19th March 2021

#PersonalBest with Imani-Lara Lansiquot

We’re proud to be working with some of our amazing athletes to bring you their stories, their passions, their personalities. First up… Imani-Lara Lansiquot.

On herself…

“Who is Imani? Well, I’m 23 and I’m a newly graduated student from King’s College London. Just wrapped up Psychology, so I’m already missing my uni days a lot to be honest. I am a world silver medallist, I’m the current 100m British Champion, I am the fourth fastest British woman in history, and I’ve been doing athletics now for around eight years. It’s pretty surreal when you think about it.

On a deeper level I’m someone who is highly, highly highly ambitious and strong at times. I love athletics but I wouldn’t say that I am solely defined by it. I’m really big on being somebody away from the “standard vanilla” athlete.

Funny thing is my friends absolutely do not understand or care to understand ‘athlete Imani’. They’ll come down for a good time at the Anniversary games but to them I’m just like “Dominos and Rosé Imani!’ I just think that at my heart I’m really uncool and they just accept me for that. I think on social media and on TV I can come across like ‘she’s a sports woman, she’s really cool and put together’ but I’m not that at heart and that’s pretty much how they know me – I am definitely the nerd of my group!

I think it’s cool that people want to learn more about my story based on something quite simple, something that all of us would have done when we were kids – just like running as fast as we can! I think It’s quite cool. But I’ve never really felt like there was too much of a difference between my persona and who I actually am.

Everything about me is about purpose. I want to make sure that everything that I’m doing in my career is opening the doors and laying down the foundations for someone else to come in after me – that’s really my core purpose, that’s what keeps me driven in the mornings.

It’s very important that the next Imani is able to take from my journey and make it even better. I don’t think that my career will mean anything if I haven’t been able to share that light and that inspiration with somebody else so that is now wholly at the core of everything that I do.”

On her hometown…

“Growing up I loved living in Peckham, and I feel like it gave me a very mixed and realistic view of what the world’s actually like. I didn’t have a silver spoon growing up and everything that I’ve ever had, I’ve worked super super, super hard for. But I didn’t grow up ever feeling like I was disadvantaged because I had everything that I needed in my community and where I was.

Of course, it gives you a bit of a different kind of backbone coming from Peckham, especially back then because I know it’s very different now – it’s quite indie now but, it offered me a different view, and lit that fire in my belly that has made me good for any challenge: university, life, the 100m – I’ve definitely been shaped by Peckham.

But I don’t see it as a disadvantage in any way. I know how South London is depicted in the greater scale of life, but if I’m honest there is a different energy in London in general that differentiates it from the rest of the UK. I do think that there sometimes can be quite a competitive – I wouldn’t say “every man for himself” – but along that kind of vibe and there is a sense of “if you want something, you go after it” and you’re ruthless about that.

It’s how I was raised; it’s how my parents were raised and we’re all from South London so maybe it’s in the air. But if I put my mind to something, I absolutely have to achieve it and that’s something that a lot of my peers have experienced too – it’s knowing that you don’t have a choice I think perhaps, that you have to fight for what you want.”

On being more than an athlete…

“So last summer was quite heavy for me as a young black woman and then as a sports woman.

With everything going on there is pressure, and it is such a heavy thing to talk about but it’s such an important thing to talk about. It’s really important for me to be more than an athlete, but sometimes I feel that as sports people we can sometimes forget all about that stuff.

When I’m on the start line, I’m not thinking that I need to get down on one knee, I’m thinking ‘I need to perform’, but equally it’s who I am, it’s the foundation of who I am, it’s who I was raised around, and I’ll never stop talking about it.

Especially now in a time where people’s eyes are open, people’s eyes can still be opened, and I can be a part of writing or rewriting some of those harmful stereotypes.

I’m really lucky because I do feel like at the moment, we have the tools to speak out much easier, and last year when I was talking about Black Lives Matter and my experiences as a black athlete, I wasn’t doing anything in vain, it was to educate people and to improve things – and already I know that the next black athlete’s experience is going to be better because I use my voice in a good way.

The point I’m trying to make is that I am competing in a time when my voice is going to be heard and my voice can really open the door for someone else, and I have absolute faith that the next version of me in 10 years’ time is going to have an even more amazing experience and it’s my job to make sure that that happens.”

