It’s when your dial tone is cut-off abruptly, and you then receive a text message saying: “Sorry still at work, can I call you in two minutes?” that you realise the sacrifice that athletes go through in order to pursue their dreams.
Kola Adedoyin wasn’t referring to “work” as in training, the soon-to-be-26-year-old was completing his shift at the telesales company that he works for as an Account Manager.
A job that Kola has, in order to allow him the money required for kit, time on the track, travel and all the other necessities the likes of reigning Olympic and World Champion triple jumper, Christian Taylor, perhaps takes for granted.
“When you get injured or cut from funding, and you need money to do what you want to do – I don’t get paid to do athletics – so I have to get a full-time job or create a business that allows me to make enough money for the time I need to spend at the track.”
Unlike so many sport stars out there, Kola has an entrepreneurial mindset, epitomised by the two companies that the triple jumper is Director of: KZ Sports and London Reign Sports – companies that require the account manager-cum-triple jumper’s time, money and dedication.
This awareness of the bigger picture, and desire to work hard – attributes Adedoyin credits his parents with instilling in him – means Kola is ready for whatever direction his life and/or career takes him. Something that the game’s elite can’t necessarily claim:
“I don’t think athletes are prepared as well as they could be for after their athletics career ends. So, I think there’s definitely a need for a bit more education in the respect.
“Thankfully for me, my parents always said to me, no matter what you’re doing, you’re going to get your education.
“My situation is obviously different to the million pound, high-earning stars. But there could be more of an education system put in for higher class, top performing athletes. Because everyone has different skills, and there’s more to life than what you do on the sports field.”
— Kola Adedoyin (@KolzTJ) February 11, 2017
If you were to ask the influential figures in Kola’s life during his school years, his success at the top end of the sporting world would surely come as no surprise to them:
“I was captain for most sports in my school – primary and secondary – so I was always very decorated. But triple jump and athletics was one that I really excelled at, and I really enjoyed.”
When you speak to Kola, one thing that is so consistent, is his desire to succeed and his positive mental outlook on the situation; it’s infectious. And commendable given the fact the former indoor U17 Open Championships triple jump winner has had more than his fair share of injuries.
“I experienced injury quite early on in my career; I had Osgood-Schlatter disease when I was 16, which quite simply is a growth problem; I could walk and run, and do everything other than jump, which is of course really frustrating.
“And for about eight months I wasn’t cleared to jump. I still went to training, and my coach just kept encouraging me. And because I got through that, a time where I didn’t break my personal best for over two years, between 16-18, which is very unusual for a young athlete, as usually you’re breaking your PBs all the time at that age, as you consistently practice, develop and perform.
“Because I got through that process, and learnt about sticking with it and going for something if you really want something.”
It’s refreshing to hear Kola leaving his office, and hear the hustle and bustle of London in background as we talk. For far too long, us ‘mere mortals’ have viewed athletes as ‘robots’ drilled to win, those who don’t ever want to quit and those who don’t allow themselves a glass of red on a weeknight or the local kebabery’s finest meat at 3am on a Sunday morning.
Of course, there’s a gruelling fitness programme and a level of willpower to fuel your body with what it needs – rather than what you want – that separates them from the average gym-goer. But it’s important we never lose that connection with our sporting idols on a human level:
“There’s an emphasis on drinking three to four litres of water a day, and obviously I stay away from certain foods. But in all honesty, the big difference is how I cook my food, now.
“Of course I’ll allow myself a treat, because after all I’m human. If my coach says to me that there’s little pockets of space in the training programme to enjoy yourself, then I’m the first one up for a night out.”
Kola is the inspiration to the next generation of those who dream of seeing their name alongside the likes of Usain Bolt, Jesse Owen and Jonathan Edwards should admire; this is the real story of being an athlete, for nothing more than wanting to be happy.