'If you're not aiming to be the best, what's the point of doing the sport?'
Lauren Taylor chats to British sprinter Adam Gemili fresh from the World Championships
Anyone who's followed Adam Gemili's athletics career will know he's come excruciatingly close to glory so many times, and it's often been gut-wrenching viewing.
The sprinter did leave this year's World Championships in Doha with a silver medal from the 4 x 100 relay, but missed out on a medal in the 200m by just five hundredths of a second, despite leading at one point in the race, and failed to qualify for the 100m final by the smallest of margins too. In Rio 2016, he missed out on the 200m bronze in a photo finish on the line - by three thousandths of a second.
So if anyone understands how to overcome disappointment and pick yourself back up again, it's Gemili. He may have been the closest Great Britain and Northern Ireland male to a medal, but that's no consolation for an athlete who makes huge sacrifices to spend his life training - and who knows he's capable of gold on a global stage.
We caught up with the 26-year-old Londoner on his return from Doha.
Are you still feeling disappointed about the World Championship results?
"I'll always be disappointed because it was an opportunity missed, but I have to take the positives. It gives me confidence going on to next season, and that the Olympic Games is open - it doesn't matter how fast people have run going into it, it's about beating each other in that moment. I know I was in good form, my body was in good shape and I didn't deliver on the day. So that keeps me hungry to train harder."
How important is mental resilience as a top sprinter?
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"The first thing I had to realise in sport is that you can put so much hard work into what we do and there's no guarantee there'll be any success, but that's the risk and the reward of the job we do. I say 'job' very loosely, I'm running in a circle for a job - it's quite fun! But mentally it's very tough. Every day you get up and commit to the work, because if you don't do it no one else is going to do it for you, and then when it doesn't work out, like this time, I still walked away with a World Champs medal but it wasn't the colour or the event I wanted. In track and field you get one race, 10 seconds, 20 seconds, you make a mistake and that's it, game over."
How to you combat any negativity?
"The first time I really came under massive public stress was the Olympic Games 2012. I was 18, I was very new to the sport, I didn't really know what I was doing but I'd had really good success that summer and then myself and another athlete unfortunately messed up the exchange in the relay. I had hundreds of comments that were nice but I didn't realise I might get two or three comments that were really negative - and I really only paid attention to those. That was something I had to learn not to do.
"It really hit me hard in 2012, but I find them quite funny now - everyone's got an opinion, everyone's an expert. It's just like a guy coming up to you on the street and telling you how you should be doing your job! Obviously it's not nice to have that abuse - some people have been quite brutal - but if you let it get you uptight, it would start to negatively impact your performance."
Do you have any pre-race rituals?
"I used to try and be a bit clean shaven before a race, but now I like a bit of a stubble beard, so that sort of went out the window! So no, I just have to feel mentally happy. But I have seen some crazy superstitions over the years: A coffee at exactly this time, having a shower this long before listening to this exact song, eating this exact meal beforehand, putting their left sock and shoe on before they even put their right sock on."
How do you like to chill out?
"I've got a couple of weeks off before I start training again. I'm still staying on top of my exercise, playing squash, running, tennis, football, doing what I enjoy and don't usually get to do while I'm training. I'm a big gamer. Call of Duty is my favourite, I used to play a lot of Fortnite; I'm big into YouTube; I play guitar; I like to go to nice restaurants - I'm a big foodie."
What's your diet like?
"Around competitions I'm on quite a strict diet, trying to lean up as much as possible while maintaining muscle mass and not sacrificing power. I have a balanced breakfast - porridge or some eggs, and fruit, or a protein smoothie with some oats or peanut butter.
Lunch is a balanced meal with a good source of protein, like fish, chicken, beans, lamb, veg, lots of salad, and a little bit of carbohydrates - as a sprinter I don't need many carbs in my diet. I try to have smaller portions more regularly throughout the day, as that works for my metabolism. In off season, I'm eating everything; cakes, crisps, chocolate, sweets, bad takeaways. I'm addicted to sugar, I've got such a sweet tooth!"
What do you think you can achieve at Tokyo 2020?
"Medals. Win. At the level I'm at, if you're not aiming to be the best, what's the point of doing the sport? It doesn't matter how unrealistic it sounds, you have to have that mentality going into training. I try and turn up and be the best sprinter on the planet."
Adam Gemili is an ambassador for QIPCO British Champions Day. For more information visit britishchampionsseries.com