7:00am Monday 10th March 2014
By Scott Wilson
RICHARD KILTY wants to become the fastest white athlete in history after exploding onto the world scene in spectacular fashion this weekend as he claimed the 60m crown at the World Indoor Athletics Championships in Poland.
The Stockton sprinter became the first North-Easterner ever to claim a major sprint title as he posted a new lifetime best of 6.49secs to eclipse a top-class field that contained Olympic medallist Nesta Carter, American prodigy Marvin Bracy and former British number one Dwain Chambers.
Kilty, who would not even have been competing in the World Indoors had an injury to James Dasaolu not resulted in him being elevated from his original position as reserve, will now switch his attention to an outdoor season that could see him compete for medals at both the Commonwealth Games and European Championships.
However, the Gateshead Harrier has another target in mind as he begins to come to terms with his new status as one of the stars of British athletics.
Kilty's current personal best for the 100m is 10.10secs, but the 24-year-old is confident of breaking the fabled ten-second barrier before too long.
France's Christophe Lemaitre is the only white man ever to have gone quicker than ten seconds, and Kilty wants to write his name into the record books by emulating his achievements.
“I think I can run in the nine seconds,” said the Teessider. “I'm not going to say I'm definitely going to do it this year or next year, but I think within my career I can run well into nine seconds.
“I know that's a pretty big statement with my skin colour, being white, but I'm the fastest white man in history (indoors), so I wouldn't mind being the next man to break ten seconds.
“I know it's a pretty big thing to say, but I've come out and become world champion so to do that as well is not so much of a problem.”
Having broken his previous personal best in Saturday's semi-final in Sopot, Kilty produced an exemplary display of sprinting to win the final, bursting from the blocks and maintaining his speed throughout the race to eventually win by a reasonably comfortable margin over so short a distance.
The success completes a remarkable turnaround given that, just 12 months ago, the new world champion was ready to join the Army as his athletics career crumbled around him.
Controversially omitted from the British squad for the 2012 Olympics despite illness and a hamstring injury preventing him from performing at his best at the trials, Kilty was dropped from British Athletics' lottery funding programme and forced to return to his family home.
For five months, he kept his running spikes in his bag and barely strayed outdoors, but eventually he pledged to rebuild his career. With the help of his father, Kevin, he trained on his own at Clairville Stadium and Gateshead International Stadium, lifted weights in a Stockton gym and even ran along the banks of the Tees Barrage when he could not afford to attend a track session.
Less than a year later, and with his funding having been reinstated, he has a World Championship gold medal around his neck.
“I can't believe it,” said Kilty. “It's a dream come true. This is my boyhood dream, you know. I told my dad four years ago that I would be world champion, and to think I've come out and done it – I feel like crying. It's unbelievable, I'm on top of the world.
“I did consider quitting. I was trying to train twice a week, but I had no income at all. I sometimes had to run on the roads in trainers because I couldn't even afford to get to the track. I was living in Middlesbrough and there's not a lot that's close.
“There were a lot of people trying to tarnish my name last summer. Nobody had it harder than me in Britain last year. I had no coaches, no help, no support from anybody. I was considering going into the Army and trying to fund myself that way.
“But luckily my dad, my biggest help, persuaded me I had the talent and I could get back onto funding and prove people wrong. I can't believe I've done it from nothing.
“My dad will have been back home watching in the pub with some friends and that was for him. I hope there was a big celebration.”
Despite the obvious pain of his omission from the London 2012 squad, Kilty insists he harbours no grudges towards British Athletics and is effusive about the level of support he is now receiving, which enabled him to attend a winter training camp in South Africa.
However, he hopes his success acts as an inspiration to those, particularly in the North-East, who feel they are battling against immovable barriers in pursuit of their sporting dream.
“I am fighter and nothing can keep me down,” he said. “I have come through so many struggles and so much hard work.
“I have come from an area which is deprived, but hopefully this can make people on Teesside and in the rest of Britain see that even if you come from a deprived area and think you don't have an option in life, you always have.
“Anyone can do it. I've done it, and anyone can if they work towards it. I'm a fighter, and I like proving people wrong. Hopefully I can continue doing that now.”
© Copyright 2001-2015 Newsquest Media Group