With another successful indoor season, the ‘Teeside Tornado’ added the European 60m title to his resume, before going on to have a very positive outdoor campaign which rewarded him with a 10.05 PB in the 100m. He summed up his season: “The season started off extremely well. Winning the European indoors was a big thing for me, which backed up my World Indoor title from last year. I went into the event being the favourite unlike the year before, so to go there and win under different circumstances really proved a lot.
“Straight after the indoor season, I went out to warm weather training and got hurt again similar to last year, but then I started running PB’s straight away after the injury. I ran 10.09 then 10.05 and a couple of 10.0s and then suffered another injury just after running my PB which set me back slightly, but I still managed to get selected for Beijing.”
Throughout this season, Kilty remained self-coached and suffered several set backs, but he was able to keep focus and show resilience to produce consistent times: “As a whole, it’s been pretty difficult coaching myself along with having two hamstring injuries mid-season, but there’s still been progression. I feel a bit frustrated knowing that I can go a lot quicker so hopefully next year if I can get myself a better set-up, find a coach and team around me, I can have a clean run at the year and hopefully break ten seconds, which is what everybody’s been waiting for.
He spoke further of his mental ability to show resilience and keep on bouncing back from his challenges: “I know deep down that there is a lot more potential in me so every time I do get a set-back, I’m always wanting to get back quicker to try and prove to myself what I am capable of.”
“I don’t just want to be labelled as an indoor runner. If my career was to end tomorrow, I would be fairly happy winning an IAAF World and European title, be it at 60m or not. Almost every world class sprinter has attempted to win the world indoors and not many have the honour of holding that title and for me that’s a really big thing.
“I loved standing on the podium and hearing my national anthem. It’s a great feeling, so I want to get that feeling back and get that natural high of making myself and my country proud. I don’t want to let my family and my fans down, so that’s what keeps me coming back time and time again after the downfalls, and I will never quit until I feel I’ve reached my potential.”
For any elite athlete aspiring to be competitive at global championships, it can prove to be a difficult task without the right supervision, and Kilty shared his thoughts on the importance of having a coach and what he was looking for in that individual: “I want to find a coach who is going to listen to how I’m feeling. A lot of coaches just want to say: This is the program and you’ve got no say. I would like someone that really has my best interest at heart, I can communicate with both on and off the track and have a great friendship with.
“It’s difficult being based in Middlesborough by myself where I have no training partners, no physiotherapists and no one to look at my sessions and look at my technique which is where I think I’m going wrong, so a lot of it is pretty stressful. Sometimes I will be driving to the track and thinking: What am I going to do today? That added stress doesn’t help and it’s mentally draining.
“I would like to get someone that is technically switched on, and not afraid to work me hard because I’m not afraid to work hard. I’ve got a big heart in training, and I’m willing to put the work in during training and whatever it takes. I’ve got a few people I’m thinking of, so hopefully I can sit down with British Athletics over the next few weeks and discuss what the best option is for me.
“I will be willing to fully commit to move wherever it is in the world because I only get one shot at this career and I don’t want to retire thinking: I could have been this, I could have been that, so whatever it is, I’m going to commit to it and to the coach I have chosen and put all of my faith into them and see how it goes. The last thing I want, is to be is in this position next year, in an Olympic year thinking what if.”
His initial reactions after team GB failed to get the baton around in the men’s 4 x 100m final at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing took a very negative hit in the media. Sparks were flying in the British camp straight away, and the European indoor champion spoke briefly about how he is being perceived in the media: “People have said that I’m a bit outspoken, and especially people in this country seem to get upset about some of the things that I say. I’ve got a lot of passion for what I do and the sport and anybody that knows me knows that.
“At times people get the wrong end of the stick with me but that’s definitely not me. Sometimes my initial reaction is that I wear my heart on my sleeve, and I think that the sport is missing people who will speak their minds.
“No disrespect to athletes, but I think because of the whole set up and the way we were taught, it’s like we have to say what people want to hear, or say what the people above us want to hear. I think that a lot of athletes have stuff on their minds and they don’t really express their natural feelings as I do which sometimes can upset a few people.
“I’m trying to manage that. Everything is a learning stage for me, including how to react in certain situations. I’m going to have to be patient and think about what I do, or say in situations. I will think about how it may all come across and how people are going to take it, rather than blatantly saying what’s on my mind.”
Now just 26, he’s shown his superiority at the highest level indoors and clearly has the potential to do great things outdoors on the domestic and international circuit. We asked him how he goes about trying to silence his critics, while staying focused on the job at hand: “In terms of the critics, I run for the true athletics fans, my friends, my family and my team mates. People who know me off the track know I’m not that kind of character that some try to see.
“As long as I can stay focused and keep chipping away I think a lot of criticism will stop.”
Next season, Kilty will be focusing on breaking 10 seconds and earning selection for the British Olympic team for the first time: “I’m improving every year and that’s all I can do really.
Facts about Richard Kilty
Interview by: Marilyn Okoro
Feature and Photography by Stewart Davis