BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Alex Al-Ameen is a man with a plan. And that plan is to qualify for the Commonwealth Games and World Championships this summer before eventually selling his training programme to an aspiring athlete.
The 33-year-old, from Lewisham, finished seventh at the Commonwealth Games in the 100m hurdles in Glasgow in 2014.
And Al-Ameen is once again hoping to represent Nigeria at that event, this time in Birmingham, when it starts in July.
To guarantee a spot at the World Championships – to be staged in Oregon, USA next month – the South Londoner needs to run 13.30. His PB is 13.54, set at the National Training Centre in Clermont, Florida in 2014. If he gets close to that it should seal his place at the Commonwealth Games.
Al-Ameen,who won silver at the African Championships in Marrakesh in August 2014, finished in first place at a Loughborough International meet and also the Be Fit Outdoors Series in Dagenham at the end of last month.
His last coach was Rana Reider but he has been training himself for the last 18 months, after a spell out following the birth of his daughter in which he also did personal training.
“I’m running faster that I have done for six years,” Al-Ameen, a former pupil at Sedgehill Academy, told the South London Press.
“I’ve been doing athletics my whole life and studying the sport of 110m hurdles. You get to understand it. There is science to it. I’ve lost races, I’ve won races and I’ve analysed it all, there has been trial and error. Now I know my body and I feel like it is rested after the couple of years I’d had off. I’m back to where I need to be.
“My times are going to be dropping down considerably in my next few races, definitely.”
Al-Ameen has also been coached by British track legend Linford Christie, Tony Jarrett and veteran American Brooks Johnson.
So what is key to being successful in his chosen discipline?
“For sprint hurdling there are so many assets you need to have,” said Al-Ameen. “You have to be strong, fast, agile, flexible – all of those things take a lot of dedication to even master.
“You have to be as fast as you can be, as strong as you can be and probably as light as you can be, as flexible as you can be – and not have any injuries. You have to get your body into a rhythm.
“There’s a lot that goes into it. It’s not just run over some hurdles and that’s it.
“To be a sprint hurdler you have to have a strong mindset because it’s not going to be easy. Most people don’t reach their best until their late 20s. Being fast on the flat, as a sprinter, isn’t necessarily all you need.
“You have to be dedicated and fearless. You are running over three-foot barriers as fast as you can – 10 of them – you’ve got to be a little bit mad to do that. A lot of hurdlers are a little bit mad.
“I’ve seen people break their hand, pull their hamstring, snap their Achilles – so many different injuries can happen. I’ve seen someone hit a hurdle, fall over and then someone else step on them.
“My old training partner Andy Turner finished a race, rolled over and I think he stepped on his own finger and needed stitches in it. It’s not for the faint-hearted.”
Al-Ameen raced as a youngster for Great Britain but opted to switch to Nigeria, where his parents were born, after being overlooked for the Commonwealth Games in 2014.
He was ranked second domestically at that time but Andy Turner, the defending champion, was selected ahead of him. Turner went on to be disqualified in the heats. Of the three Brits, only Will Sharman finished ahead of Al-Ameen in the 110m hurdles final.
“I represented GB as a junior and I loved it,” said Al-Ameen. “I was born here. Everything that I know is GB, but I was raised as a British-Nigerian as well.
“There is a lot of competition in Great Britain. I still get to race those guys at championships. I guess when it comes down to championships then that is all that really matters. You can run fast domestically but it doesn’t really matter until you get there.”
Al-Ameen believes time is still on his side to produce more standout moments on the track.
He said: “Allen Johnson, one of the best hurdlers ever [who won gold] at the 1996 Olympics, he ran 12.9 when he was 36. Colin Jackson ran until about the age of 37.
“With the science now, and understanding how and when to go as fast as you can, you can prolong your career for longer than people used to.”
Al-Ameen also has income from modelling work.
“I get a lot of shoots abroad and here as well,” he said. “That’s kind of helping to pay the bills as well.
“I’ve got some clients I train. I coach people for speed – any sports people or footballers. I got myself from being an average, normal person who got out of shape and had a bit of a dad bod but came back to be the fastest I’ve been for a long time.
“I feel like I can do that for anyone.”
.PICTURES: MICHAEL BLANN PHOTOGRAPHY