On a raging inferno of a day Adam Gemili summoned a performance of fire and ice to highlight again why he is one of British athletics’ most compelling figures. First there was a blistering performance to break the UK championship 200m record. Then, coolly and calmly, he explained that he has a folder on his phone containing the negative things that senior figures have said about him, which he uses as a motivational tool.
It certainly worked as Gemili, who has been dropped from individual to relay funding by selectors, powered home to win in 20.08sec – a time made all the more impressive as it was into a -1.3m/s headwind – and comfortably beat the pre-race favourites, Zharnel Hughes and Miguel Francis.
And afterwards Gemili, who has spent the last four years dealing with hamstring issues sustained on the Alexander Stadium track in 2015, admitted that being written off by senior figures in the sport as merely a “relay runner” had fired him up.
“It gives you hunger in your belly,” said the 25-year-old. “On my phone I’ve got the quotes said about me. I just look at it sometimes and use it as inspiration and fire to say: ‘I know what I can do and, if I’m fit and healthy, I can push the world’s best.’ Sometimes you see what’s said about you by certain people in selection meetings and it’s not nice,” he added. “But I use it as motivation. Maybe one day, if I do have a medal at Worlds or Olympics individually, you guys will see that. For now it’s a private thing.”
Gemili’s frustration is understandable. In 2017 he was told to run the UK trials while still recovering from a hamstring injury – and then was snubbed by selectors for the 100m and 200m for the subsequent world championships and chosen for the relay only. Gemili’s response was typical of the man. Rather than rant about it he knuckled down and ran a storming leg as Britain beat the US and Jamaica to win world 4x100m gold in front of a capacity crowd in London.
“To be labelled a relay runner is never nice, especially in an individual sport,” he said. “But this proves to those guys it doesn’t matter how injured you are, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel and you can come and run fast.”
Gemili, who has been training with the Olympic 200m silver medallist Andre De Grasse, said he was now over his injury issues and had been able to put in a full winter’s training in Florida. He predicted he was capable of running much faster at next month’s world championships in Doha, where he will double up over 100m and 200m.
“Going into the Rio Olympics, no one expected me to make the final,” he said. “But I knew what I was capable of and I just missed out on an Olympic medal by three thousandths of a second. Hopefully going into Doha I can be pushing for that gold medal, which is the aim.”
Meanwhile Hughes revealed afterwards that he had been struggling with a niggle in his right hamstring which had affected him in the race. “I was feeling some tightness, so I needed needles in my hamstring. But my mind was just focused in order to make the team. I’m happy that I got the silver medal.” He was confident he would be fine for Doha. “Do not worry, trust me. I’ll be in a great mental space and I’m pretty sure I’ll be OK physically.”
In the women’s 200m Jodie Williams showed she was heading back to her best by winning in 23.06sec into a -4.3m/s headwind, while Shelayna Oskan-Clarke was also impressive in holding off Lynsey Sharp to win the 800m in 2min 02.68sec.
One of the more extraordinary performances of the day came from Eilish McColgan, who powered away from the gun to win the women’s 5,000m by around 100m from Jessica Judd. McColgan was already 50m clear after two laps of the race and continued to extend her lead before winning in 15min 21.38sec.
Elsewhere Matthew Hudson-Smith qualified for next month’s world championships despite missing most of the season by winning the men’s 400m in 45.15 sec while Holly Bradshaw took her seventh UK pole vault title with a British championship record 4.73m.