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Home   Kent   Sport   Article

As Adam Gemili receives his 100m Commonwealth Games silver medal, Alex Hoad reflects on the magnitude of the Dartford star's achievement

29 July 2014
by Alex Hoad

Dartford's Adam Gemili with his 100m silver medal from the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. Picture Clive RoseGetty Images

Dartford's Adam Gemili with his 100m silver medal from the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. Picture: Clive Rose/Getty Images

On the morning of November 9, 2007, a 14-year-old Dartford Grammar School for Boys pupil sat in class, plotting his route to Chelsea FC’s first-team.

In truth, there was probably more than one, but one particularly talented boy who had joined the Blues as an eight-year-old was thinking solely about life as a professional footballer, he was blissfully unaware that thousands of miles away, delegates meeting in Sri Lanka were voting Glasgow as the host city of the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

He didn’t know then how important their decision that day would be for him, and Glasgow didn’t know how important he would be to the success of a Games which could so easily have seen the eyes of the sporting world on Abuja, Nigeria, this week.

In the near seven years since then, an awful lot of stars needed to align for the nippy young right-back to become the unifying force behind which athletics fans of all the home nations united in the blue riband event of the 2014 Games, but align they have.

The English lad with a smile that could melt Hadrian’s Wall received the loudest cheers for a non-Scot of any at these Games, and he repaid every cheering fan on Monday night with a performance as full of commitment, guts and strength of character as any athlete at these Games.

I was in absolutely no doubt that it would pan out this way. That’s not me being wise after the fact. I have been massively fortunate to have been present for much of the ride, and I knew this was coming.

We spoke on the phone the day after his breakout 100m run in Regensburg, with him sitting in his room to recall the 10.08secs performance which obliterated his PB.

I was there at the Olympic Stadium in London when he finished second in his heat, a sliver behind Asafa Powell, there too for him missing the Olympic final by 0.4secs.

Mine were just one of the many pairs of eyes he couldn’t meet after a botched baton exchange ended TeamGB’s hopes of a relay medal.

Adam Gemili

Adam Gemili

Away from the bright lights he’s given up his free time to help me with work features and provided help and support to pursue my own sporting goals, the guy’s even gone to the till to order me a Nando’s.

It was on that day six months ago that we discussed Glasgow and his eyes kind of misted over a little bit. Personally I think it was the lure of another ‘fix’ of the home crowd support that anyone who was in London two summers ago experienced.

Make no mistake. There might be bigger competitions than a Commonwealth Games, with stronger opponents, but nobody would want to miss out on the support that British fans have been serving up in the past two years. These fans make everything matter more. I have little doubt that had this race been run in the National Stadium in Abuja, I'd be writing a different story.

I’ve gradually learned to keep my mouth shut about 10-second barriers and technical aspects of sprinting around Adam. I hope he's realised. I realise he’s in this for pretty simple reasons - medals and glory. 

The one thing I feel I have to assure you is that everything you see out there is genuine. This is not an act. He’s not trying to be a housewives' favourite, a clean-cut inspiration to youngsters or an ambassador for his sport. He doesn’t need to try. It’s just who he is. He actually smiles like that when there are no cameras around too.

The best thing of all is that he’s one of ours, and he doesn’t even mind. A certain London newspaper attempted to lay-claim to him at the Olympics… “As a Londoner, Adam…”

“I’m from Dartford,” he said, so politely it was impossible to have taken any offence.

I’m fond of using the term Pride of Kent for our sporting stars, but you’d be hard pushed to find anyone of whom Kent should be more proud, in sport or not.

I am writing this sat at a chilly Hampden Park, as I watch Adam step up onto the podium to receive his silver medal to absolutely rapturous applause.

No, before you ask, I’m not crying, alright? I do have a lump in my throat, though.

Gemili celebrates his silver medal Picture Ian WaltonGetty Images

Gemili celebrates his silver medal Picture: Ian Walton/Getty Images

Like almost every major athletics championships for the past half-decade and more, the Jamaican national anthem is about to ring out around an athlete who turned up expecting to win, knowing he was entitled to.

Anyone who saw the look on Adam’s face when his name flashed onto that scoreboard to confirm his silver medal can tell how much it genuinely meant to a young man who gives everything he has to everything he does, every single day.

There will be no more humble and grateful recipient of a medal at these Games than Adam Gemili.

The Pride of Kent.

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