Adam Gemili has found his smile again. A year ago, his usual happy-go-lucky demeanour had completely evaporated.
He was depressed, suffering anxiety attacks, unable to sleep, eating in excess to forget and barely training a day a week.
His coach, Rana Reider, was in the process of being sanctioned for a relationship with one of his athletes, which “presented a power imbalance”, and Gemili was told his grandmother had just a week to live.
The end result was him quitting athletics altogether after the Commonwealth Games and returning to football — he had spent seven years with Chelsea’s academy — and being on the cusp of joining a club, although he will not say which one.
His family told him he did not need athletics any more, he moved back to the family home from Florida to Kent but then, slowly but surely, he found himself coaxed back to the sport.
“I couldn’t imagine myself here 12 months ago from the position I was in,” he tells Standard Sport.
“Last year was the worst of my life. I’d never felt so isolated. I was depressed, I was eating too much food, barely training, I wasn’t sleeping, I was having anxiety attacks. I was in a place where I thought I’d never be, and sport was doing that to me.
“The majority of this stuff was from my past coach, his investigation and issues with my funding and support. And my grandma got really ill. They gave her one week to live. It was such a dark time.”
A host of former British sprinters played a role in luring him back — Linford Christie, Darren Campbell and Christian Malcolm — and he relocated to Italy to work under coach Marco Airale to revitalise his passion for the sport.
The clear turning point came at a Tenerife training camp, where suddenly he set personal bests in everything. Although it has not been reflected in his times in competition, he believes he is back to his best and has set ambitious targets both for himself and his relay team.
“I’m running as fast as I ever have in my whole career,” he said. “The numbers are showing, I just haven’t done it in a race yet.
“And, as a relay team, we expect to win. We have the ability and speed and we’ve been practising better than I can remember in a long time.
“I was in this position in 2017 [at the World Championships in London]. I was not having the best outdoor season, they took a chance on me and we ended up becoming world champions in the 4x100m.
“I’m hoping that we can do the exact same thing this year, we’ve got the fastest man in the world [this year, in Zharnel Hughes] and we didn’t have that in 2017. If we get it right, we should be winning gold.”