Wednesday, 27 January 2010

When Harry met Sprinting


When Harry met Sprinting

Unlike his namesake in the famous 1980’s rom-com, Harry Aikines-Aryeetey has no doubts on what he should do- he was born to sprint and destined to be a winner. Nicola Bamford spoke to the cheeky chap of British sprinting about his training, ambitions and that huge physique...

21-year-old Harry first made acquaintance with his true love by pure coincidence. Frantically running away from a barking dog as a youngster, the London-born speedster found his natural talent for powerful sprinting and hasn’t slowed down since.

With parents originating from Ghana, Harry A-A; as he is affectionately known in athletics circles, has taken advantage of the African descent in his genes to turn himself into the speed machine who many believe is the future of British sprinting.

Exciting potential

Bursting onto the scene with a European age-14 best of 10.83 for 100m in 2003, the jovial Michael Khmel-coached runner captured his first international medal soon after; the 2004 Commonwealth Youth Games 100m silver – intriguing the sport with his exciting potential.

Not content with just a bag-full of national age-group medals – mainly of the gold variety – Harry A-A set about targeting World domination and became the first athlete to achieve the 100m and 200m double at the 2005 World Youth Championships; performances that led him to being awarded the ‘Rising Star of the Year’ award by the International Athletics federation and the ‘BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year’ award, respectively.

Finest hour

Now accustomed to global domination, the Loughborough University Sports Science with Management student enjoyed an eye-catching 2006, where he sensationally became the World Junior 100m Champion; his finest hour to date.

Apart from taking the English senior indoor 60m title, the following season however, was a major disappointment for the Sutton and District speedster; as minor stress fractures in the spine forced him to spend eleven-months on the injury sidelines.

No weights allowed

Known for his demonic training mentally, Harry A-A knuckled down to the hard graft at his Loughborough base – where he has the assistance of training partner, 2008 England under23 Champ, James Dasaolu.

With a (very hectic) typical day consisting of a track session, followed by a workout in the gym or Pilates and conditioning then massage or physiotherapy, it’s a good job Khmel has refused to let his charge hit the weights.

“I’m rarely allowed to do much in the weights room,” Harry explains, “Although I can bench 160kg and clean 155kg, I’m holding back as I don’t want to get any bigger. My dad’s a large character but I believe it’s on my mum’s side, too!”

Blasting back to form

Like a starving lion finally unleashed from his cage, Harry A-A quickly blasted back to form and earned selection for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing; where he was a non-competing member of the 4x100m squad.

Filled with experience and bursting to finally showcase his talent in a major senior championship, the Lucozade ambassador took the European under23 title before finishing fifth in the 2009 World Championship trials – behind the notorious, rehabilitated drug-cheat, Dwain Chambers – to book his spot on the 4x100m relay squad for Berlin last summer.

Partnering Simeon Williamson, Tyrone Edgar and Marlon Devonish, the sprinter with 10.10 (100m) and 20.91 (200m) bests, showed speed and composure beyond his years to anchor Team GB to a magnificent bronze.

“2009 was a very good year,” he recalls, “Winning the under23 Europeans was awesome; being on the podium again – winning is what we (athletes) thrive for. Also, knowing I made history by being the first Brit to get an international medal in each age-group (youth, junior and under23) was awesome. (The Berlin bronze) was my first senior medal, which meant even more to me.”

Big ambitions

Understandably still on a high from last year, Harry A-A; who is managed by Jonathan Marks of MTC Management, is relishing the prospect of asserting himself as British number-one at the indoor season curtain-raiser in Glasgow this Saturday.

Competing for the Commonwealth Select team in the 60m, the Superman and Haribo-fanatic will be hoping to fly to a comfortable victory over opponents from GB, USA, Sweden and Germany in the Aviva International.

Top of his to-do list will be taking the scalp of two-time winner and close rival, Craig Pickering, as well as improving on his 6:59 best:

“My fitness is pretty good at the moment, I am in decent shape,” he explains, “Training has been going very well in South Africa (at the GB camp) – I am on track for our plans and being in the sun has had a much better effect than the snow!”

Promising sprint scene

With a plethora of male sprinters with a mix of talented youth and solid experience, Harry A-A agrees that the British sprint scene is looking very promising: “With Dwain making World final and Simeon, I, Craig, James and Tyrone still progressing, it can’t mean anything but positive things for the UK. Being the youngest; I fancy my chances!”

And what of his chances in the Scottish capital’s Kelvin Hall this weekend: “Glasgow should be good. The indoor season for me is purely to improve my 100m. Having to be patient and practice my drive phase is key during the campaign for me.”

“The main aim for me is the European trials and Europeans (in Barcelona) this summer, and long-term, my aims are to win an individual gold in every possible championship! You’ve got to aim high but what I really want is an Olympic gold!”

And with an influx of international titles already to his name, who knows...

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