"I keep getting told I'm Uncle Rooney and stuff like that."
When it comes to just about anything in athletics, you can guarantee that Martyn Rooney has been there, done that and bought the t-shirt. No British championship team is complete without his towering figure and it was only natural that he was included in the 4x400-metre cohort for the recent IAAF World Relays in Yokohama.
One of the most experienced members of the squad, Rooney is walking the line between taking more of a backseat role and continuing to prove himself as one of the country's top sprinters. We caught up with the Olympic medalist in May, chatting with the stunning Loughborough University 'HiPAC' to our backs and a conveyor belt of British athletes climbing the stairs beside us.
"I'm trying to find that balance between being the senior member and being a part of the team," the Croydon-born sprinter explained to GiveMeSport. "Sometimes as a senior member you're expected not to be involved in the banter and stuff, but that's what I enjoy and love about sport. I love being part of a team. There definitely is a camaraderie to it.
"There are still egos and personalities that you have to balance out. When new athletes come in, they need to find their place and sometimes a good humbling sorts them all out. They all realise how much better it all is when they take a step back and become a team player. It makes it a lot easier for everyone - I've had it, every athlete in the team has had it and it's good for morale."
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Anchor leg specialist
The recent excursion to Yokohama was a case of qualifying for the World Championships in Doha and it that respect, it was job done. Rooney - like so many other 400m runners - takes great interest in discussing the relay and having gone stride for stride with some of the greatest sprinters in history, it was fascinating to hear the Brit's perspective on the event.
Much like Christine Ohuruogu, the 32-year-old has earned a reputation for being a formidable anchor runner and bringing the baton home is a responsibility that Rooney thrives off. "I feel far more comfortable on the anchor leg," he immediately admitted. "First leg is something that doesn't really suit my special skills, but I've tried everything - second, third, fourth.
"In Japan, I pushed very heavily for Cameron [Chalmers] to go last leg. A lot of people were having a go at British Athletics for switching me from fourth to third. But I've ran last leg for the last 12 years, we have to blood people in and give them experience. Once we've done our job by qualifying for Doha, it was the perfect opportunity to try something out at a world-class level."
Olympic medal controversy
It was on that crucial anchor leg that Rooney garnered the Olympic medal that will always top his resumé, despite that 2008 British team being cheated of their ribbons at the time. It wasn't until almost a decade later that Rooney and co. would collect the bronze medals that were initially handed to a Russian team including drugs cheat Denis Alekseyev.
Although justice was served and the Russians were duly banned, it would forever rob a British team, many of which wouldn't have Rooney's luxury of time, of an Olympic-winning moment that every sportsperson craves. When asked if he felt robbed by the circumstances, Rooney conceded: "At the time, 100%. We were all very negative about the situation.
"Only one guy failed the test, but only one was tested. I went into anti-doping that day and I was like: 'why haven't the whole Russian team been tested?' and they said: 'well no, we only test the winning four people and then one from second, one from third and one from fourth.' I was like: 'well, four of those guys on the Russian team are on drugs, can you test them?' No.
"We'd beaten them by like five or six seconds earlier in the year, so for them to run third at the Olympics, I know people raise their game at the Olympics, but not like that. It was tough, but I was fortunate that I got the chance to run at the Bird's Nest Stadium and pick up a medal. So, I got my medal presentation, I stood on the podium and it was a very emotional experience."
Individual targets in 2019
It only seems right that an Olympic medal occupies one of the most expansive trophy cabinets in British athletics. Rooney has also graced the podium at three World Championships - including the most recent iteration on home soil - as well as being crowned two-time 400m European champion across 2014 and 2016.
The 32-year-old could hang up his spikes tomorrow and be regarded as a British great, but the growing moniker of 'Uncle Rooney' is doing little to temper his ambitions going forward. Why not challenge for a medal in Doha? Why not gun for an Olympic final in Tokyo? Rooney has, after all, made a career out of transcending generations with his pace.
The Brit identified 'winning more medals' as his target for the next 12 months and explained: "I think the mixed relay would be a good chance for us to put a really strong squad out and definitely make the top six, then hopefully come away from Tokyo 2020 with five relay medals. That's the aim and that's the drive for everyone involved.
"Everyone has their own individual aspirations, but mine would be to run 44 seconds one more time and then pick up some relay medals. That's what I'm here for."
Brand new podcast
Alongside those targets on the track, Rooney has also turned his hand to podcasting, releasing a new series with Paralympic legend and close friend Dan Greaves. 'That Greaves and Rooney Sports Podcast' debuted last month with the first episode looking back on London 2012, prompting honest and fascinating anecdotes from two athletes so heavily involved.
The podcast offers a unique insight into the sport and it's only fitting that one of its most honest competitors is the one sat behind the microphone. "I like to talk a lot, so I thought we might as well record it," Rooney joked. "Myself and Dan have been good friends since 2005, so we've always chatted away for the world to write on many occasions.
"We had hoped to do most of it in the pub, but that didn't really fit the athletics and healthy-living lifestyle! We're both podcast listeners and I think there's definitely a market for athletes being honest and being given more time to speak than the 30 seconds after a race. It's nice to have our own platform to do it."
The future for Martyn Rooney
'Honesty' really is the key word and something that was very apparent in their debut episode discussing London 2012. Rooney recalled how the home crowd had actually left him deflated during his own 400m, something that simply isn't discussed when the games are reflected upon through a rose-tinted lens.
Through the victories and defeats over the years, Rooney has always been the first to vocalise what he sees true - an apt philosophy going into a 2019 of competition and podcasting. It's a self-awareness that has birthed an elite mentality, a yearning for improvement and a powerful example to the British team.
There's very much a feeling that Rooney is running the anchor leg of his career. However, as far as we're concerned, there will always be time for Britain's straight-talking medalist to run one lap more.
Be sure to check out 'That Greaves and Rooney Sports Podcast' on iTunes, Spotify and other podcast providers. Episodes one, two and three are now live.News Now - Sport News