Published: 09:00, 19 September 2017
| Updated: 09:29, 19 September 2017
When sprint star Adam Gemili returned to his old school earlier this month, much of the focus was on how his role in Great Britain’s stunning relay win at the World Championships could inspire the next generation of athletes.
The 23-year-old went back to Dartford Grammar School to open a new running track, but he also spoke to all the students across two packed assemblies about how they can push themselves to achieve their goals.
As well as a day of excitement for the youngsters, it was also a day for reflection for the man himself.
Seven years after leaving he still clearly harbours a great deal of affection for his old school, with fond memories of old teachers and his closest friends.
“I love coming back here,” he said as he waited to surprise pupils in the main hall, with his trademark grin etched across his face.
“Honestly I can’t believe how much the school has changed. You can almost do a whole lap of it now.”
Any old boys who have not been back to DGS in recent years would no doubt be similarly stunned to see what is new, with huge amounts of work done across the site, from a huge science lecture hall to a new canteen.
Some of Adam’s old classmates have now started teaching at the school.
One of them is George Washbourn, who was on the relay team alongside Adam when house Wilson set a still unbeaten 4x100m school record on sports day when they were in Year 10.
His old PE teacher Gary Jones recalled: “I remember it vividly.
“I was standing with (headmaster) Mr Oakes and I remember I said to him: ‘Watch this. This is going to be special.’”
No doubt the school field in Baker Crescent has played a key role in Adam’s extraordinary rise from wannabe footballer to world champion sprinter, with mum Sacha “in awe” of her son.
He certainly recognises that and it means the trips home from his training base in Holland are all the sweeter.
But it is not just his sporting prowess that has left an impression on those who are still at DGS.
Headmaster John Oakes said: “I think it’s fair to say that Adam is now one of the pin-ups and role medals for British athletics and more than that he’s such a splendid and delightful young man.
“He is a great role model in athletics but he’s also a great role model for what you can achieve through hard work as well.”
No doubt that Adam will keep checking in on Dartford to see friends, family, and his old school, with the borough council keen for him to switch on the Christmas lights again this year.
And the allure of his favourite Nando’s in nearby Crayford is still as hard to resist as ever.
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