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The Women's Sports Alliance


Yemi Mary John - winning on the track and ‘owning’ the tiara

Image from @yemi_mary

Those with a passion for following the rising track stars are already familiar with British medal-winning runner Yemi Mary John, but it’s highly likely that her name will soon be on the lips and in the minds of even the ‘casual’ armchair athletics fans.

Last year the 19-year-old claimed U20 World Championship gold in the 400m, a stunning, break-through moment for the teenager.

Yemi, who also made her senior British debut in 2022, was so confident of success in Cali,

Columbia, that she even bought a tiara ahead of the event and it was proudly worn during her lap of honour following her dominant victory.

“I’ve been through a lot of ups and downs, had lots of changes and needed to adapt during my career,” Yemi reveals to the WSA.

“I’ve had to be disciplined, but also have that belief and bringing that tiara, you know, I believed that I could perform the way I could and who knows, maybe it will make another appearance one day!”

It is important not to mistake her confidence for arrogance. Yemi is by all accounts a very humble individual, who away from the track insists she is actually “quite quiet.”

The crowd and the spotlight brings out another side of her personality with the starting gun activating her inner “fighter” mode and fierce determination to achieve her potential.

Her journey could have been very different though as Yemi had initially planned to pursue a professional path with her first sporting love – gymnastics.

“Ha, it (athletics) wasn't quite so planned out, because I was doing gymnastics and (USA Olympic champion) Gabby Douglas was someone (who was a role model), because I remember watching and reading about her story,” she recalls.

“Seeing someone I could relate to, who came from a similar background to me and just being able to go on to do as much as she done was definitely very inspiring to me.

“I got injured quite a bit though (doing gymnastics), so it was more transition out of necessity, but then I kind of fell in love with track and field as well.”

Now on the track, Yemi takes her inspiration from another America – Olympic and World champion, as well as 400m world record holder – Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, who is just four years her senior, but has conquered all before her in recent years.

“Firstly, just seeing her do it so young,” says Yemi. “But also being able to break barriers beyond anyone's belief is yeah, very definitely inspirational!”

It will perhaps come as no surprise that the British athlete’s own career path has taken her to the USA, having joined the University of Southern California during this academic year.

It has been quite a transition for the Londoner, who spent her first year in senior education at the University of Nottingham before heading state-side.

“Adjusting to a new environment can be challenging, but then so was COVID and that time where I didn’t have anyone to train with, or a group around me so those experiences definitely made me,” she states.

“I wanted to go somewhere that I could have a balance of good coaching and good education and I’m studying economics to give me a bit of flexibility for the future.”

Yemi rounded off 2022 by being named as a finalist in the prestigious SportsAid Awards, which acknowledges the achievements of young British athletes and has previously been won by the likes of Tom Daley, Amber Hill and Morgan Lake.

“I was ecstatic to be here and very grateful,” stated the runner. “Being able to reap the rewards of the seeds planted earlier in the year makes me very happy!”

America’s leading college competition – the NCAA’s – will be her major focus in 2023, although after a senior break-through last year the 400m specialist will be looking towards the Paris 2024 Team GB Olympic Games squad.

“The NCAA’s should be amazing and it’s a chance to establish myself in that realm and make that (full) transition from junior to senior,” she tells the WSA.

“Longer term, definitely I want to be the best version of myself as an athlete that I can possibly be and feel like I’m fulfilled; by getting out as much as I'm putting into the sport.”


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