Reynolds from Penn. Mainly he hopes to get back to being the more well-rounded athlete he was as a decathlete.
"The training has been boring,'' Drouin said honestly . "I'm up lifting weights at 6:45, going to class and then training for 2 hours in the afternoon.
"It's a struggle because it is so limiting. I'm only training for the high jump. Each session depends on how I feel because of the injury. I used to think training for the other events in the decathlon helped me in the high jump.
"I can't wait to get back to that next year.''
The fewer distractions the better.