It was a surprise to Thomas Young (club: Charnwood, coach: Joe McDonnell) to leave Berlin as double WPA European champion, never mind the on-looking audience. The 18-year-old delivered two exceptional displays in the T38 100m and 200m to burst onto the para athletics scene at the continental championships a month ago.
His extraordinary rise in the sport has seen him go from relative outsider, to a one-to-watch over the next couple of years.
Young – who has the condition NF1 (Neurofibromatosis type 1) which affects his co-ordination and balance – joined Joe McDonnell’s training group in April 2017, joining the likes of sprint queens Sophie Hahn and Libby Clegg in Loughborough. He had competed for Charnwood for five years prior and always had that desire to be a sprinter since his primary school days.
European champion, Fulham fan, avid gamer, studying at college; it all seems to come in his stride, and he talks at ease about his exploits in Germany last month.
“It felt quite nerve-wracking to be honest. Because it was my first race, my debut for the team, I had a lot of nervous feelings. But I was also really excited because I knew what could happen, I knew I could win.
“I knew I had to get out quickly because my competitors would get quicker as the race went on. If I could get a good first 50 metres and get ahead, I could hold it and go into the straight in the lead. I could then control it from the front.
“It was just pure fun. Because I had done what I wanted to do.”
‘Fun’ seems to be a key element of Young’s mantra, as could be seen in his effervescent celebrations post-event. The unbridled joy of becoming a European champion for the first-time was infectious and certainly reflected upon the rest of the team on that final weekend of the championships.
He returned the following day for the 100m, and yet again, he left the track with another gold medal around his neck.
“The 200m gave me a lot of confidence to go and perform really well in the 100m. I knew if I ran like I had done in previous races, I would do quite well. I just wanted to run the best I could, if I did I knew good things would happen. I did what I wanted to achieve.”
Young, who is studying Sports Coaching at Loughborough College, understands he is still new to the British team environment but has set clear targets for the next few years.
“I’d love to go to the worlds next year and then go towards the Paralympic Games in 2020; it is never something I could have dreamed about before.”