When CJ Ujah ran 9.96 seconds in the 100m in Hengelo in 2014 and repeated the time – into a headwind – in London in 2015, he appeared to have stepped into real world class territory.
However, in the immediate aftermath he appeared unable to take a further step forward. This year that wasn’t the case as a great season saw him win the Diamond League title, running 9.97 in the final in Zurich.
Ujah earned his place in the Diamond League final with a series of consistent performances, running 10.02 in Rome, Oslo, London and Monaco as well as 9.98 in Rabat and a windy 9.95 in Eugene, winning four races in the process plus the curtain closer.
The standard Ujah sets himself became clear when he described his win in Rome as ‘a decent race but a bit scrappy towards the end’. Second in Oslo was similarly dismissed: “It was a bit scrappy. The guys next to me got out and I was scrapping. It wasn’t the cleanest of runs.”
In Zurich Ujah was pleased, not just with the win but also that the field he beat included recently crowned world champion Justin Gatlin and Asafa Powell. He said: “I watched some of these guys in the Golden League and Diamond League and now it is amazing to run against them and rub shoulders with them. To get the victory shows where I am heading in the next couple of years.”
Ujah has been based at Altis in Phoenix in the USA for part of this year working with Stu McMillan who he says is helping him technically. The attraction of Altis was partly the opportunity ‘to run with some fast guys, world-class guys and get my rhythm’. Andre de Grasse, who won silver and double bronze at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, is one of the sprinters he trains with.
Ujah’s approach to the Zurich final was to run a clean race. He said: “Coach gave me a couple of things to work on for the Birmingham meeting – like running smooth – and then to really step it up in Zurich. Zurich was a tough race but I was pretty aggressive to the end and ran a good race so I was happy. My coach said beforehand ‘the person who makes the least mistakes wins the race’ and I did that.”
The one blot on the landscape was his failure to reach the World Championship final in London – something that was still on his mind in Zurich when his first comment was ‘I knew what I was capable of. It is a shame I did not get it done at a World Champs’. At London 2017 he had finished ninth fastest in the semi-finals with eight making the final, stating afterwards: “It was hard not to make another final by so little a margin, especially in front of your home crowd, I would love to make it to the final but these things happen and I just didn’t have the zip.”
His reference to not making another final was a reminder that he had found himself in the same position at the Olympics in Rio when he and Trayvon Bromell both ran 10.01 but with the American getting the last final place.
Ujah of course did not leave London empty handed as he was part of the British men’s sprint relay squad, which took gold.
He is planning a full year in 2018 and has the World Indoor Championships in Birmingham to set his sights on first.
Image and words courtesy of http://www.britishathletics.org.uk/news-and-features/sprinter-ujah-eyeing-further-progress-in-2018/