An Interview with Phillips Idowu
Phillips Idowu Interview
Why British Olympic triple jumper Phillips Idowu believes his moment has come at London 2012…
When Team GB takes to the Olympic Stadium in Stratford for the opening ceremony at the end of July, it’ll mark a surging culmination of pride and national solidarity for those lucky few competing. But for Phillips Idowu, the Games is a once in a lifetime opportunity to return to his roots and win gold, a mere stone’s throw from where he grew up in Hackney.
“For everyone on Team GB, the pride of competing on home soil is unparalleled,” he says, proudly. “But for someone like me, who grew up only a few hundred yards away, it’s an honour, one that I’ve been working towards ever since London won the honour of hosting the Games in 2005. It’s like coming full circle. East London’s where I discovered sport, where I was encouraged and pushed by some very special people in my life and the place that ultimately became my launch pad. And now I’m coming home, it’s a good feeling. It’s nerve-wracking, but good.”
“Sport was my focus”
The flamboyant triple jumper, often distinguishable by his red hair, was denied gold at the Beijing Games in 2008 by Portugal’s Nelson Evora. But according to Idowu, nothing is going to stand in his path to the winner’s podium this time round, not even the distraction of his family, including daughter D’Karma and two-year-old Prince.
“They cannot be there,” the devoted family man laughs. “It would be the biggest distraction to have my kids in the stands. What if Prince cried, I’d want to go up and see what’s wrong, and that would completely throw my concentration. I couldn’t handle that pressure. So no, the family is staying home while dad is winning the gold!”
Whilst growing up in Hackney, Idowu admits drugs and gang culture were part of daily life, and had he not found sport, the athlete believes he easily could have landed himself in trouble.
If I hadn’t got into athletics, I don’t know what I’d be doing now. I’m happy I got out when I did. Hackney was a tough place. I’m not going to say there were no drugs or gangs, there were plenty, and a few of my friends were into that. I never went near it, but I could have. Sport was my main focus, I just didn’t know how far it could take me from home.”
“I want number one”
London will be Phillips’, 33, fourth Olympics after a commendable sixth spot in Sydney, a disastrous 12th place in Athens and, or course, the silver in Beijing. That means nothing but the elusive gold will do this summer, despite tough competition from rival Frenchman Teddy Tamgho and the American Christian Taylor. Phillips is quick to reassure us that this won’t be his last Games though; after all, he wants to protect his title as reigning Olympic champion in the Rio De Janeiro 2016 Games.
“That’s the plan I’m working towards. After coming second in Beijing, I knew I wanted to stick around for another four years – I knew I wanted to get back and compete, looking to win the gold medal that I thought I should have won in China. Hopefully I’ll be emerging from London a winner, so it will be nice to go out to Rio as the reigning Olympic champion. Not many people get the opportunity to do that, and even if I’m not the favourite in Brazil, I don’t want to be at home, I’d rather be there.”
With final preparations now in full swing, Idowu seems remarkably calm in the run-up. “I want gold,” he repeats. “I want number one, but sometimes the elements can transpire against you. It’s often down to the day, and how you feel when you get out of bed in the morning. I’m thinking about it all the time, but unlike others, I know when to switch off, otherwise it’s easy to get driven mad by the pressure.”
“Could be a big disaster”
So are there any unusual rituals on the day itself? “Nothing superstitious, but I am slightly OCD when I’m in my hotel room. I like to lay out my clothes that I’ll be competing in, in the order that I will be putting them on. And there will be an alarm set every 10 to 15 minutes for every small task I have to do before competition. One will tell me to jump in the shower, another will say ‘take your supplements at this time’.
“I could plan a war with this system but it takes the pressure of having to think about anything else! What it does mean though, is if I don’t have my phone charged fully, the whole system is thrown out. That could be a big disaster! It hasn’t happened yet. I don’t even want to talk about it not happening. Maybe I am superstitious after all!”
Phillips Idowu is fuelled by Lucozade helping him go Faster. Stronger. For Longer. Check out Phillips in action at youtube.com/lucozade