Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

World Champion Phillips Was Once a Timid Teenager Says His Ex-Coach

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

World Champion Phillips Was Once a Timid Teenager Says His Ex-Coach

Article excerpt

Byline: Jack Lefley and Felix Allen

LONDON triple-jumper Phillips Idowu, who was crowned World Champion last night, is known for his trademark dyed hair and piercings -- but his first athletics coach remembers him as an unassuming teenager who was often too lazy to turn up for training.

Idowu's winning jump of 17.73 metres in Berlin, a personal best, was too good for Portugal's Nelson Evora, who beat him in Beijing, and he became Britain's first male athletics World Champion for eight years.

Idowu's former coach John Powell spotted him at a schools competition when he was 15 and realised the lanky youth from a Hackney council estate was something special.

He went on to train the Belgrave Harrier for three years but said it was pot luck whether Idowu, who was also a talented basketball and American football player, would show up.

Mr Powell, 50, said: "I'm pretty robust when it comes to persuading teenagers to get to training but he was a difficult one. He often wouldn't show -- particularly in the winter because he didn't like the cold.

"But it would have been a crime to waste his natural talent and I wanted to get the best out of him."

Idowu, 30, has told how he was forced to jump over a fence to train for free at the Mile End athletics stadium after school because his family could not afford the [pounds sterling]2 admission charge.

He also attended Mr Powell's training sessions at the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre.

Mr Powell, a Met police superintendent in his day job, said: "Phillips was a very independent kid. He used to bring himself to training and I never met his family in the three years I coached him. He was so unassuming and quite timid.

"The extrovert we see on television now is the complete opposite to the teenager I knew. There was no dyed hair or piercings. I've no idea where all that came from. …

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