From football wannabe to Olympic sprinter – Gemili is Britain's bolt from the blue
21:30 GMT, 3 June 2012
Adam Gemili’s heart was set last year on becoming a professional footballer. The teenager’s goal after this weekend may be to run in the Olympic Games in London.
Gemili, a full back on the books of League Two side Dagenham and Redbridge, rose to the top of the year’s British 100 metres rankings when he ran inside the Olympic selection qualifying standard, not once but twice.
In heats at a meeting in Regensburg, Germany, he opened with 10.11sec, inside the 10.18sec which Britain’s Olympic selectors are demanding and which has so far defied all Britain’s experienced sprinters.
Leader of the pack: Adam Gemili is the only Brit to set the A standard in the 100m
In the final he improved to 10.08sec, the fastest time ever run by a European 18-year-old — and he was last out of the blocks. Only Dwain Chambers among Britons has ever run faster as a junior, but he was 19 at the time.
‘When I ran my heat and saw I’d run 10.11 I jumped in the air while still slowing down. The physios told me to calm it down else I’d injure myself,’ said Gemili, whose previous personal best was 10.23sec.
‘So I was a bit calmer after the .08 but it was still the best feeling in the world. It feels really good to have run the A standard but more so to be a junior and have done the time.
‘It shows other juniors what can be done and not to think only seniors can do it. They can compete at that level, too.’
Gemili, who was born in London of Moroccan-Iranian descent, played on loan last season for Blue Square Bet South side Thurrock. The former Dartford Grammar School pupil was at Chelsea for seven years from the age of eight and said last year that football would always come first but now he is less sure. ‘This year may decide,’ he said.
Decisions, decisions: Gemili (right) also has hopes of pursuing a football career
His aim for the summer was the world junior championships in Barcelona. He tops the world rankings for that after his Regensburg runs but having achieved the Olympic qualifying standard twice he has only to finish in the first two at the trials in three weeks to win a place in London.
Chambers, Marlon Devonish and Harry Aikines-Aryeetey, Britain’s trio in last year’s world championships, have all failed so far to achieve the standard. Chambers takes another run at it in the Paris suburb of Montreuil on Tuesday.
Gemili later anchored to victory a British relay team that featured Christian Malcolm, 15 years his senior. Malcolm celebrated Sunday’s 33rd birthday a day early when he won the 200m in a selection qualifying time of 20.46sec, while Anyika Onoura became the first of Britain’s specialist women sprinters to qualify in the 200m with a time of 22.93sec that equalled her career best.
To put Gemili’s achievement into context, just 10 days ago he tweeted: ‘Hope in the end all of this is worth it because right now I’m feeling a bit lonely.’
The weekend’s outstanding British performance belonged to Olympic gold medal contender Mo Farah. He ran the year’s fastest 5,000 metres in 12min 56.99sec in the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene. As significant was victory by a margin of five seconds over fourth-placed Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the Olympic champion and world record holder.
Brit special: Mo Farah set the fastest 5,000m time in the world this year
‘He’s a great athlete; we should never doubt him,’ said a respectful Farah, last year’s world champion.
But Farah’s last lap in only 56.2sec was too much for his rivals, Isiah Kiplangat Koech, training partner Galen Rupp and Bekele who finished in that order behind him.
‘I think Mo is the best distance runner in the world right now,’ said his American coach Alberto Salazar.
At the same Diamond League meeting Shara Proctor, the long jumper forced to bid for British selection by Olympic rules that deny recognition to her British Dependent Territory island of Anguilla, beat both world champion Britney Reese and Olympic champion Maurren Higa Maggi with a jump of 6.84m. Two more jumps of 6.75m and 6.74m were also beyond anything the two champions could achieve.
‘With that being only my second competition, I’m looking to go further his summer. I feel like I’ve got a lot more to come,’ said Proctor, who comes to Europe to compete in Oslo on Thursday.
Less pleased with the Eugene meeting was European triple jump champion Phillips Idowu. He injured himself on his third attempt and retired, finishing third in a competition won by world champion Christian Taylor.
One British record did fall as US-based Barbara Parker reduced the 3,000m steeplechase record set by Helen Clitheroe at the 2008 Olympic Games by almost five seconds in 9min 24.24sec.