Ditching football for track: A success tale of Chelsea academy star-turned athlete
Ditching football for track: A success tale of Chelsea academy star-turned athlete

Ditching football for track: A success tale of Chelsea academy star-turned athlete

Adam Gemili is now a household name in the athletics world, and in particular, the short distance races.

The 25-year-old British sprinter has represented his nation in numerous events including the just-concluded IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar.

He has also represented the nation in other athletics events, notably the Rio Olympics in 2016, where he missed the medals' bracket by a fraction of a second in the 200 metres.

Gemili has won numerous titles over the last couple of years and continues to carve his name into British history books, as he currently holds the Müller British Championships record, which he set in August 2019.

But before all this, before making a name for himself on the track, Gemili was a promising footballer who came through the ranks of Chelsea football club.

Gemili as a young Blue

The London-born athlete spent eight years in the Chelsea Academy striving to make it to the senior team, at least, but things didn’t quite work out well and he left in 2008 at the age of 15.

He never gave up on his dreams, and instead, changed a career, reset his goals and sprinted to stardom.

Gemili didn’t take long to start realizing his dreams, three years after ditching the famous Cobham training ground for the track, he represented Great Britain at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, which was just six months after committing fully to his new career.

He tasted track glory in 2014 when he became a double European Champion by winning the 200 metres and 4x100m relay.

In Doha, Qatar, he became the first British athlete to run the 100m and 200m at the same event, as well as defending his 4 x 100m relay world title.

In a recent interview with Chelsea official website, Gemili vividly recounted how he struck a good relationship with Reuben Loftus-Cheek, whom he became close to up to now.  

Taking bus rides with Loftus-Cheek

“I still chat to Jamal and Ruben, who was a few years younger but from the same area as me," Gemili revealed.

“We used to travel in together on the same bus every week for years and it’s unbelievable to see how he’s pushed on,”

“Josh McEachran was the year above and an unbelievable talent even at that young age, and Nathaniel Chalobah was the age group below but we all used to mix together in training. It was just a nice era to be around because everyone was humble and got on with each other,”

The then young defender remembers how he was the best, quickest runner in the academy, and enjoyed playing as the last man due to his blistering pace.

Its during these normal training sessions that Gemili thought he could try to utilize his pace elsewhere, but not before some spells in different clubs, notably Reading, Dagenham & Redbridge before turning out for Thurrock while on loan.

"I was dabbling in athletics a little, not a huge amount, but I ended up taking the decision in January 2012 to completely walk away from football and pursue athletics full-time," he explained.

"I started training with a coach in north London and was so fortunate with how quickly I picked it up. I just started running fast and ended up making the Olympic team in 2012 after training for seven or eight months," 

Some piece of advice

The change from a football pitch to the track was not without challenges, but he notes that what he learnt at Chelsea has helped him big time!

“One of the hardest things to adapt to was going from a team-based sport to an individual sport,” Gemili added.

“The experience of being part of a football team is what really helps me with relay,” he continued.

And he had some advice too;

“Dreams change and you have to be realistic. It’s just crazy how life can completely change but I’m so happy I found myself in another sport,”

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