After graduating from Birmingham last year Julz has become a full time athlete and is hoping to go to London 2012 as part of the athletics squad. After a great start to the season Julz is very much on track to realise that dream. We caught up with him to find out how he got there…
We saw that you were a Law graduate from the University of Birmingham. Why did you decide to become a full time athlete?
In truth I stumbled upon hurdling and only realised my talent for the event at the relatively late age of 17, so really I always had prior intentions of leaving school to go to University. Even so, when the opportunity arose to pursue my hobby as a vocation and become a professional athlete it was of course a big draw and a dream that I was definitely going to chase. However I wanted to get a strong degree in my back pocket first, before throwing myself into a sporting career as these are often short lived, very fickle and athletics isn’t the most lucrative of sports.
How did you get into Hurdling?
I competed in a variety of athletics events throughout my school days but it wasn’t until I was spotted running at a schools fixture in Bromsgrove in 2004, that I considered focusing on hurdling. A timekeeper at the meet planted the idea, having just seen me go down the sprint hurdles, filling-in for an injured teammate. He suggested I try-out for the English Schools Championships, twelve months later I would go on to win my first English Schools national title, rank number 1 in the UK for my age-group and earn my first international call-up.
Sport you are best at?
From a young age it was noted that I have natural speed and good spring, so I guess the hurdles event was just waiting to be found; but I always fancied myself as a bit of a Doug Howlett on the rugby pitch and I also played hockey (striker) at county level and football (midfielder) at regional level.
Sport you could never get the hang of…
Cricket… without wanting to sound scathing, I’ve always thought of it as a game that at best could be described as a mildly improved version of Pong. I could never use my speed to great effect in this sport. Oh and I could never get used to drawing with the opposition so often either, I mean what’s with that!
Sports that you miss now you are an elite athlete?
I do miss team sports at times. I enjoyed seven years of national school level rugby with the same core group of guys, I learnt a lot from this and I look back on it fondly.
Which sport do you want to try but haven’t got round to?
I always marveled at the athleticism in NFL American Football and wanted to have a go. I’m also a big boxing fan and would love to lace up a pair of gloves sometime. But it looks like I’ll have to wait until my late 30s before I get a chance as athletics is very much an all or nothing lifestyle, everyday for 48 weeks of the year – my uncle bought me a set of golf clubs for my 18th birthday and they’re still in the plastic wrapping!
What would you say to someone wanting to be more active but not sure where to start?
My advice would be to simply ‘have a go’ and give a new sport a try, a less conventional sport perhaps. Also, try and drag a buddy along to add a social aspect to it, it’s great to have someone alongside you to encourage you (and make sure you keep attending!).
Best bit of coaching advice received?
“What the mind can conceive and heart can believe, the body can achieve.” – my coach.
Any pre-race superstitions or rituals?
Not really, I try not to rely on having to have/do something in order for me to feel like I’m able to run well. But I do have a set preparation and warm-up routine; I also listen to the same pre-race playlist, have a preferred sports drink for race days and I like to keep to the same choreography for my victory dance (ok so that last one’s a lie – it varies).
I don’t have any heroes as such, but I certainly look up to accomplished people both in and out of the sporting word. Especially how they’ve gone about getting to where they are, people like Roger Federer, Michael Johnson, Floyd Mayweather and Sean Combs.
How are preparations for London 2012 going?
As well as I could hope for, I had a very good Indoor season earlier this year; recording five Personal best times in as many competitions, picking up a Bronze medal at the UK Indoor Championships and improving to a UK top 4 ranking. This should hold me in good stead for the upcoming Outdoor season. I’m now just searching for sponsorship from small businesses to help me fund the requisite full-time training necessary for me to be able to compete with the best in the world.
What’s the plan between now and the games?
The plan is to treat the run up to the Games as I would any other year, not doing anything drastically different or introducing anything new at this stage. I’m taking it one race at a time, listening to my coach and trying to stay fit & healthy. This year’s Olympic Games is part of a longer term plan for me, one that will hopefully see me compete for Gold at Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and at the London 2017 World Athletics Championships.
If you do make the squad do you think being the home nation is an advantage or a bit of a burden?
I think it’s important to focus on the positives, and a home crowd roaring you on is always going to be advantageous no matter the sport. It’s a great opportunity and a unique experience to compete at a home Olympics and therefore I tend to think: ‘what better reason to outperform myself.’
When’s the big decision and how can we follow your progress ?
And finally… We currently cover golf, tennis and personal training, Which sport do you think we should do next and why?
Running groups – running is a convenient and cost effective way of staying active, but it’s more fun and safer if you’re running with a group… plus no-one wants to look like one of the uber keen guys from the 118 advert!
Thanks a lot to Julz for that great insight into the world of an elite athlete, and we think running groups sound like a great idea! Julz is currently self-funded so is always on the lookout for sponsorship to help him reach his goal of competing at major meets for Great Britain. If you can help more information can be found at his website: www.julzadeniran.com.