Two-time world indoor medallist is determined not to finish his career as an 800m talent who ‘almost made it’
It is a measure of Andrew Osagie’s extraordinary talent that he has achieved so much during his short career off such little training. His record weekly mileage is a modest 43 and most weeks he averages a paltry 18-22. Yet the 800m runner has won world indoor medals, British titles and went No.4 on the UK all-time rankings with 1:43.77 in the Olympic final two years ago.
Last month, when AW spoke to him at a British Athletics high altitude camp in Kenya, he was doing little other than cross training on an indoor bike and elliptical trainer, plus circuit training in the gym. A three-minute run at the start of the month-long camp told him he was going to be spending most of his time at 2400m doing zero-impact workouts. Such a routine is not unusual for the injury-plagued 26-year-old, though, and between sessions he spoke positively about making an impact at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing next summer and the exciting challenge of attacking British indoor records at 600m, 800m and 1000m at some point in the future.
“To say they’re easy is a massive disrespect but they’re three attainable records,” he says of the indoor marks. “I could do them in one season if the races all fall in. I’ll definitely be close. The 600m is Dai Greene (1:16.22) as he beat me in Glasgow; Coe is the 800m (1:44.91) and I’m second (on the UK rankings with 1:45.22); and 1km is Matthew Yates (2:17.86). It’s one of those things where I’d like to get my name in the record books. It gives confidence moving forward.”
For now, the idea of attacking records, most likely at next year’s Sainsbury’s Series of indoor meetings, acts as motivation as he gets stuck into cross training in the thin air of Iten, Kenya. Most of his fellow British athletes are churning out traditional miles on the dirt trails of the Rift Valley. Nursing his niggles, though, Osagie follows a different routine.
“I’d like to get my name in the record books. It gives confidence moving forward”
“I usually do something different to everyone else, just managing my injuries and trying to get through it,” he says. “Consistency is the key. So rather than counting the miles, we are counting the weeks of consistency and that doesn’t really change out here.
“The training’s tough, it’s hard work. I’m more in the gym than outside. As long as I can put up with three weeks of looking at the same view through a two-pane window I’ll be okay!”
Osagie’s problems are varied. “Since Moscow, it’s been my left hamstring,” he explains. “It pulled badly in Zurich this year and moved up to my glute – it’s a neural problem. One leg is longer than the other by nine millimetres, pinching on the SIJ (sacroiliac joint) which is squeezing my sciatic nerve which is making my hamstring not fire properly so when trying to sprint the muscles are compensating. Due to this I got two tears in my hamstring in 2013 which didn’t really heal in 2014.”
Pointing to his left leg, he adds: “This is the leg I’ve got the Achilles problem. If I could chop this one off (the long leg), I’d be fine. We’re working on being more balanced. I’ve had this difference for years, so adapted to that. I have to be balanced to get stronger and I’m looking forward to getting to the track where I feel at home – and I get less injuries on the track – and then I’ll go for the indoors. If we’re not ready, we won’t. The main thing is Beijing.”
Despite his injuries, Osagie is always a good bet to perform in championships. He is often quiet for sizeable spells of the year and then emerges to challenge for medals at major events when it matters most. These include world indoor bronzes in 2012 and 2014. In the Olympics two years ago he excelled to reach the final, whereas the IAAF World Championships in Moscow last year saw him finish fifth.
“Consistency is the key. So rather than counting the miles, we are counting the weeks of consistency”
This year was a blip, however, as he was disqualified in the rounds of the Commonwealth Games after tangling with Welshman Joe Thomas at the finish line. The European Championships saw him exit in the heats, whereas he was also DQ’ed at the British Championships.
“It’s been a terrible year!” he says. “I got disqualified in the trials, disqualified outdoors, lost the 600m when we went out at European record pace. It’s not been a great year but I’m here, I’m alive and I’m still training.
“It’s the same story of trying to get over the injuries. When I do I run well, I perform well. If I don’t, it’s quite obvious when it comes to a race. It looks a bit harder.”
Originally from Harlow, Osagie took part in a number of sports as a youngster, especially karate, where he achieved a black belt, and football. Eventually taking up athletics in his mid-teens, he was coached by Nat Fisher at Harlow AC but began to show his true world-class ability when he moved to St Mary’s University.
“When I started working at St Mary’s in 2007, he’d already started the previous term and was a 1:52 runner and he happened to turn up at a training session,” Winrow remembers. “I had no one to coach because Mick Woods, Alan Storey or Mark Rowland were coaching everyone. I asked Mick who he was and Mick said, ‘He’s just this kid who turns up now and again’. So I thought I’d go and have a chat with him. Six months later he ran 1:47 and a few years later he was in the Olympic final.”
Injuries were always a problem, but Osagie has also been adept at managing them. In 2011 he ran 1:45.36, won the British outdoor title, placed fourth in the European Indoor Championships and reached the IAAF World Championships semi-finals.
It proved a great stepping stone for Olympic year, as he went on to run sub-1:45 seven times, including 1:43.77 in the Olympic final – a time that “only” saw him finish eighth in an amazingly high-quality, in-depth race won by David Rudisha in a world record of 1:40.91.
Such was the performance, Osagie’s time would have been quick enough to win gold in the previous three Olympics in Beijing, Athens and Sydney. As for the UK rankings, only Seb Coe, Steve Cram and Peter Elliott have run quicker, with athletes of the calibre of Tom McKean and Olympic champion Steve Ovett now below him on the lists.
“It’s setting up to be a career where it’s a case of ‘almost’ … I hope my career doesn’t continue to be like that, or end like that”
There is no doubt Osagie is itching to return to his 2012 form. He says: “It’s setting up to be a career where it’s a case of ‘almost’ – ‘he ran really fast but seven people won quicker’ or ‘he won a bronze and he maybe could have got a gold’. I hope my career doesn’t continue to be like that, or end like that. People would say ‘well done’ but you’d be thinking ‘if I’d been in shape on this day I could have done that’.”
Certainly, the Briton believes he can mix it with Rudisha and the man who beat the Kenyan to the Commonwealth Games title this year, Nijel Amos. “One hundred per cent,” says Osagie, on his desire and ability to take on the biggest names. “I love championship races. I always seem to step up, improve or run a season’s best at a championships.”
As a reminder of what it takes to become the world’s best half-miler, Olympic champion Rudisha is often seen around Iten. He lives on the outskirts of the town and is a former student at the famous St Patrick’s school in the area.
Osagie continues: “Due to the fact that I have not been able to do much training, me stepping up is doing a PB, making a final, getting eighth or a bronze. I’d love to be on a level playing field and race them as that’s when you start winning things. You need to win things to be remembered. I’d love to win things more often. I’d love to get back to there and take it from there.”
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