Born in Zambia, but now firmly established in South Yorkshire via South Africa and Wales, Gerald Phiri is a young man in a hurry.
The 16-year-old from Wincobank in Sheffield is one of the country's brightest young sprinting talents and is on a mission to become a sporting superstar in this country and beyond.
Having already posted the third-fastest 100m time in the history of UK Under-17 sprinters (10.51 seconds) as well as a mark just 00.01 seconds behind Mark Lewis-Francis' junior record over 60m, Phiri has got serious speed to burn, and he also runs the 200m and has plans to compete in the 400m.
Our reporter Andy Casey paid a visit to Phiri's home to chat about his hopes and dreams for the future, life away from the sport and why he chose athletics ahead of a possible career as a professional footballer...
AC: So tell us a little bit about your background
GP: I was born in Zambia, moved to South Africa in 1996 and from there my mum got a job in the UK so we found ourselves in Welshpool, a small town in Wales. My coach there was my PE teacher and after that we moved here, to Sheffield.
AC: Was it in Wales that you were first introduced to athletics and sprinting?
|"I never go to a competition thinking I can't win. I believe in my talent and that I have got what it takes to be the best"|
GP: Not really. I've always done sports days and I've always liked athletics so it wasn't new to me. However, after training I realised that athletics was something I wanted to do - before that it was just running.
AC: When did you realise you had a real talent for sprinting?
GP: I was in year seven at school and I ran 11.76 seconds wind-assisted and 11.85. At that time it should have been a UK record but I had just moved to the country so I wasn't really recognised back then.
When we moved to Sheffield I started winning English Schools titles, AAA's [Amateur Athletic Association] and others, so it really went on from there.
AC: So when did you make the move to the Steel City?
GP: I moved to Sheffield in 2002, when I was in year eight. I joined the City of Sheffield Atheltic Club, based at Don Valley Stadium, and found my current coach, Lewis Samuel.
Lewis used to be a national-standard 400m runner but unfortunately he got injured and is now trying to pass on his advice to me to make sure it doesn't happen to me?
AC: Talk me through a typical training week
GP: I'm currently training four days a week - Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. Sunday is more endurance training while Monday is circuit training and a bit of track just as a warm-up.
Tuesday is another long session and Thursday is short sprints which keeps the speed.
AC: This season you've made your mark and reached the semi-finals of the 100m at the UK (AAA) Senior Championships. How disappointed were you not to make the final of that event?
GP: I was gutted! I made the final of the 60m indoors and came fifth, although I think I could have done a lot better. I did a lot of speed work in the winter but didn't run as well because I had some back problems.
In terms of outdoors, I've been expecting to run a lot faster but since April/May time I've been having consistent growth spurts which has made it difficult to peak properly for certain events.
AC: What's you personal best time for the 100m?
GP: It's currently 10.51 seconds, which is good for an Under-17 but I could have done a lot better. People try to make me feel better by saying 'it's 10.51 and you're 16' but it's more about ability to me than age - I know what I'm capable of.
AC: So what times are you realistically hoping to run in say, the next 12 months?
GP: Next year I've got the World Junior Championships [in Beijing, China] so I'll have to run fast.
This past season I was expecting to run around 10.26 seconds and building up to the Under-17 AAA Championships in August I was running a lot faster than expected and my coach even thought I could run 10.18 seconds.
I believe I could have still done that but again I started growing [Phiri went on to win the 100m title in a time of 10.7 seconds].
AC: Are you hoping to run both the 100m and 200m at the World Junior Championships?
|American sprinter Walter Dix|
GP: I have to get the qualifying times first! We've got loads of people trying to go for the double who are more than capable so it's going to be tough but I believe I can do it, I really do.
AC: So when will you know if you've made the team?
GP: We've got the Under-20 championships in June/July every year. The top two in each event are guaranteed a place as long as they have the qualifying time, and they take a third person by looking at consistency and other stats like that.
AC: And if you make the team do you think the strength of British sprinting is such that you could expect to win a medal?
GP: Yes. I never go to a competition thinking I can't win. I believe in my talent and that I have got what it takes to be the best. You have Walter Dix of America, who has run 10.08 seconds this year at 17 and he's still a junior next year so the world junior record [10.01 seconds] is under threat, but everyone is beatable as far as I'm concerned.