Imani-Lara Lansiquot discusses viral videos, degrees... and Geoff Shreeves

By Mike HensonBBC Sport
Imani-Lara Lansiquot
Lanisquot's parents met after competing in the 100m at the English School Championships

Imani-Lara Lansiquot had two major lockdown projects.

The first was the catchily titled "Effects of technical jargon and expert sources on social psychology explanations" - a timely dissertation that essentially tested government minister Michael Gove's famous 2016 claim that Britain "has had enough of experts".external-link

"It is about the scientific words or expert sources cited in journalism and how that affects how people value the information," the world relay silver medallist and psychology undergraduate told BBC Sport.

Instead of 10,000 words, Lansiquot's second project produced just a minute and a half of video.

With seven of her socially-distanced relay team-mates, the 22-year-old filmed a version of the viral #dontrushchallenge. The septet take turns flipping from low-key loungewear to primped race kit get-ups, via a flurry of cunning video transitions.

It featured Dina Asher-Smith casually dropping a newly won world gold medal and ended with Bianca Williams carefully cradling her newborn son.

"It was almost as stressful as my dissertation!" Lansiquot said.

"You don't realise the intricacies of it. This person has to pass from here, this person has to catch something from there. The bloopers are so funny."

The video has raised almost £10,000 for NHS charities.

"That was super important to us. We wanted it make sure it wasn't just a gimmicky thing, we wanted it to actually mean something," added Lansiquot.

But not all gimmicks are meaningless. Particularly not for athletics at the moment.

Joanna Coates, the new chief executive of UK Athletics, says the sport needs to be "more sexy" and "more relevant" external-linkafter the cancellation of its annual money-making event - the Anniversary Games - ratcheted up the strain on its already stretched finances.

Appointed in March, Coates has already been in conversation with Lansiquot and other athletes about what that looks like.

"I think we do have a responsibility to show not just what happens on the track, but also the personality, work and relationships behind those 10 or 11 seconds," Lansiquot said.

"It is definitely a time for evolving, it would be good to see more young athletes being the glamorous side of athletics. I don't think that athletics is portrayed as exciting as it is."

GB win European 4x100m gold at Berlin 2018
Lanisquot, second from left, celebrates European gold at Berlin 2018 with her Great Britain team-mates

In Asher-Smith, Lansiquot is team-mate and rival to British athletics' hottest property.

Two years younger, Lansiquot's personal best is a tenth of a second slower than Asher-Smith's at the same age, if still good enough to put her in the top five fastest British women of all time over 100m.

A promising junior with London roots and a demanding degree at King's College London as a side gig, Lansiquot is well used to the inevitable comparisons.

"Seeing what Dina has done on the world stage has definitely put a fire in my belly," she said. "She is absolutely killing it and the comparisons are very flattering, but on the flip side I don't really function like that.

"I am focused on my own journey and my own story. It is not something that governs my life or career at the moment."

Her education, on and off the track, has taught her to value individual difference, rather than instinctively seek similarity.

"Sport psychology is not part of my degree, but in my second year we did group thinking and how you can reach group harmony and get the most out of people, by having a bit of disharmony," Lansiquot added.

"I think there is a misconception that everyone has to be the exact same, and think the exact same. As a relay team, one of the things we worked on with a psychologist was realising that different people have different strengths. Bringing that together is what makes us the strongest possible team."

In October, just as in London two years before, Great Britain's women split the sprint duopoly of United States and Jamaica to claim world silver and prove the theory.

For Lansiquot alone, there is another unique viewpoint to consider.

As part of a scholarship programme for promising athletes run by Sky Sports, she has been mentored by Geoff Shreeves, famous for his touchline reporting and post-match tunnel interviews on the channel's football coverage.

Imani-Lara Lansiquot
Lansiquot with friend and mentor Geoff Shreeves

"It is an unlikely friendship but he is absolutely awesome!" she said.

"Geoff is the best person. When I have had a bad race, he is one of the first people I will call and he will give me the most level-headed, objective advice.

"He always tells me 'the only thing you are entitled to is fresh air'. Even if you are at the top of your game you have to keep learning and keep working."

This summer, she will certainly do that. Having previously planned to put her studies on hold to concentrate on Tokyo 2020, Lansiquot will instead take her final exams and graduate.

And then? Rescheduled Olympics, recreated viral videos, a restructured sport - Lansiquot may be playing her part in all of them.

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