In the space of four years, Adam Gemili has gone from semi-professional footballer to Britain’s brightest sprinting talent. MR caught up with the 22-year-old – the first ever Brit to break both 10 seconds for the 100m and 20 seconds for the 200m – with seven weeks left on the road to Rio.
You started out as a footballer; what made you switch to athletics?
I played football all my life and only took up athletics full time in 2012. I just wanted to try it out and see how far I could get. I knew I was fast – I was always the quickest on the football pitch – and had done a few competitions as a junior in which I’d done pretty well. So I thought if I actually trained for it and gave it a proper shot then maybe I could get somewhere. We took a risk in 2012 and went for it, which also gave me the opportunity to attend university – which was brilliant for me – and fortunately the athletics has gone OK, too!
Was there a definite moment you thought you could have a career in athletics?
After the Olympics, really. I started training in January of 2012 and had no aspirations to go to the Olympics or anything. But I went to the World Junior Championships – which was the aim at the start of the season – and won it! Making the British Olympic team made me think, “I can’t just walk away from this and go back to football.” So Nike took me on board and I haven’t looked back.
How did it feel to go sub-10 over 100m for the first time?
It was a weird one, really, because I was so happy I did the time but I also tore my hamstring in two places so it was very painful! I’m glad I finally did it – it was something I’d been working towards for a while, and I actually believe I should have broken 10 seconds some time before that, so it was a big confidence-booster, for sure.
What was harder to achieve: sub-10 100m or sub-20 200m?
Sub-10 took me longer to do. The first time I ran sub-20 for 200m was in 2013, but I do think that running 200m in under 20 seconds is harder to do. Less people in the world have done that, and when I first ran 200m I could never have imagined myself going that fast.
How quick do you think you can go?
I never like to put a time on it, but I’m learning a lot every day in training and developing year on year, so I believe I can go a lot faster than I have in both events.
What’s the ultimate goal in Rio?
To medal – it has to be to medal. I want to run my fastest and hopefully walk away with gold.
What would be your top tips to anyone looking to improve their overall speed?
First and foremost, get your body in a good place. That includes things like eating well and sleeping well. Get the basics right first – get rid of stress and everything – and set your body up nicely. When you’re actually running, technically it’s very important to relax, keep your hips high, and drive with your arms.
What’s the biggest lesson running has taught you?
To believe in yourself and have confidence in your own ability – not just with running but in life in general. If you have patience and faith in what you’re doing, then you’ll get there in the end.
Finally, describe yourself as a runner in one word.
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