Prior to being granted British citizenship after switching allegiance to Britain, Rabah Yousif Bkheit competed internationally for Sudan. He later became a full-time athlete, and was cleared to represent Great Britain in 2013.
Two years later, Yousif is now standing tall as the British 400m outdoor champion, and IAAF World Championship medallist (4 x 400m), and TrackField97.com caught up with Yousif after completing the final race of his incredible season in Newcastle Gateshead.
He spoke of his performance at the event: “Mentally, I’ve shut down my season so it was about coming here and participating, but I’m happy with how things have gone.”
Reflecting on his magical year which brought him a series of world class performances, Yousif stated: “It all started with some decent warm weather training in Florida. I was on top of things and I was ready to get the job done.
“I was trying to get sub 46 seconds which I did. I went to the World Relay Championships in the Bahamas and then I was really eager to start my season because I was in very good shape.”
His performance in Beijing spoke for itself. He had two sub 45 second races, which took him to the men’s 400m final at the Bird’s Nest Stadium.
Yousif also played a key role in the British 4 x 400m bronze medal quartet and he spoke of his overall experience in Beijing: “It was an amazing experience. If you go back a few years, that’s now my third championship, so I have been there and about for a long time.
“I was anxious to go out there and perform, which I did. I’m an experienced athlete, and I can go on and do much better things.”
With the 2015 season now in the record books and an Olympic year on its way, Yousif spoke on his journey ahead: “It’s only going to get better for me. I want to have a break now and come back stronger next year, ready to do the job. To be honest, I’m a tough individual and I like to get whatever I’m looking for and I’m looking for a better season next year and that’s what I’m going to get.
At the 2009 IAAF World Championships in Berlin, Yousif competed for Sudan and reached the semi-finals with a time of 45.63 seconds. He also represented Sudan at the London 2012 Olympic Games where he also got to the semi-finals with a performance of 45.13 seconds.
He summed up his expectations for his 2016 season with a straight and direct: “Hopefully better than 2015.”
Throughout his upcoming season, we will continue to follow the progression of Rabah Yousif Bkheit as he makes a bid for the Rio 2016 selection.
Interview by Marilyn Okoro
Feature and photography by TrackField97.com