By Tom Harle
Not every athlete buys a tiara intending only to pair it with a World Championship gold medal.
But Yemi Mary John is not every athlete - and her golden gamble paid dividends when she was crowned world U20 champion over 400m.
“I was manifesting,” she said.
“For me it was just about being confident in myself and believing that’s what I wanted to do. I knew the way I wanted to perform and to put it into existence.
“Who knows, one day it might make another appearance!”
It was Great Britain’s only individual gold medal at August’s global gathering in Cali, Colombia, marking out the Woodford youngster for stardom.
The 19-year-old put in a consummate championship performance, slashing her personal best from 52.42 seconds to 51.72 in the semi-finals and 51.50 in the final.
“I think in that first round, honestly, I surprised myself,” she said.
SportsAid is delighted to reveal the 🔟 talented young athletes on the shortlist for the One-to-Watch Award 2022 🏆
The annual award shines a spotlight on the incredible achievements of Britain’s brightest sporting prospects 👏
▶️ https://t.co/tpJfiUVWAr #CelebrateTheNext pic.twitter.com/gvwJJ8fCvn
— SportsAid (@TeamSportsAid) November 1, 2022
“I knew I was ready physically but I hadn’t put the time down. I wanted that season to go to Worlds confident. I wasn’t counted as part of the competition.
“Still it was important for me to stay level-headed through the semis and the finals and stay focused on the goal. The first round gave me the motivation I needed.”
Some athlete journeys look smooth on the surface but John’s has been anything but seamless.
The one-lap star reached a low ebb during lockdown, lacking competitive direction and managing the challenge of a move to study and train at University of Nottingham.
“It was definitely an interesting adjustment,” she said. “It was quite hard, I didn’t know where I was fitness-wise. I was basically training myself and I couldn’t use the facilities.
“I didn’t have people around me and I was quite lonely. There were times I wanted to stop training because I was tired.
“I can’t say I was always motivated but you always have to stay disciplined.
“It took a lot of readjusting and support, I was grateful for all of the support I had to stay on track.”
This winter John will relocate to the USA and take up a prestigious sports scholarship at the University of Southern California where she will compete on the NCAA circuit.
Her superb 2022 has been rewarded with nomination for SportsAid’s annual One-to-Watch Award, shortlisted in the top 10 from a raft of 1,000 young athletes supported by the charity across 60 different sports.
The award was launched in 2006 to shine a spotlight on the outstanding achievements of Britain’s brightest young prospects, with Tom Daley, Hollie Arnold, Courtney Tulloch, Amber Hill, Morgan Lake and Alex Yee among the former winners.
John, who received her SportsAid support from Gateley this year, said: “I’m very grateful and very happy about it. It’s nice to reap the rewards of all of the hard work.
“Being put next to those names gives me such a great boost of confidence and hope.”
The winner of SportsAid’s prestigious One-to-Watch Award will be revealed at the charity’s Celebrate the Next event, supported by Royal Bank of Canada, in London on Thursday 17 November. Please visit www.sportsaid.org.uk for further information.