James Ellington has gone from an eBay auction to a potential 200m showdown with Usain Bolt. Joe Ellison meets the British sprinter
James Ellington rolls up the arms of his tracksuit as he sits down with ShortList, inadvertently exposing two tattooed forearms. The 27-year-old is no stranger to self-branding. Just seven months ago, lacking the sponsorship that would allow him to focus on the Olympics, he put himself on eBay. The bid worked, and he qualified for Team GB. Now, he just has to compete against the fastest man in history…
How’s life been since getting sponsorship?
I’m not getting recognised on the street but, professionally speaking, I’m living the dream. I’m not saying that qualification wouldn’t have been possible without funding, but it helped.
So how are you feeling ahead of a potential race with Bolt?
It’s exciting. He’s amazing – his talent is extraordinary. I’ve raced in the same competitions as Bolt before, but sadly never shared a track with him, so I’m desperate to be in his heat. I need to be less focused about how to catch him, and more focused on how to stay ahead of him.
Do you think you’ve had to work harder in the sport than he has?
Yeah, but then again, I’ve had to work harder than most athletes in the UK. Those who’ve had major support since they were young, always had the right coach and been in with the right crowd: they’ve been mollycoddled and have never had the spotlight off them, but I don’t let that get me down as most of those guys won’t be going to London 2012.
Is your goal to prove them wrong?
Of course, and I’ve already proved them wrong by qualifying. Sponsors are great, and money is great too, but neither will replace dedication. That’s why, from gun to tape, I’ll be going flat out.
Yohan Blake recently made headlines for beating Bolt. Did that give you confidence?
Absolutely, as it showed that Bolt is beatable. Don’t forget that before he was a big name, Bolt used to get spanked left, right and centre at the highest level, it’s just that no one remembers those days.
Do you play mind games before races?
I tend to put my serious face on and hope that puts my opponents off their stride. A lot of athletes like to screw you out of a race by talking rubbish to you, which doesn’t always work at international level as you can’t understand some of the accents. But I’m more than equipped to deal with that.
Do you revel in the underdog role?
I’d love to think so. Realistically, I’m not in the same shape as Bolt, or even Blake or Tyson Gay. They are miles ahead of anyone else. But anything can happen at an Olympic Games.
Bolt is known for his love of chicken nuggets. Do you have any guilty pleasures?
Haribo Starmix. Apart from those gummy eggs, my diet is pretty good.
What are your expectations for the Olympics?
My aim is to make the final. I’m in that sort of shape. For the likes of Bolt, it’s a chance for another medal and breaking a record, whereas for me – at the start of my career – this is everything.
Have you been practising the national anthem just in case?
I haven’t even thought about that. If I got to the podium I’d just nod my head, a bit like the England football team do before their games.
Ellington is sponsored by King Of Shaves