Series02 May 2016

First impressions – Nijel Amos


Nijel Amos in the 800m at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015 (© Getty Images)

Olympic 800m silver medallist and 2012 world junior champion Nijel Amos is among the world’s finest exponents over two laps of the track. Here the Botswanan athlete takes time out from his busy training schedule to answer our first impressions questions.

First sport

It was football. I was a good football player. I started out as a goalkeeper before later playing as a striker. I remember we would play football to win money. If we won I could afford to buy a packet of soup that I could take home. I played soccer for my school team at junior school but once I got to senior school, I was more focused on athletics.

First race

The first race I remember I was in form three at school, aged about 15. I remember running the 5000m and after staying behind the pace with three laps to go, I went to the front. Back then I didn’t count the laps of the race, because if I thought too much about it I would never finish the race! I started out as a 5000m runner and a steeplechaser.

First coach

That was Mr Siane in my junior school. Back then, I was just doing athletics to pass the time; I was not a professional. He coached me for two years at junior school and helped me win gold medals in the 1500m and 3000m at the national schools championships. He gave me a great start.

First international medal

It was in Rabat at the African Youth Games in 2010. I went there expecting to run the 800m but I ended up running a 1000m race. It was my first international race, but I won the bronze medal, which was a good result for me.

First international gold medal

That was the 2012 World Junior Championships in Barcelona. I remember leading the rankings going into the championships; I had run 1:43.11 in Mannheim, which was the second-fastest time in the world that year behind Rudisha. But when I arrived in Barcelona, I started to have some doubts as to whether I would be able to run 1:43 again. But I went out there and ran 1:43 to win. I thought then: "I can now look forward to the London Olympics."

First injury

It was a hamstring tear at the 2012 World Junior Championships in Barcelona. I picked it up running the semi-final and I ended up running the final with a bandage. Even though I had the injury, I wasn’t going to give up. I ran hard (in the final) and I did very well in the final by winning the race in a championship record (1:43.79). [Note: three weeks later, Amos set a world U20 record of 1:41.73 to win an Olympic silver medal in London.]

First toy

I never had toys because we were so poor and couldn’t afford toys. I remember using shoes as a kind of toy. I used to get them from guys who no longer had any use for them and I used to try to make them look good.

First thing learned to cook

It was pap (a maize-like porridge) which is very common in Botswana. My grandmother and other cousins taught me how to make it.

First CD/download

It was a song called 'Blame it on Me' by Akon. It was a song I loved. I was in junior school at the time, which is when I started to get into music

First piece of clothing bought

It was a T-shirt I bought in Morocco at my first ever overseas competition in Rabat. I wanted to buy the T-shirt so that when I got back home, people could see that I’d been to Rabat. It was great to have the money to buy something for myself. It was funny: when I got back home I was a bit shy to wear the T-shirt as it felt like I’d done something unusual.

First ever pet

My mathematics teacher in 2011 gave me two puppies – two English bulldogs – which I still have today. They are both great dogs. Sometimes I take them on jogs with me over a distance of about four kilometres.

First car

It was a BMW 330 CI, which I bought after the London 2012 Olympics. It was a great car, a fast car. I sold it two years later and bought a Mercedes Benz C18, but I still feel the BMW was a faster car.

Steve Landells for the IAAF