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Focus on Futures: Kola Adedoyin

USA-born and of Nigerian origin, Kola Adedoyin has grounds for divided loyalties over the course of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. There’s no denying where his heart lies however, “I’ll be supporting England,” he confirms, “I’ve lived here since I was five years old....”

It was never in doubt really, because the talented 19-year-old triple jumper will play his own part in adding to the the nation’s feel good factor this summer as he targets a Great Britain and Northern Ireland vest in the IAAF World Junior Championships in Moncton, Canada.

The Arsenal supporter might even have developed an affinity for Italy after a successful warm weather training camp in the country in May but it didn’t start off too well as he landed in Rome late at night, missed his connecting train and spent the night in a hostel with a group of Japanese backpackers. C’est la vie, or, perhaps more appropriately, questa ѐ la vita, but it certainly tarnished any potential allegiance.

Adedoyin, coached by Frank Attoh, has enjoyed 2010 to date, but his expectations are high. “I wouldn’t even say last year was a great year,” he reflects. “The European Junior Championships was a good experience but I’d expected to get there. I’d started the year thinking I’d get the qualifying but I still hadn’t achieved it at the trials. I eventually got it at the English Schools with a PB (15.63m) just before the final selections were announced.”

It won’t be such a close call on this occasion as he made sure of the World Juniors mark with a lifetime best performance of 15.93m at the McCain Loughborough International in May, exceeding the standard by over 20cm; he now needs to maintain his good form through to the Trials. “Loughborough wasn’t such a shock for me as training had been going really well through the winter,” he says. “I’d started to get a few niggles but it all fell into place in Formia (Italy); I was eating well, getting daily physio and had a period of good, consistent training. Frank and I had talked through our plans at the start of the year and I expected to get the World Juniors distance in Loughborough. I was confident, but after I’d jumped I wasn’t happy, I didn’t think it was as far as it was.”

This is Adedoyin’s final opportunity to compete in a global junior championship after an injury cost him his chance two years ago. He’d been selected onto the UKA World Class Talent Programme and suddenly found himself in a position where nobody could tell him when he’d jump again. It was incredibly frustrating as he targeted both the World Junior Championships and Commonwealth Youth Games, and he credits his former coach John Vernon - someone he still calls a friend - for keeping him in the sport. “He was a huge influence on me and probably why I’m still involved,” he says. “I was injured for a while and experienced some really low points. I was so frustrated. It seemed even worse because I’d missed the 2007 European Youths the year before because I didn’t have a British passport - I only found that out when I got to the trials!”

But out of bad times came good, as Adedoyin and his coach Vernon started to work with Frank Attoh, who he’d met for the first time just prior to his injury. “John and Frank knew one another, and later in the 2008 season when I was struggling, we went through a few technical sessions together,” he says. “I didn’t ever lose the belief that I could jump.”

Vernon’s training group had been based in Sutton and a young Adedoyin, who was ‘spotted’ in year nine at school, travelled two hours each way by bus and train, three days per week to join them. He speaks fondly of his time there, but as one of the more experienced athletes under Vernon’s mentorship, his opportunities to develop were limited.

Since linking up with Attoh in London, he’s now exposed to a wealth of knowledge and experience in a squad which includes seasoned GB internationalists Larry Achike and Chris Tomlinson, in addition to Jamaica’s Tricia Smith, a former World Champion, and France’s Jules Lechanga; “I’m constantly learning,” he says, “there’s a heap of talent. There’s also a good group of youngsters with Michael (Puplampu), Lorraine (Ugen) and Nathan (Fox). Having the guys to look up to, there’s no slacking and I’m constantly getting advice.”

He’s also benefiting from the UKA Futures Programme which offers financial and medical support. “It’s nice to know that your governing body has faith in your potential as an athlete,” he says.

Adedoyin appears unaffected in pressure situations. When he lined up as a guest in the Loughborough International alongside IAAF World Youth triple jump champion and GB Juniors team representative Ben Williams, he had reason to feel like the underdog, but did he? “No,” he says, “not at all. We enjoy a healthy rivalry but I’m always looking to come out on top.”

In the same way, as he looks ahead to Canada, his global rivals – although well respected – are perceived irrelevant. “It doesn’t bother me about rankings, it’s about performing on the day and I like the big occasions, I’m confident of a big jump out there (in Canada),” he says. “This year will be tough but hopefully I’ll make it to the final at the World Juniors, and if I do, I’d always want to medal.”

As he refers back to Attoh, he admits there have been tough times, but it’s said with a smile: “This year has been such a shock to me...I think the longest I ran with John was 150m but over winter we were doing 15 minute runs and 200m/300m/350m reps and hills; I was thinking “man, what is this!” His coach – subconsciously - answered him, offering a philosophy he wants to adhere to over the coming months: “winter’s for hard work,” he said, “summers for showing off.”

The UKA Futures Programme underpins the World Class Performance Programme (WCPP) and was borne out of the restructure of UKA’s WCPP and the drive towards more targeted support for athletes and their coaches.

The Programme targets young athletes with the potential to deliver global medals for Britain in the future, typically in the 17 to 20 age range but with flexibility towards athletes who have come late to the sport, are in late developing events of are deemed an exceptional case for support.

Athletes and their coaches will be supported in their individual development plans allowing for more flexibility and individual discretion around distribution of resources. 42 coach-athlete pairs have been included in the 2010 Futures Programme.

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