Commonwealth GamesSport

Sprinters talk of the passion fuelling their medal bids

By Max Hall

Two South London sprinters at the Games have spoken about the motivation driving them both to perform on the world stage.

Peckham athlete Imani-Lara Lansiquot breezed through her heat in the women’s 100m on Tuesday, coming home second behind Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson-Herah with a time of 11.15sec.

Camberwell’s Daryll Neita was up in the following heat and crossed the line first with a time of 11.02.

“As I was getting ready this morning I was thinking ‘what am I doing this for, what is motivating me?’,” Lansiquot told the South London Press.

“I think, if anything, it’s for the younger version of myself that would’ve wanted to see someone that looked like her on TV, believing in herself and testing herself against the best in the world. That’s what I did today so I’m very pleased with myself.”

Lansiquot’s teammate and rival revealed she had almost turned her back on the sport as a youngster.

“I was born there,” Neita said of her origins, “I’m just a regular South London girl. It’s really been a thing of dedication and hard work and just trusting and believing in myself and in those around me, just to push me to be here.

“There was one point in my life when I didn’t want to do it. I was 16, having fun with my friends and that was more entertaining to me. I couldn’t really see the long-term goals.”

She can now, it seems, and said she has gold in her sights.

“It was great to come out today and get the first run out the way, warm up my legs a bit for tomorrow. It hasn’t been that long since we raced,” said the 25-year-old who, like Lansiquot, was competing in the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon nine days ago.

“I’m feeling really good, the crowd is amazing. I want to go for gold. I’m really fuelled and motivated for this.”

Fellow 100m ace Dina Asher-Smith, a Blackheath & Bromley Harrier, has been ruled out of competing at Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium by the leg injury which torpedoed Team GB’s medal hopes in Oregon, despite a blistering anchor leg run by Lansiquot.

Merton 400m hurdler Chris McAlister was also forced to withdraw from the Commonwealth Games, after breaking a bone in his foot in the holding camp for Oregon.

But Croydon multi-sport star Lawrence Okoye took to the field for the discus, and qualified for Thursday’s final with a throw of 63.79m.

“I’ve struggled to get into finals recently,” he told the SLP, “so even though I’ve been capable of it, I just haven’t got the job done.”

He might have been forgiven for nervousness, then, after stepping out of the circle for a no-throw first attempt.

A second throw of 62.14 secured his place in the final and his third attempt, of 63.79, placed him second in his group, behind Australia’s Matthew Denny (64.63). Okoye’s was the third longest attempt with Jamaican Traves Smikle winning group A with 64.90.

“Today it feels great just to do it and get to a final and hopefully get the job done there,” added the former NFL defensive tackle.

“I’ve had a difficult season, I’ve had three quite bad injuries. They’ve just sort of happened to me a lot but hopefully I can finish strong.”

Reflecting on a career that has included rugby union and gridiron, the Croydon ace said: “It’s been a long, interesting journey. Everything I’ve done has got me to where I am now and I’ve got a great opportunity on Thursday to do the country proud and myself proud so that’s all I’m hoping for.

“I hope that I’ve been able to give some type of inspiration to others. Hopefully there’ll be much bigger and better and more impressive athletes that come out of Croydon.”

Pictured top: Daryll Neita (left), Dina Asher-Smith, Imani-Lara Lansiquot (third left) and Beth Dobbin when they ran together in Birmingham in May’s Diamond League meet (Picture: David Davies/PA Wire/PA Images)

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