- Associated Press - Friday, March 18, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - The age jokes never get old for Kim Collins. Because at least it means he’s still competing.

Almost 40, the Saint Kitts and Nevis standout just laughs it off when someone asks if he raced at the first world indoor championships in the mid-1980s. He plays along should a competitor nearly half his age tell him how much their dad enjoyed watching Collins run back in the day.

Truth is, he’s had nearly as many retirements (more than three, by his estimation) as world indoor silver medals (two). Want him to step away for good? Well, he has a simple solution.

“They’re going to have to beat me and make me quit,” joked Collins, who will compete in the 60 meters Friday at world indoors against a field that includes six teenagers. “I’m looking to take the world title this year and then ask me if you think I should quit.”

Collins is one of the favorites even if no one really considers him a favorite. He always seems to fly under the radar at world meets, only to find a way to earn a place on the podium. There’s no Usain Bolt or Justin Gatlin in the field, either, so his biggest challenger is Asafa Powell, who’s trying to win the first gold medal for the Jamaican men at world indoors.

“Based on experts who believe who is going to win, that puts pressure on those athletes, thinking, ‘I have to win, I have to win,’” explained Collins, who officially turns 40 on April 5. “I have never come in as the favorite and I love that. I go through the rounds and make my way to the finals and on my way to the podium.”

No joke, it’s true. He’s got five medals from world outdoors, including gold in the 100 at the 2003 championships.

“I have been in track and field for so long, the body remembers,” Collins said. “I always tell the young athlete who wants to get fast, first, try to get fit. Once you get fit first, it’s easy for your body to last as long as mine.”

The approach has certainly worked. He’s had longevity in a sport where injuries are common and training takes a demanding toll. He competed at the 1996 Atlanta Games - the first of his four Olympic appearances. He could’ve been in a fifth, but was expelled from the team at the 2012 London Games for leaving to meet his wife. He said at the time he found the athletes’ village stressful and needed peace and quiet before racing.

This season, Collins is quickly rounding into top shape with the Rio Olympics approaching. He recently ran 6.51 seconds in the 60 meters at a meet Glasgow, Scotland, before tweaking his leg.

“The body is well now, just some cramps,” Collins said. “I’m ready.”

Collins has meant so much to track in his country that a stadium now bears his name.

“Well, naturally, based on what I’ve done on the track, having a stadium, it makes sense to name it after me,” Collins cracked. “We all knew that was going to happen. I’m thankful for the people who made it happen.”

NOTES: Track leader Sebastian Coe would like to see some of the bigger stars in the sport compete at world indoors, but says, “indoor athletics doesn’t suit everybody. … Ultimately, we are there to give the athletes opportunities. They have to make judgments about their own programs.” … The beard is in place for Italian high jumper Gianmarco Tamberi. He’s known for shaving half of it off for a big meet. “I like to (shave the beard), because it’s like good luck for me,” Tamberi said.

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