| 21°C Dublin

Olympic ambition drives on Reid


Leon Reid

Leon Reid


Leon Reid

From a childhood in a "crack den" to a career as a world-class sprinter, life sure has taken some strange turns for Leon Reid.

The 25-year-old may now be one of Ireland's leading hopes for next year's Olympics, but his is a journey that could so easily have gone astray.

Born and raised in the English midlands, his upbringing was turbulent, to say the least. "There'd be people downstairs smoking crack or heroin," he says. Reid spent time in 14 different foster homes, but the escape hatch came via a Wexford native, Claire Russell, who adopted him when he was 11. His birth mother, Anne-Marie, hailed from Belfast and had struggled with drug addiction for years before passing away in 2016.

Reid won 100m silver at the European Youth Olympics while representing Britain, though his relationship with British Athletics soured in the years after. His national identity had always been loosely defined: "My whole Mum's side is Northern Irish and my foster Mum is born in Wexford. My Dad is English and Jamaican, so I'm actually more Irish than English."

In 2017, he applied for a transfer of allegiance to represent Ireland. That was approved just before the 2018 European Championships in Berlin, where he finished seventh in the 200m final. In April that year he won 200m bronze for Northern Ireland at the Commonwealth Games.

His 200m best is 20.27, which might sneak him into a global final, but to make a bigger impact Reid needs to improve. As such, he's spent much time learning from the greats. At the age of 17 he went to Jamaica to train alongside Usain Bolt. "Their work ethic was crazy, 5.0am starts every morning. Before the sun comes up, you're on the grass pulling sleds."

Reid has maintained his fitness as best he can in the age of coronavirus in Bath, lifting weights in a friend's garage and training alone at a disused track. "When you can't be bothered to get out of bed, you remind yourself: I'm supposed to be at the Olympics next year," says Reid.