Adam Gemili, Chelsea trainee turned Olympic teen sensation
The fastest member of Team GB only became a serious athlete this year
TEENAGE sprint sensation Adam Gemili has confirmed that he is to run in the 100m at London 2012 and if the former Chelsea football trainee lives up to his billing he could turn out to be one of Team GB's star turns at the Games this summer.
For most athletes an appearance at the Olympics is the culmination of years of training, but for Gemili it will be the unexpected highlight of his first season as a serious sprinter, having given up his dreams of being a football player at the end of 2011.
Despite his tender years and lack of experience, UK athletics chief Charles van Commenee has dismissed fears that the 18-year-old from Kent will be fazed by the pressure of running alongside the likes of Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay. "I am not sending my 12-year-old niece to fight al-Qaeda," he said. "We are going to the Games. It's fun."
His comments came after Gemili's coach, Michael Afilaka, described his charge as an "emotional wreck" at the UK Olympic trials last weekend. Even so, the teenager still earned himself a place on the British team by finishing second in the 100m final behind Dwain Chambers.
Earlier in the summer he clocked the second-fastest time in Europe this year, running 10.08secs at a meet in Germany, and that makes him easily the fastest man in the British squad for the Olympics.
It is not a bad career trajectory for an athlete with a "horrific" technique who was playing full-back for non-league football team Thurrock at the end of 2011.
Football had always been Gemili's sporting priority and he was signed by Chelsea at the age of eight. He spent seven years at Stamford Bridge during the most successful period in its history, but he decided to walk away from the club in order to safeguard his education.
Instead, he joined Reading and took his GCSEs, achieving good grades including several A-stars, and an A in Japanese. But after parting ways with Reading a year later he decided to focus on his future again and signed up for a diploma in sports and exercise. However, he did not give up on football and joined Dagenham and Redbridge in League Two.
As a footballer he had a reputation for fearsome pace, and after dabbling in athletics he began training with Afilaka last summer. But as the coach told the Daily Mail, he was initially unimpressed. "His aim was to make the British junior relay team," said Afilaka. "We didn't think he was good enough. He was all over the place; technically horrific."
But he progressed enough to win silver at the European Athletics Junior Championships last summer, and after being loaned out to non-league Thurrock at the start of the last football season Gemili decided to concentrate on athletics.
Even so, his aim at the start of the season was simply to qualify for the World Junior Championships, and he told Athletics Weekly: "I hope this year could be a turning point in helping me decide which sport to focus on, but it does depend on what I run this year."
Since becoming the fastest man in Britain he should now have a pretty clear idea of where his future lies.