Adam Gemili: Tokyo goals, Doha lows and disproving doubters

By Mike HensonBBC Sport
Adam Gemili
Gemili reacts after finishing fourth in the world 200m final in Doha in October
Diamond League Monaco
Venue: Stade Louis II, Monaco Date: Friday 14 August Time: 19:00 BST
Coverage: Live stream on iPlayer, BBC Sport website and app and Red Button, highlights on BBC One on Saturday 15 August from 12:00 BST.

When Adam Gemili talks his words, as ever, are backlit by a ready smile. But that twinkle reflects steel as well.

"I can definitely mix it with the best in the world," he tells BBC Sport.

"If I run my own race to the best of my ability, there is no reason that I can't medal at the Olympic Games."

His confidence for Tokyo comes with that caveat.

Last October, at the World Athletics Championships in Doha, he came off the bend in the 200m final half a step ahead of the rest. With 60m to go he still had clean air in front of him and a first major title beckoned enticingly.

"I was like, 'Oh my God, I'm winning this'," he remembers.

"It was my mistake. The 200m is so hard to run flat out. You have to run it tactically. I was running probably the best bends out in Doha last year - I didn't need to blast it. But I did. I got over-excited and ran my hardest in the first 100m."

The payback was painful. Gemili tied up dramatically over the final 50m, his rivals slipping past and out of his grasp.

Television cameras caught Gemili's reaction at the finish. Slumped on the track, he stared into the middle distance in apparent disbelief that, after missing out on the podium by three-thousandths of a second at Rio 2016, he had finished fourth once again in a major final.

He was gutted, but also vindicated.

The previous winter Gemili had been dropped down to lower-tier relay funding by British Athletics, deeming him not worth backing for an individual medal.

He reacted by keeping copies of their reasoning on his phone, referring to them to sharpen his desire and fuel his training.

When it comes to return on investment, he also comes with receipts.

"Every single championships that I have been to, bar London 2012 when I was 18, I have made the final and been competitive," he adds.

"I finished fifth in the Worlds in Moscow in 2013, I won the Europeans in 2014, in Rio and then Doha I was fourth.

"Initially I was pretty gutted in Doha. It hurt and it was pretty hard to take. But it gives me confidence going into next season. I believe in myself and it reminded people who had forgotten I could run like that."

On Friday evening in Monaco, he will line up alongside Noah Lyles, the American who claimed world gold ahead of him, and Ramil Guliyev, who finished just behind him in Doha, in the opening Diamond League meeting of this strangest of seasons.

It is a welcome run-out for Gemili, who spent lockdown training in Florida parks after being shut out of his usual track and trying to export grime, football and Formula 1 to coach Rana Reider's multinational training group.

He knows that for others it is far more important.

"The main way that athletes earn money in track and field is through sponsorships, rather than the sport itself. That is the way it is," he says.

"A lot of sponsorships run to the end of an Olympic year when they get renewed or not.

"Some athletes were stressing not having an opportunity to race and prove they are in good form and worth keeping on. For some, this is make or break."

Gemili may not be in that position, but he has helped those who are. He was one of the key figures in a group of athletes that successfully pushed the British Olympic Association (BOA) to allow Team GB's stars more freedom to promote their sponsors.

He is on the BOA's Athletes' Commission, helping produce a Team GB policy of not punishing any athletes that used Tokyo as a platform to protest for racial justice.

He is also signed up as part of a new union - the Athletics Associationexternal-link - that aims to amplify athletes' voices in how the sport is run.

Gemili, still only 26, admits that he is unlikely to fall quiet when he finally hangs up the spikes.

"I would definitely love to be involved in the governance of sport. I have big ideas to bring more people into our sport, make it more more popular, just like I remember track and field as a kid - the glamour, the superstars, the unbelievable scenes when you have two athletes going up against each other.

"It is sport in its purest form and there is really no excitement like it."

First, though, is Monaco and a chance to taste that excitement from the midst of the action once again.

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