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UK Athletics

Dogged Harry Sprinting Back

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31 December 2007



Speedster Harry Aikines-Aryeetey is resigned to his best Christmas present arriving three weeks late this time around.


But he doesn’t mind. Even though he won the World Youth 100m and 200m titles in 2005 and the World Junior 100m gold medal in 2006, he has learnt to be patient while waiting for a stress fracture in his back to allow him to race again for the first time since 24 February.


And now the team of experts who have helped him through his traumas say he can make his long-awaited return to action on 19 January.


He will race over 60m at the South of England AA Championships at the Lee Valley Athletics Centre in the zone of North London that, like Harry A-A (as he is commonly known), is already beginning to prepare for London 2012.


It will be a new beginning twice over – not only his first race after his career-threatening injury but also his first championships as a senior. For Harry A-A will celebrate his 20th birthday on 29 August, four days after the closing ceremony of his major target for 2008, the Beijing Olympic Games.


He is now based at the High Performance Centre at Loughborough University, being coached by Michael Khmel, the world-renowned expert employed by UK Athletics (UKA) to help the men’s 4x100m squad build on the bronze medals won at this year’s IAAF World Championships in Osaka.


“Everything seems to be going pretty well,” says Harry A-A, who moved from his home in Sutton, Surrey, and his training base at Crystal Palace in the autumn with the full backing of his previous coach, Matt Favier, Director of the West London High Performance Centre developed by UKA in conjunction with the English Institute of Sport.


“Everyone tends to work very well together – my coaches past and present, strength and conditioning coach Tommy Ewell, pilates instructor Tina Sheridan, physiotherapists Matt Lancaster and Rone Thompson and nutritionists. People don’t realise how well we get looked after. And so that I don’t get bored in my house and tempted to go out at night, I’ve got the company of my pet dog Barney.”


It’s a world away from the dark days of last spring, when he flew home from warm weather training in the USA in pain, reluctantly facing the fact that he would not be able to race during his last summer as a junior … and might not be able to set foot on track again.


“The last year has left me hungry in every sense,” he says. “To try and explain how I felt is quite difficult. I questioned many times whether I would ever race again. There were days when you felt so flat, it was unbelievable. At one time, I had 50 acupuncture needles in me.


But in Loughborough everyone has the same kind of goal. Paula Radcliffe’s pictures are everywhere. And I’m definitely motivated.


“Michael is very technical, which suits me because my back needs to be looked after well. I am definitely motivated by my training partners [one of whom, Leon Baptiste, is a former European Junior 100m champion].


“Oh, and one other thing all the medical tests discovered was that I’ve only been using the equivalent of one lung because I am asthmatic. Peak-flow tests showed only 50 per cent of what I should be producing. Imagine what I can do if I have full capacity!


“It’s going to be an exciting year with it being the Olympics. I just want to be in action.”