Adam Gemili gained weight while ‘severely depressed’ during ‘worst year of life’
Adam Gemili has revealed his battle with depression after turning to comfort eating during the worst year of his life.
The 29-year-old sprinter has shed 10kgs after moving to Italy following controversy and poor performances in 2022.
Gemili lost his lottery funding in December 2021 after staying with ex-coach Rana Reider, who was the subject of an investigation by the US Center for Safe Sport following multiple complaints of sexual misconduct, allegations which he denied.
Reider was given one-year probation earlier this year after he “acknowledged a consensual romantic relationship with an adult athlete, which presented a power imbalance”, according to his lawyer.
Gemili remained in America with Reider until after last year’s World Championships – where he failed to reach the 200m semi-final and only ran the heats as Great Britain won bronze in the 4x100m relay.
At the time Gemili hit out at bad press surrounding Reider for his performance – before apologising and taking the blame.
He also failed to make the 200m final at the Commonwealth Games during a year which left him rock bottom.
“I was alone in Florida, I was eating, I wasn’t doing anything and I found escape in food,” he told the PA news agency, ahead of the start of the World Championships in Budapest on Saturday. “It was the worst year of my life.
“I was severely depressed and food was a big escape. It’s been about getting happy again, getting mentally in a better place and becoming professional again. I started the year at 87 kilos, I’m now 77.
“I’m not like the other sprinters. I look at food and I put on weight. I’m not massively ripped, I don’t have a huge six pack. I’ve never needed that to run fast but I don’t need to be carrying an extra 10 kilos.
“I wasn’t professional last year and it’s made a massive difference. Being happy changes everything, your hormones, you start sleeping better.
“If you don’t sleep well you wake up in the middle of the night, you’re hungry, you go and eat and it’s just a bad cycle.
“It happens to a lot of people and a lot of athletes, especially when they’re not successful and then they find escape through food. I didn’t have people around me to say ‘stop that’.
“It was the worst time of my life and you don’t realise the negative effects it can have mentally.
“I was waking up to negative news, three missed calls from my mum and friends are texting saying ‘have you seen this article that’s come out? Your name and your picture is here’.
“Life in Italy is completely different, you’re waking up every day in the sunshine.
“Jeremiah (Azu) and I have two little electric scooters, we ride those to the track every day, it’s five minutes, train, get your treatment, go home and chill. It’s just good vibes.
“I feel incredibly happy. I’m enjoying every day and training whereas, last year, I was probably training once a week and barely getting through that.
“I was in a terrible place and to go from that to where I am now training with the athletes that I’m training with is great.”
Gemili, now on relay funding, is working with coach Marco Airale in Padua, 40 kilometres outside Venice, in a group which includes Darryl Neita, Reece Prescod and Azu.
He labels Italian Airale a “genius” and “super understanding”, having helped him earn his place in Great Britain’s 4x100m relay squad in Hungary.
While there is no individual slot for Gemili, who came an agonising fourth in the 200m at the Rio Olympics and the 2019 World Championships, he knows what he could still achieve.
Yet the 2014 European 200m champion is starting to think about life after the track and is hopeful of joining the World Athletics Athletes’ Commission, which is being voted for during the Championships in Budapest.
“You want to be an individual athlete but my mindset doesn’t change. I’m still locked in,” he says.
“I’ve been in this position before, at London 2017, and we ended up winning relay gold. Nothing changes for me. I’ve done it before and became world champion.
“Where I am in my career, I’m not that 19, 20-year-old anymore. I’m 30 in October and other things start to take priority in your life.
“I’m going for the World Athletes’ Commission, which is something I’ve always been super passionate about.
“I want to start making meaningful changes. I’m there to actually make a difference.
“I was lucky enough to be there at London 2012 and you would have expected our sport to have come on leaps and bounds and it did at the start but then has regressed back. Anyone who says it hasn’t is kidding themselves.
“We need more participation, we need more sponsorship in the sport, we need to attract more fans to our sport and make it accessible for everyone.”
For now Gemili is determined to enjoy Hungary, after admitting in February he nearly quit athletics and returned to football, having been in Chelsea’s academy as a kid.
“If I reflect on the place I was last year, I did want to give up; I basically stopped and I had options,” he said.
“I wasn’t enjoying it. It’s been a lot of hard work from a lot of people, not just myself but friends, family, training partners, coaches and support staff have helped me get my confidence back.
“I’m grateful to see where I’ve come from and if I can do it, anyone can. I was someone who never thought I would ever be in that position.
“Everyone has their own battles and demons they’re fighting and there’s always light at the end of the tunnel. Just being here at this Championships, I couldn’t have imagine that 12 months ago.”
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