Reece Prescod: Why Great Britain’s sprinting sensation credits the ‘dark times’ with his success and how he almost ended up an estate agent

As the dust settled at the end of the IAAF World Championships 100m final the crowd realised just what had happened – the legendary Usain Bolt had lost out to Justin Gatlin.

The chorus of boos came cascading down from the Olympic Stadium stands to greet the gold medal-winning American who had just rewritten the script everyone was expecting to see.

Yet over in lane nine of that race another script was being put together – and this one has barely crossed into chapter two.

“It was a weird experience to be in – it was quite surreal to be fair,” says Reece Prescod, the 21-year-old Briton who occupied that lane. 

“Normally when I finish racing everyone just claps and that’s it.”

For those that closely follow athletics there has been plenty of noise regarding the sprinter from Walthamstow.

But this summer Prescod took his chance to announce himself to the wider viewing public.

The first pivotal moment arrived back in July when he stormed to a shock 100m victory at the British Team Trials in Birmingham.

That win sealed his selection for the World Championships where the up-and-coming athlete, who has only been a professional since 2015, continued to impress as he powered through to the final with a personal best along the way.

Prescod eventually finished seventh in the Gatlin/Bolt finale but, despite the triumphs and acclaim coming his way, he maintains he will always remember what he calls the ‘dark times.’

“Obviously everyone’s excited, I’m doing quite well now, and it’s a whole kind of different feeling,” he explains.

“I’ve got to enjoy the successes and stuff but then I’ve got to put my head down and remember what got me there.

“I need to have the same work ethic that I’ve had for the last couple of years when no one’s known me.

“So I kind of wish I could see back to my dark times, when I was at home by myself and not really doing that much, and I was just getting on with training.

“It’s that mentality of training hard that will get you where you need to go.”

Prescod added: “When I say dark times I mean I had been injured for nearly two or three years.

“Being 16, 17 it’s quite hard – it’s tough.

“All my friends that I know, all my training partners, are going to World Youths, World Juniors, European Juniors and I am at home missing those events.

“I had that stigma – Reece is good but he always gets injured.

“It was just tricky because you’re not in the system, you’re not in the game and you’re just on the outside.

“It was just finding a team of people that could help me and, once we got everything right, obviously now it’s a lot better.

“I feel like sometimes when you haven’t got everything, and when you haven’t got all the comforts, you learn a lot about yourself and you learn what it takes to actually grind and work hard.

“Those moments have helped me now – I see both sides.”

Consumers of sports news are very familiar with expressions like injury-prone, crocked or fragile – they look powerful in a headline.

Yet so often having that tagline can mess with the individual’s mind particularly when they are already trying to battle back to full fitness.

As Prescod describes, it abruptly becomes a stigma that is difficult to shake off – just ask someone like Jack Wilshere.

For the 6ft 4in sprinter it almost led to him quitting the sport in its entirety until he was thrown a vital lifeline.

“I was in a bit of a situation where I was beginning to get quite upset,” Prescod says.  

“It was hard, I ended up speaking to my coach and he got in touch with Nike and I had a meeting with them.

“I expressed to them that I felt like I was really talented but the support wasn’t really there for me.

“It was quite a hard time for me – there wasn’t much support and I was thinking how am I going to become great?

“Nike just gave me a chance. They gave me a two-year junior contract, which really helped me.

“It was a good contract, with goals and stuff, and it just gave me a real incentive.”

Prescod’s situation is another key example of how crucial support for athletes is.

With Nike’s backing he got over the dark times and ended up surpassing everyone’s expectations – but it could have been so different.

Had the American corporation not shown faith when they did then Britain’s great sprinting hope would most likely have been selling houses instead of turning out on the track.

“If I’m honest I probably would have been working as an estate agent,” says Prescod.

“I was very close and I had had job interviews with quite a few estate agents.

“I liked property, and I was quite good at negotiating sales and stuff, so I was heading down that road.

“I had a job in a bar in Essex – at a golf club – so I was working behind the bar there as well so I thought I would have just got a full-time job.

“I maybe would have run in the evenings but, even then, I probably would have ended up sacking it off and just working full-time.” 

The fine lines of sport are demonstrated in so many ways – Prescod’s story is another remarkable case in point.

Thankfully everything has fallen into place and the towering sprinter is hungry for more following his first taste of major championship action.

“I just gave it my all,” he says on his performance in the World Championships 100m final.

“To be in the final at 21, I feel like it’s definitely going to propel me and prepare me for the coming years.”

As Bolt said to Prescod shortly before that final began: “Good luck kid.”

Listen to the full interview with Reece Prescod by clicking here