23rd June 2020
FUTURES IN FOCUS: JOSH ZELLER
European Under-20 Championship 110m hurdles champion Josh Zeller (coach: Adrian Brown; club: Bracknell AC) wants to build off the best year of his career so far as he continues on his journey towards the top of the sport.
2019 truly belonged to Zeller as he moved up to second on the all-time British Under-20 rankings for the 110m hurdles courtesy of a lightening 13.26s showing in Mannheim, just 0.09s behind David Omoregie’s time set in 2014.
Just a few weeks later, he produced a faultless performance in Borås, Sweden, to become the first Briton to win 110m hurdles gold in the European U20 Championships since Jack Meredith in Tallinn in 2011.
Reflecting on a spectacular season, he said: “Mannheim was probably my favourite race that I’ve ever run in, even more so than the European final. Coming in, I’d run my PB on the same track the year before so I had good memories from it and I was excited about running there again.
“When I crossed the line and saw the time, I shouted out with joy, it was a PB and it put me up at the top of the European rankings for the season. I was overwhelmed with excitement for the Euros a couple of weeks later and what could happen there.
“The Euros was really rewarding for me. In 2018 at the World Juniors in Finland, I was really disappointed with my performance, if you watch the video back I hit a couple of hurdles and I feel like it cost me a spot in the final so it was really rewarding to go away and train for a year and come back and have a perfect competition, winning the heat, semi and final.
“It made me feel so happy and I generally felt good about all the work I’d put in to get there and I appreciated the comeback that it was. From the disappointment of Finland in 2018 to being on the top of the podium in 2019, it was all worth it.”
His first taste of international experience representing the British team came in Mannheim the previous year, before making the semi-finals of the IAAF World Junior Championships in Tampere, Finland.
He feels that 2018 became a real turning point in his career and has helped to spur him on to become the European Junior champion and helped him come back ever stronger last year.
He assessed: “That was a big year for me moving forwards with how I felt about my future in athletics. At the start of the year I didn’t have any expectations of qualifying for world juniors or even representing Great Britain at all.
“I kept running faster times and then at the South of England Championships I ran the World Junior standard which was a big shock to me, especially because I wasn’t expecting to run so fast.
“Having the opportunity to run for GB really motivated me to keep going in athletics and come back in 2019 for the European Championships and I’m really grateful for that whole season.
“I never really expected to have the opportunity to run for GB in 2018 and it just made me want it even more, it fuelled the fire to train even harder for 2019.”
Since the Coronavirus pandemic, Zeller has returned to the UK and he has had to adapt his training sessions in line with the government guidance, including doing core and mobility workouts within his home, and on occasions, training on concrete.
More recently, he has been able to get back on the track and get his spikes on and is getting used to his training life in the “new normal” of athletics in the country.
“I haven’t had to train on grass or concrete too much, the only thing I have been missing is hurdling regularly. I’ve been trying to do core workouts and mobility workouts at home and do the best with what I have right now but it has been a bit difficult.
“The two bits I’m really missing are weightlifting and hurdling, which have been limited. I borrowed some hurdles from my club but I still haven’t really used them, I think last week was the first time in several weeks that I actually went over a hurdle and it really was a dust off the cobwebs sessions.”
Zeller’s performances saw him named on the British Athletics Futures Academy Programme, which aims to support athletes recognised by the sport as having the potential to win medals at future Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The programme also provides athletes with access to performance support services and training environments, alongside the opportunity for coach and athlete development sessions through a range of workshops over the course of the year.
Being a part of the programme, the 19-year-old hopes that he can use the expertise of those from the programme to continue on his journey to the top.
“To be on the programme means a lot actually, it’s really nice to feel like my achievements have been recognised and that I’m seen as an athlete who can bring future success and I’m really excited that I have British Athletics backing me on that journey.
“With my goals that I’m setting as well, it’s really great to have British Athletics backing me along the way. From the aspects we have access to, nutrition is the main thing that I’m really benefitting from the programme.
“Mainly because coming into University next year in America and having to cook for myself is something that I’m going to have to do a lot more than previously and I’m really looking forward to focusing on that.
“Having access to the facilities that you get from the programme is also a huge thing for me and the coaching setup and support network that we have. Knowing that someone will be there to help me out whenever I really need it is a big thing for me,” he added.