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Record-breaking Adam Gemili wins British 200m title and says 'doubters make me even better'

Ben Bloom
Adam Gemili set a championship record of 20.08 seconds  - Getty Images Europe

Ever since he was relegated from individual to relay funding last winter, Adam Gemili has kept a folder on his phone with negative quotes people have said about him. They are not from anonymous trolls on social media, but from people within athletics who do not believe in him.

On Sunday he used those as fuel to prove them wrong, blitzing his way to the British 200m title in Birmingham in a championship record 20.08 seconds. Even more impressively, it was run into a huge headwind. Not bad for someone labelled a relay runner.

“It gives you hunger in your belly,” said Gemili, 25, of the doubters. “Maybe one day I’ll show people the quotes said about me. For now it’s a private thing.

“I just look at it sometimes and use it as inspiration and fire to say, ‘You know what, I know what I can do and if I’m fit and healthy I can push the world’s best’.

“To be labelled a relay runner is never nice, especially in an individual sport. But this proves to those guys it doesn’t matter how injured you are, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.”

Gemili  missed out on Olympic bronze in 2016 by just 0.003sec Credit: PA

Not so long ago, Gemili was fighting for global 200m medals, finishing fifth at the 2013 World Championships and missing out on Olympic bronze in 2016 by just 0.003sec. He was seen by many as the next British sprint hope.

Yet after a troublesome time with hamstring injuries, somewhere along the line the British Athletics hierarchy lost faith in his abilities.

He was not chosen for the 200m at the 2017 London World Championships, when the selectors felt he had not proven his fitness sufficiently beforehand, although he then made a mockery of the snub by helping Britain’s 4x100m quartet to an historic gold.

After the hamstring problems flared up again last year, those in charge at the governing body decided enough was enough. His individual funding was cut and he was dropped down to relay level: a key cog in that team, but not expected to be good enough to win a global medal.

Reaping the benefits of a first full winter’s training for many years, and with a first British title since 2016, he is determined to prove them wrong.

“Going into Rio [2016 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.

“Anything can happen on the day. When you get the championships It doesn’t matter what you’ve done before. It’s a level playing field.

“So hopefully going into Doha I can put in some more training and can be pushing for that gold medal, which is the aim.”

Jodie Williams claimed a 200m victory in 23.06sec Credit: PA

Gemili’s victory followed his silver medal in the 100m the day before, ensuring his place in both sprints at next month’s World Championships. He will almost certainly be joined by Zharnel Hughes, who must wait on discretionary 100m selection after finishing third, but is guaranteed in the 200m for claiming silver on Sunday in 20.25sec.

Like Gemili, Jodie Williams was also expected to dominate the world after an astonishing 151-race unbeaten streak as a junior, only to come close to walking away from the sport due to injuries and struggling to accept her failures.

This season has seen her return to her best at the age of 25 with 200m victory in 23.06sec, hampered by a massive headwind of -4.3 metres per second. Beth Dobbin was second in 23.13sec.

“I couldn’t be happier,” said Williams. “It’s been such a long time coming because I’ve been third a few times and been so close. For it all to come together is great.”

The middle distance races produced some of the tightest finishes of the weekend. Shelayna Oskan-Clarke pipped Lynsey Sharp to victory in the 800m and both women will head to the Doha World Championships with medal aspirations. Spencer Thomas claimed an unexpected gold in the men’s 800m, while Neil Gourley triumphed in the 1500m.

Holly Bradshaw prepared for her World Championships medal quest with a fifth successive national pole vault title in a championship best 4.73m, Abigail Irozuru jumped a personal best 6.86m to win the long jump three years after initially retiring from the sport, and Callum Wilkinson broke the 5000m race walk British record with a time of 18min 41.23sec.

European 400m champion Matthew Hudson-Smith continued his injury comeback to triumph in 45.15sec, while Laviai Nielsen won the women’s equivalent in 52.04sec.

A busy weekend for heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson concluded with a best of 40.07m in the javelin and 1.90m in a high jump competition won by Morgan Lake in 1.94m.