Published: 16:15, 05 September 2017
They say never meet your heroes, but sprint star Adam Gemili made a mockery of that particular piece of advice when he returned to his old school today.
Just a few weeks after playing a key role in Great Britain’s gold medal-winning 4x100m team at the World Championships in London, the 23-year-old was back at Dartford Grammar School (DGS) to inspire the next generation of athletes.
Students now have the benefit of a new running track at the school’s sports field, which Adam officially cut the ribbon on alongside his old PE teacher Gary Jones.
That his return to the field where it all began came after the relay victory was certainly appropriate, with Adam and his house Wilson classmates still holding the school’s 4x100m sports day record from back in their Year 10 days.
Going pro has seen him endure more sporting disappointments than he did at school, but his message for current students – for whom his visit was a complete surprise – spoke of a man not willing to let setbacks put a dent in his ambition.
Video: Adam Gemili goes back to school
“You learn more from your failures than you do from your successes,” he told them during their morning assembly.
“You train for 11 months of the year, six days a week, and there’s never any guarantees because you could get injured or not get selected, and it’s about how you deal with those moments that defines your character.
“I love coming back here. When you leave you realise how easy life was. You rock up, see your friends every day and do a bit of studying, but then you’ve got to go into the real world."
He added: “To get into this school is not easy and I may be very bias but this is a very good school and you’re very fortunate to be here.
“Enjoy your time here, then go out into the world and smash it and have a real good career.”
Once the formalities of assembly were over it was off to the field, where talented runners from multiple year groups tried their best to impress in front of a large crowd of teachers, parents, and local dignitaries.
Adam also took to the track for a run against some of the school’s best, seeing them off comfortably despite his recent injury woes.
But as exciting as it was to see one of the country’s biggest athletics talents doing what he does best, no doubt most of the students were more occupied with plucking up the courage to ask for selfies and autographs.
Headmaster John Oakes hopes their excitement at seeing Adam will provide the perfect platform to push themselves and ensure the school has some similarly successful alumni in the years ahead.
“If you have never felt disappointment then you have never tried hard enough,” he said.
“After that disappointment it’s what you do next that really matters and Adam is proof that what you do next is become stronger, faster, and more successful.”
The main takeaway from the day was a sense that the future of British athletics is in good hands, and bright young talents at DGS certainly couldn’t ask for anyone better to look up to than Adam.
But it was also a day for reflection for Adam himself, as seven years on he still clearly harbours a great deal of love and affection for his old school.
For more on Adam’s return to DGS, interviews with students and teachers, and more photos from his visit, see the Dartford Messenger - both this Thursday and next.
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