“It feels bizarre! I’m still in an emotional whirlwind from the whole thing.”
Imani-Lara Lansiquot – Britain’s fourth fastest female sprinter of all time – made her debut at the 2019 World Athletics Championships and marked it with a silver medal in the relay as sprinters provided the nation with four of the five British medals from the tournament.
The 21-year-old spoke exclusively to RadioTimes.com about her journey from child prodigy to the Sky Scholarship program and onto the world stage, as well as her dreams for the future with the 2020 Olympics on the horizon.
“I have this really vivid memory from when I was in infants school, no older than five years old, wearing these really dodgy-looking pink tracksuit bottoms,” she said.
“We used to have sports days, and it felt like 100m when it was probably like 20m. I would think about that day all year, it was my time to shine!
“I remember getting down, and they’d say ‘on your marks’ and I’d win the race and just remember feeling like it was the most natural thing ever. Since then I’ve been obsessed with running.”
Fourteen years on from triumphing in her school sports day, Lansiquot ran at the 2019 World Athletics Championships among some of the finest sprinters of a generation.
She said: “The whole experience was like that moment in Tesco when you lose your mum like, ‘oh my God, oh my God, oh my God…’
“It was exciting and nerve-wracking and amazing and my family were able to go out there. To top it off with the medal I just felt really proud. I felt like I’d made my country and my family proud.”
And Lansiquot credits the Sky Scholarship scheme with playing a key role in her development.
The program is designed to back promising athletes with financial and physical support as well as mentorship from some big names in the sporting world.
Past graduates have included Louis Smith (gymnastics), Katie Taylor (boxing) and Holly Bradshaw (pole vault).
She said: “I really feel like prior to the program I was just a junior athlete with a lot of potential and not a lot to show for it.
“Since the program, despite injury, I’m a European gold medallist and World silver medallist. If I didn’t have the program, I wouldn’t be the athlete I am now, and it puts me in good stead for the Olympics.”
The Croydon-born sprinter also competed in the individual 100m event where she qualified from a heat won by Dutch star Daphne Schippers, but fell out of the championships in a semi-final containing both Schippers and eventual gold medal winner Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, an experience she will never forget.
“Shelly-Ann! Oh my goodness. It’s great. It’s humbling, but satisfying because I see them and I’m 21 and they’ve really advanced and accelerated through their careers.
“I genuinely believe that once I grow into my body and myself as an athlete, I don’t see any reason why I can’t be doing the same thing. To be in the same races as them is exactly what I need right now in my career.”
Lansiquot – whose personal best stands at 11:09 seconds – is joined in the British camp by Dina Asher-Smith, who won gold in the 200m as well as silver in the 100m and 4x100m.
Comparisons may follow the duo throughout their careers, but Lansiquot has been inspired by Asher-Smith – who is two years older than her – in the early stages of her own career.
“Having someone like Dina on the team is incredible because she’s breaking barriers the world didn’t think could be broken for a British female sprinter, so it makes all of us feel like we can do that.
“She’s from Bromley, I’m from Croydon. There’s a really great quote that talent doesn’t have a postcode, and there was this stigma that it was Jamaican and US sprinters that will grab the gold, and the fact that she did that is inspiring for all of us.”
Barring injury or a freak mix of circumstances, Lansiquot and Asher-Smith will be flying the flag for Team GB at the Olympic Games in Tokyo next year, and she is already buzzing to making her mark on the Games.
“It’s keeping me awake at night – I know the Worlds have just finished, but I’m just so excited.
“Imagine that? My first Olympic Games, in Tokyo of all places. Absolutely incredible.
“Especially with the climate of the relay meaning we can push for a medal, even a gold medal. To be 22 at my first Olympics is where my dreams are at.
“I just want to be the best version of myself for that point of my career. If I can look back on the year and know I did the best I can, and left no stone unturned, then I will be satisfied. And I hope that translates into a quick time.
“I want people to just understand that I am a young girl from south London and my life is changing day-by-day.
“Hopefully I can use all of the opportunities that I’ve had – failures and successes – to motivate someone else to go out there and be better than me.
“I really want to open doors for other people and hope that is reflected in what I do on the track.”