A lot of people claim to be able to defy gravity. At 34, Darvis ‘Doc’ Patton is defying time.
And in a couple of weeks, Patton is hoping to defy some long odds.
Patton, a Lake Highlands native and TCU graduate, will compete in his third Summer Olympic Games beginning next week in London, running in the 400-meter relay on the U.S. Track and Field team.
In a career that is well into its second decade, Patton – who trains at UT Arlington’s Maverick Stadium – will have another opportunity to bring home the one souvenir that has eluded him in the previous two Olympics he has participated in – a gold medal.
The lengthy odds that he will be competing against are two-fold – demons that have haunted him on the track for the last four years, and a certain individual from the sunny island of Jamaica by the name of UsainBolt.
Bolt just happens to be the fastest human being on the planet. His time of 9.58 seconds in winning the gold medal at the World Track and Field Championships three years ago in Berlin, Germany, bettered his own previous world record in the event by .11 seconds.
The man that carries the nickname “Lightning” is also a part of the Jamaican quartet that destroyed the world record in the 400-meter relay at the Summer Olympics four years ago in Beijing, China, crossing the finish line in 37.10.
So, is Patton the least bit intimidated by arguably the best athlete on two legs today? Not hardly.
“To me, he’s just another athlete – he just happens to be one of the greatest athletes to ever (run track),” Patton said. “He’s the world record holder in three different events right now. But greatness is considered by longevity and consistency.
“I’m not taking away anything from the dude, because he is a freaking talent, and I love having him a part of the track and field scene, because it has brought more attention to the sport. And bringing more attention to the sport brings an opportunity for another athlete to shine.”
Patton’s time to shine brightest came at the 2007 World Track and Field Championships in Osaka, Japan, when he ran the opening leg of the United States’ winning 400-meter relay. He also ran on the winning relay team in 2003 at the World Championships in Paris.
Since 2007, however, Patton has been denied another gold medal at a major international meet on two different occasions.
At the 2008 Olympics, Patton finished eighth in the finals of the 100 meters (the race where Bolt set the Olympic record of 9.69). Then, in the qualifying heats on the 400-meter relay, the U.S. team was disqualified when Patton illegally passed the baton to Tyson Gay outside the passing lane on the final leg.
A year later, at the World Championships in Berlin, Patton was once again on the relay team, but once again failed to get a clean baton pass to teammate Shawn Crawford, resulting in another disqualification.
Injuries have also claimed some of Patton’s valuable competition time as well, but going into the London Games, he says he feels great and is ready to go after Bolt, whom he rates among the best he’s ever competed against in his track career.
“I’ve raced against Michael Johnson, Maurice Greene, Asafa Powell, and even our own Tyson Gay and Wallace Spearmon,” Patton said. “All these young athletes are talented in their own right, but Usain Bolt definitely is a cut above the rest. It’s kinda fun just being in a race with him sometimes.
“There hasn’t been anyone that has brought this kind of attention to the sport since Carl Lewis. And any attention the sport can get, other than negativity, I’ll take it. It’s all good.”
Patton knows this might be his last chance at Olympic gold, but he says he’s not ready to click stop on the stopwatch just yet.
While Patton has one of the friendliest demeanors in the sports world today, and a smile that could light the Olympic flame, one can tell he gets weary of answering how much longer he thinks he can compete at the world level of track and field.
“I have no idea, man – I’m always getting that question,” he said. “As long as I’m competing and running fast times and still beating some of these young guns, I’ll continue to do it because I love this sport.
“I love this sport first and foremost because I’m a fan of this sport. I can’t see myself walking away from it unless something happens that pushes me away from it or pulls me into a different direction.”
When the time comes for the finals of the 400-meter relay, Patton is hoping the sport will reciprocate some of that love back to him.