Having clocked a world-leading time of 9.88 seconds in the men’s 100 metres at an event in Lusaka in his native Zambia in April, Sydney Siame is on the fast track to living up to lofty expectations. The 19-year-old sprinter first captured the attention of the athletics world when he blazed to 100m gold at the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Nanjing 2014.
The talented, teenage sprinter has benefited greatly from the IOC’s Sport For Hope Centre in Zambia, where he trains regularly. The multi-sport complex in Lusaka was inaugurated in 2010 with the aim of promoting and facilitating access to sports for young athletes and local communities. Here, Siame reflects on how the Sport For Hope Centre, and the YOG, have put him on the path to Olympic success.
What has the Sport For Hope Centre in Zambia meant for you as an athlete and for other Zambians?
So many Zambian athletes are benefiting from the Sport For Hope programme. I’m one of the beneficiaries also. That’s where I train, that’s where I wake up and I do everything there. We enjoy it there and I’m excited to be part of the programme. The Olympic Youth Development Centre (OYDC) is my main training site. The facilities are very good. Many people are progressing; not only in athletics, but also in all sports disciplines – football, hockey, badminton. I am happy to be at that centre and many Zambians are enjoying it too. You can see there is lots of talent there.
Did you surprise yourself when you ran 9.88 seconds in Lusaka in April?
It wasn’t a surprise because I was in form. I was preparing very well and I trained very hard, so I knew a nine-second time would come. I had run 10.1 seconds before, so it wasn’t a surprise to me.
What did it mean to you to win a YOG gold medal as a 16-year-old?
It motivated me a lot. I learned so many things, like how to handle the pressure at that level. It was a very tough competition, but I managed it, it motivated me and I’m looking forward to the future and the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
What was the overall YOG experience like for you?
I felt very happy there. Everybody wants to run in the Olympic Games. It was a great experience for me. I was one of the beneficiaries sponsored with a Sport For Hope scholarship, so I felt very happy to win. And walking in the Opening and Closing Ceremonies with Zambia was wonderful.
It has been three years since you won a YOG gold medal. What has that success done for your career?
It has changed my future. As you can see, I’m progressing. At that time, I won that race in 10.5 seconds and now I’m able to run the 100m in under 10 seconds. I have been experiencing a lot of new things and I’m progressing.
How is your form now and what are your goals for this season?
I was at my peak early this season, but due to some challenges I have been a little bit slowed. I will catch up and get back to that form. I’m working hard towards making the finals at the IAAF World Championships and also for Tokyo 2020. I just have to work hard and pull up my socks so that I get better.
Have you met Usain Bolt and, if so, what advice has he given you?
We were together at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing in 2015. We chatted and he encouraged me. He told me that I’m still young and not to get discouraged. I still chat with him through email and we talk also. When I ran the 100m in 9.88 seconds, he sent a message to congratulate me. He is a good man and he believes in me. He’s like my big brother.
Bolt has said he will retire after the World Championships in London. Are you and other young sprinters ready to take on the responsibility of being the next stars?
It’s too early for us to say that we will succeed him. There are so many athletes who are working hard to get there. What I can say is that I will continue to work hard to reach my goals.
Are the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 already in the back of your mind?
I’m turning 20 in October, so I hope to reach my peak by Tokyo 2020. I’m still young and my target is to put in a good performance there. It has been my long desire to run at the Olympic Games, so I’m targeting that.