England’s national team has been on a rise in 2017 after world cup triumphs in the U-20 and U-17 categories in a space of four months. Much of the credits are being owed to the academies of the English clubs. Besides the academies of Liverpool FC, Everton FC, Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur, Fulham, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Manchester City etc. Chelsea FC have stood out, producing match winning players for both the age groups.
The defence pairing of Fikayo Tomori and Jake Clarke-Salter, and the golden ball winner Dominic Solanke for the U-20 edition in South Korea are all Chelsea Academy graduates. For the U-17 edition in India, 4 of the 5 Chelsea players in George McEachran, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Mark Guehi and Jonathan Panzo were regular starters. Even the Golden Boot winning Rhian Brewster was also at Chelsea before his move to Merseyside a couple of years back.
It is safe to say, the Chelsea academy are producing top quality footballers for the future 3 Lions.
However, one might be amazed to know that the Chelsea Academy has gone beyond just the football field to produce talents. One of their former pupils have gone on to race at the Olympics and has even won gold for Britain in the 2017 London World Championships, defeating the mighty Jamaicans and Americans.
Adam Gemili is a pretty popular name in British athletics. The 24-year old has represented Great Britain & Northern Ireland in the 2012 London Olympics and 2016 Rio Olympics as well as two world championships in Moscow 2013 and London 2017.
Gemili was born on October 6, 1993, to London based parents of Iranian and Moroccan descent. At the age of 8, he joined the local Chelsea FC Academy. He trained under the coaches and instructors at the Cobham Training centre as a defender. He said to have been influenced by the then Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho when they trained at the Recreation Ground. He later went on to name Mourinho as one of the biggest influences in his life.
After 7 years at the breeding ground of The Blues, the Dartford Grammar School graduate moved to Reading at the age of 15. He also attended Barking and Dagenham College for a BTEC Extended Diploma in Sport.
During his time at college and academy, he was identified by the supervisors as a very quick runner and he regularly took part in Athletics Sprints in college.
After graduating from Reading FC, a young Adam began his senior footballing career at fourth division club Dagenham & Redbridge in 2010. He moved to Isthmian League club Thurrock the following year and made 12 appearances for the club.
In the same year, the then 17-year old won two silver medals in 100m and the 4x100m, at the 2011 European Athletics Junior Championships in Tallinn, Estonia. He set up the fastest European time of 20.98 seconds over 200m later that year.
Torn between the dual careers of football and athletics, Gemili finally decided to switch to the later full time, in 2012. A still 18-year old made history in front of a packed London Stadium during the 2012 Olympics. He ran a lifetime best of 10.11 seconds in the 5th heat of Round 1, finishing second behind former world record holder Asafa Powell and ahead of double European champion Churandy Martina. He produced another lifetime best of 10.06 in the semifinals, where he narrowly missed out on a final birth finishing 3rd in the race and 11th overall.
He took to the tracks again in the 4x100m relays where the British team of Christian Malcolm, Dwain Chambers, Danny Talbot and Adam Gemili finished second in the first heat behind Jamaica. But unfortunately, they were disqualified due to track and line violation.
Gemili ran in the world championships next year in Moscow where he reached his first major final. He ran a lifetime best of 19.98 in the semifinals to finish ahead of Nikel Ashmeade and Churandy Martina. But after failing to replicate his form in the final(which would have assured him a bronze), the former Chelsea defender finished 5th.
He came back strong next year by clinching silvers in 100m and 4x100m at Glasgow Commonwealth Games and two golds in 200m and 4x100m at the European Championships in Zurich.
In 2015 he became the 100th man in history to break the 10 seconds barrier in 100m after a 9.97 run at the Birmingham Diamond League. But his fall on the finish line ruled him out of the 2015 World Championships in Beijing.
Gemili came closest to winning his first Olympic medal at Rio 2016 when he finished 4th in the final of 200m by 3 thousands of a second. Frenchman Christophe Lemaitre pipped him to the bronze.
After suffering from injury problems in late 2016 and early 2017, the British Athletics Federation did not select the 24-year old for the individual 100m and 200m races in front of his own crowd in London.
However. he was included back in the relay team. Great Britain finished second in the first heat behind the USA to qualify. In the finals, a mighty inspired Great Britain team comprising of Chijindu Ujah, Adam Gemili, Danny Talbot and Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake ran the race of their lives. The much anticipated penultimate race of the Games was in the news for being the final race of Usain Bolt’s career. However, Bolt could not finish after a muscle pull in the anchor leg. But roared by the crowd, Adam Gemili and co. ran like the wind to pip USA for the gold in a European Record time of 37.47. Gemili ran a brilliant second leg against the likes of Aaron Brown, Justin Gatlin, Jimmy Vicaut and Julian Forte and went ahead of the Chinese team on his outside before handing the baton over to Danny Talbot.
This was the first time ever, the British won gold in this event at the world championships.
It has been a remarkable journey for the young Briton from Chelsea to beating Justin Gatlin and Usain Bolt to gold. We can only hope that the former Mourinho protégé will achieve a whole lot more for Great Britain Athletics in the years to come.