Olympians of the future? Behind-the-scenes at Michael Johnson Performance

The Founder of Ultimate Athletics​ Lisa Campbell selected her most promising athletes to fly from Dubai to Dallas for a week of intensive training run by the Olympic legend himself. She talks to the young stars for Vision 

I decided to organise the trip after having the pleasure of meeting Michael Johnson in March when he was in Dubai... says Lisa Campbell, writing exclusively for Vision

One of the world's most decorated athletes and (for 17 years) the fastest man over 400m (Wayde van Niekerk broke Johnson’s record by 0.15 seconds in Rio to run 43.03 seconds) must have a great philosophy and surround himself with the best facilities and coaches, right?

Given the summer heat here and lack of indoor athletics facilities in Dubai, it made sense to travel and check it out. Unfortunately I had family commitments already so I thought coach David Maris would make the perfect chaperone. The Ultimate Athletics sprint coach with a passion for learning, who eats-sleeps-breathes athletics was delighted at the prospect!

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MJP Performance (MJP) sales director Christopher King gained the necessary athlete profiles from me for the High Performance Coaches Bryan McCall and Brian Abadie to make a personalised training programme just for our group.

A small but enthusiastic group of six Ultimate athletes took us up on the offer, a mixture of 13-18 year olds with 100m to 400m, hurdles and rugby specialisms, all with an interest in finding out how to be the best they could be at their events. It was a long journey to Dallas Fort Worth Texas… so what did they think of it?

MJP athlete 1
'I really had to test my athleticism and my ability to adapt quickly when we were doing drills'

Justine Todd (Age 15) 

MJP was such an amazing experience for me. I really had to test my athleticism and my ability to adapt quickly when we were doing drills to help us improve a certain aspect of our sprint. I loved the diversity of the training sessions, like how we did a pool recovery one day as well as soft tissue/elastic band warm ups each time we walked in the door. I got to know myself as a sprinter and an overall athlete better, which is something you can't achieve doing reps on a track.

My gymnastics skills became a key factor in many of the exercises where we had to use core strength and balance, so I was quite pleased with myself when I could do exactly what the coaches were asking of me. I absolutely loved all of the MJP coaches. They were are so positive, encouraging, but they also wanted to push us to our limits. This training course is amazing for any sport, and any type of athlete to just improve your overall performance. I feel stronger and more fit to run another great season.

Darius Rameshni (aged 15)  

Travelling to Texas and training at Michael Johnson Performance was definitely a worthwhile experience as I received many tips and points for improvement for my running technique. The facility at MJP was like nothing I had visited before. Their ability to utilise technology to identify key areas for improvement in athletes is amazing and I am grateful that I was able to work with the brilliant coaches at MJP.

MJP athlete  3
'I loved the diversity of the training sessions, like how we did a pool recovery one day as well as soft tissue/elastic band warm ups '

Charles Marelid (16)

I have had a great time because I've learned a lot in just three weeks. They really welcomed me and made me feel at ease. I was given a training (programme) so that I could be my best self. The program was very interesting because they put focus on how athletes recover after strenuous training. They made sure we had a recovery period by providing things like NormaTec (compression leggings), hot tub and ice tub. They did complete video analysis and diagnostics.

Coach David Maris 

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at MJP and I believe it lived up to expectation. There's no magic bullets when it comes to training, but there was a continual and solid application of the fundamental principles, which is in line with my philosophy as a coach. Everyday we were thoroughly warmed up, completed a sensible session and cooled down properly as we kick started our recovery so as to be prepared for the following day's session. The coaches were all friendly and extremely helpful, and I believe each athlete took some extremely valuable lessons away from the camp with them.

MJP athlete 2
'One of my strengths was that I have very long strides and that my starts are very good'

Jiya Deepak (12) 

During my training I got a lot of feedback on my running and its strengths and improvements. One of my strengths was that I have very long strides and that my starts are very good. But they also gave me a few pointers to lean forward when I run because they thought I was leaning too far back and another improvement that kept coming up with all the coaches was my balance. Overall I think I learnt a lot at MJP and it would be a great experience for any runner. Also they give you so many tips and a lot of advice that I think will be very handy in your running later on.

Sarah Ellis (18)  

Michael Johnson's Performance Camp was an amazing experience. The coaches helped me to adapt my running style to become more efficient and faster. Each day we did different exercises, all of which were challenge and left us feeling sore, but ready for the next day ahead of us. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at MJP and hope to return next year for a longer period of time.

MJP athlete 4
A small but enthusiastic group of six Ultimate athletes took part