Young sprinter is making her mark and thriving on the guidance of her training partner and idol, Dina Asher-Smith
Faith Akinbileje is undoubtedly one to watch. The 17-year-old, who trains alongside her hero Dina Asher-Smith at Blackheath & Bromley, won the European under-18 200m and medley relay titles this summer, is a star of the future and one of the fastest youngsters on the planet. She has also been voted AW’s British U20 female athlete of the year.
Who inspired you to get into sprinting?
When I was younger, I was inspired by Dina. I saw her as someone just like me. She was local and there was so much buzz around her so it motivated me to aspire to reach her level of success. I was also inspired by Usain Bolt mainly because the first major competition I was invested in was the 2012 Olympics.
I’d say that the 200m is definitely my stronger event, but I aim to succeed in both.
How does it feel to already be a two-time European U18 champion?
It’s rewarding and humbling because there were times when I wondered how I was going to be able to balance everything and work up to where I want to be. So, to be able to accomplish the win after working for that balance between revising for, and sitting, exams, training and competing, felt like a step in the right direction.
I felt a great amount of relief crossing the line as I was so nervous warming up and on the start line. I knew I had what it took to win but I just had to keep myself level-headed and focused so I could put out a performance I’d be proud of. At first, I was in disbelief when I looked at the time but then it settled in, and I was so proud.
What’s it like to train with your hero Dina Asher-Smith?
Dina is so lovely and I love training with her! She’s so easy to talk to. Being able to ask her advice navigating certain areas of athletics is something I’m really grateful for. We haven’t talked nails and make-up yet but maybe we’ll have those conversations down the line!
🏆 Athlete of the Year 🏆
British junior female athlete of the year is Faith Akinbileje 🇬🇧
✅ European U18 200m champion
✅ European U18 mixed relay champion
✅ PB of 11.53 at 100m pic.twitter.com/1UdwJdIKzR
— AW (@AthleticsWeekly) December 8, 2022
How do you balance training with education and teenage life?
It was hard in the beginning but the people I keep as friends understand that, because of my athletics commitments, I’m often not available to go out and we work around it. Once I accepted and embraced the fact I had to work hard to maintain good grades in school while putting in the required work and practice in athletics, it made it easier to balance my life.
It’s about commitment to the long winter sessions ahead of 2023. Despite the success of my last season, I’m well aware there’s still a lot of work to be done and so I’m fully focused on improving.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Always surround yourself with people who want bright futures so that they motivate you to want the same. Make sure you have a strong support system.
» This article first appeared in the December issue of AW magazine