British sprinter James Dasaolu (© Getty Images)
For a man used to running fast, James Dasaolu isn’t in a hurry. While the 26-year-old’s sprint rivals have already made their seasonal debuts, the quiet Londoner is in no rush to get his summer campaign under way.
A promising indoor season, during which his form made him one of the early favourites for the IAAF World Indoor title that was won by compatriot Richard Kilty, was curtailed due to a troublesome hamstring, making Dasaolu even more cautious as the season drew near.
“Obviously I had a really good season last year, so on the back of that, my coach (Steve Fudge) and I decided to have a real go at indoors,” he explains. “It was going very well and I ran 6.47 in my last race, which made me world leader, but I had a slight hamstring problem, so I decided to pull out of the World Indoors despite being world number one.
“I was only off for three weeks, but I’ve decided to take a slower approach, because the European Championships isn’t until August, so there’s no need to rush.”
The good season to which the 2013 European indoor silver medallist alludes included breaking the 10-second barrier for 100m for the first time, with a scintillating 9.91 clocking at the UK Championships in Birmingham, and making the IAAF World Championships final, recording 9.97 in the semis.
And the sensible decision to wait until he is 100% ready to race is part of a long-term training programme and philosophy that has paid dividends since he first began working under the tutelage of Fudge at their base in Loughborough in the English East Midlands in early 2012. Patience with injuries has been a big part of it.
“When you know training’s going well and you’re able to go and produce at competitions where it matters, it always gives you that confidence that even if you have a small setback, when you do get back on track you’ll produce good performances,” says Dasaolu.
“I won a medal last year (at the European Indoor Championships) and I went sub 10, so I know the training works well for me. It’s gone really well apart from that small injury. I ran 6.48 last year and ran 9.91 for 100m outdoors, so having run 6.47 this year, I just can’t wait to compete.”
While Dasaolu’s 2014 targets will undoubtedly include the European Championships in August, he is also looking to compete more frequently against the world’s best in the IAAF Diamond League.
He speaks enthusiastically about further testing himself on the IAAF Diamond League circuit ahead of global championships in years to come: “I’d like to run more IAAF Diamond Leagues and mix it more with the top-level opposition,” he says. “When you compete against the best, it brings out the best in you, so it will be good to compete against the Caribbean and American athletes from that perspective.
“You don’t want to just meet them at a World Championships. Meeting them at the Diamond League means that you become familiar with competing with the best every week. You’re not too fazed by it.”
Dasaolu will open his 2014 campaign next week in Lausanne, but the father of two young girls knows which IAAF Diamond League meetings he is looking forward to most.
“I’m expecting to compete in the Glasgow and Birmingham Diamond Leagues. Glasgow in particular, being in the same city as the Commonwealth Games, will be a real big one.
“I love to compete domestically and the track in Birmingham was where I first went sub 10 last year and was also the venue of one of my first ever Diamond League meetings, where I finished second and ran a PB, so they’re big. My family, my mum and my two brothers always come to support me.”
As a sub-10-second 100m sprinter, a world finalist and a European medallist, it would be reasonable to expect Dasaolu to be brimming with confidence bordering on arrogance, yet he knows just how tough his event is at world level and is determined to make sure that he has a part to play when medals are won.
“The sprinting game’s moved on, even since 2008 when Usain ran 9.69 in the Olympic Games,” he points out. “9.91 at one time might have got you top three in the world, but now it feels like you’ve got at least 10 or 15 guys around the world capable of running those times. The bar’s shifted in the sprints.”
Yet a combination of a strong training group and burgeoning domestic rivalries mean that Dasaolu is hopeful of mounting a serious challenge for medals at championships and victories in the IAAF Diamond League.
“I train with Adam Gemili (world 200m finalist). He brings a good energy and a good vibe and it’s important to have a good quality group,” he argues. “We’ve got Chris Clarke as well, who’s ran 20.2 for 200m, so it’s good to have quality athletes around you, all training together and helping each other improve.”
And the strength in depth of British sprinting at present means that selection for teams cannot be taken for granted, meaning that athletes have to reach greater heights than before.
After such a successful 2013, Dasaolu can anticipate another excellent season in the IAAF Diamond League and other championships, but, while last year he was something of an unknown quantity, his eye-catching displays indoors and out over the past 12 months mean that his performances will attract greater scrutiny than ever before.
“I believe that you can only focus on yourself and focus on what you can do,” he reasons. “You can’t really control what goes on outside your own training environment and your own ability, so it’s best to focus on what you can do and produce your best and hope that that’s good enough on the day.”
And while the quiet man of British athletics is reluctant to look too far ahead, he knows that if he can keep his body intact, the future is promising.
“I tend to take my seasons one step at a time and my focus is this season, but my next goal is to run under 9.9 and more than that it’s to be more consistent. I’ve run sub 10 twice, so if I keep in running sub 10, the quicker times will come.”
It’s easier said than done, but, as James Dasaolu has shown in the past, patience certainly pays off.
Dean Hardman for the IAAF