On femininity…

“We’re such complex people and we’re so big in expressing ourselves through our actions. But even on a superficial level, I remember I had a picture that I posted during the “how it started and how it’s going” trend and it went semi-viral and so many people were messaging me saying “I didn’t know that athletes wore makeup”, “I didn’t know athletes did their hair”, “I didn’t know that they were actually feminine”.

I think that those things are fun, and it showed people that we’re not just like these hulks on the start line – we like to glam up, we like to embrace our femininity and I’m definitely an advocate for that through and through. Race day is like club nights for us, like we’re going out!

I have a whole race makeup routine that is quite serious to me. Last year, I had themes before every race and I would get my followers to choose what theme I would do for my next race, whether that be butterfly nails, or I would have lightning bolts – I had that for British Championships or even flames and I would match my makeup to my nails and people really found that cool.

It’s all part of the confidence for me and I will plan out my hairstyles and my nails before I race and it’s just part of the package of standing on the start line and feeling really fierce and really confident. I love changing my hair all the time. I do get a few questions from more so black girls about how I race with certain hairstyles and what kinds of things I would advise. I think generally just the package of putting some effort into your race day look I’ve definitely seen a lot of people messaging me and reacting off that and really enjoying it.”

On being a student athlete…

“If you asked me this time last year about balancing university and training when I was there, I’d have given you a really perfect answer, like the perfect scripted answer of ‘Well you know I just plan really well and micromanage my life’.

Now I look back on that period and I’m just training full-time at the moment, I don’t know how I did it! I have so much admiration for every single student athlete out there. Because it is genuinely the hardest thing that I’ve ever done and my days would start at six or seven when I would start training and then I would come back probably to handle uni work, and this was a daily routine. I wasn’t tired either, I was just on adrenaline and I just kept going.

I think what made it more difficult was that I put a lot of pressure on myself to do equally as well in athletics as I did at university. I’m quite an “all-or-nothing” character so everything for me had to be the best of my ability and I would face burnout sometimes.

I think the best advice I would give someone in my situation is to undersell and overdeliver, set very manageable targets and you’ll always surprise yourself and you’ll always feel good about yourself. I think that’s probably what got me going and breaking down all my work into the smallest portions. Even if it was something like “I’m gonna do 323.5 words a day” sounds so silly but it’s what got me through training camps, it’s what got me through training in general knowing that I could just organize my life as specifically as possible.

The fact that I was doing a whole other degree alongside a professional track career just made me think I’m actually capable of anything I put my mind to. For my specific personality I feel like I probably function best knowing that I have something else to fall back on if that makes sense. I’m not really an “all eggs in one basket” kind of person, I loved finishing a great session and then leaving it at the track and then going to do my university work. I feel like that balance for me was just perfect and it’s just something that really really helped me hone in on my athletics craft even more.”

On her medal moment…

So, I think I would have to just say it’s my gold medal from last year at the British Championships mainly because I remember standing on the start line for that final and there was pressure for me to win because I was ranked first.

I remember standing on the start line thinking like how on earth did I get here like we’re in 2020, a few months ago i was literally running up hills with my dad! Dog walkers were behind us, we had dogs sniffing my bags dragging my cones across the fields!

I remember literally thinking through everything that got me to that start line and thinking how on earth did I get here. the whole COVID season was so so so strange to say the least and especially the British Championships because that in the memory of every single athlete is such a memorable day where you’re used to having your family in the stands, you’re used to actually having people in the stands, you’re used to having your coach in the warm-up area – it was just so different and everything just felt like the ground was moving beneath me a little.

The gun went and I remember thinking ‘I’m so cold, I just need to just try and get through this race as healthy as I possibly can’. I cross the finish line first – I don’t want to say I was expecting it but I knew that I could, and it was the first time I had ever medalled at a British Championships and the fact that it was gold and the fact that my family weren’t there to celebrate that with me, I was, I don’t know I felt really really gutted.

We had to put a mask on straight away and it was so different, but it just felt like the biggest prize I could have ever imagined because it wasn’t just about the fact that I’d won the race where it was a gold medal, it’s about the fact that I’d overcome every single challenge that 2020 had thrown at me. My degree, my dissertation, even doing my exams at home, everything, and to have that accomplishment to cap off my year was just a euphoric indescribable moment and that medal means the absolute world to me and my family.”