RABAH Yousif’s journey has taken him across the globe, long seeking asylum in England before he was able to settle here. It’s understandable that there’s nowhere quite like home for the Olympian.

From Sudan to South Bank, lesser people would have long been beaten on the journey. Instead, he’s focused on the ultimate sporting event: the 2020 Olympics.

Tokyo is on the horizon, there’s still some way to go before he’s on the plane to the land of the rising sun.

But there’s nowhere he would rather be right now than his adopted home of Middlesbrough. Plenty of athletes, in preparation, head across the globe for winter warm weather training.

For Yousif, however, it’s a different story.

“Winter training has been good. I started November 1 and so far, so good with no injuries,’’ he said.

“The key is no injuries – don’t get injured when you are pushing your body to the limit. You rely on your body to do the work which helps you in the summer.

“I’ve been here in Middlesbrough all winter – I had an opportunity to go to South Africa, but I turned it down. I enjoy training in the winter at home the cold, the wind and in challenging conditions.

“Then in spring leading into summer I will go somewhere nice and warm and get faster.

“For me, it’s about picking the right time to go. It’s pointless doing something like that at the wrong time.’’

Amid sessions around Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis, he smiled: “It is challenging here, really really challenging! But trust me one session here is like a few sessions in warm weather. A big session here is a really big bonus for me and I leave with a big smile on my face.

“Four times a week at Middlesbrough Sports Village is good for me.’’

Yousif ran for Sudan in the London Games in 2012, reaching the semi-final of the 400m.

Rio 2016 was not quite as enjoyable, as he missed out through injury.

This time around, the focus is there: “It is an Olympic year, every professional sportsman dreams of it, things don’t get bigger. There are thousands and thousands of athletes out there thinking about it in the same way I do.

“I raced in London 2012 and enjoyed it, but in 2016 I made the wrong decisions. It was all down to bad luck, but now Tokyo is around the corner. Last year we were there for the world relay championship.

“It was a great experience, with great people, a nice country with great facilities and where the Great Britain team is going to be based in Yokohama is spectacular.

“That gave me a feeling for it. I was standing there, saying to myself “God willing, I could be standing here next year, aiming to go out there and make something for myself and my country.

“Trust me, experience plays a big part in doing things. I was naïve last time, excited and wanted to go out and take on the world. Injury humbled me then and I learned my lesson.

“I want to go and get my standard, make my team and let’s go.’’

Yousif is in the final stretch of his career, the life of an athlete is a younger one, but he won’t rule out a push for Paris in 2024.

“I’m 32, but is this my last Games?’’ he mused, while yet to aim for the qualifying standard. “Technically you could say yeah because next time I will be 37-38. But we had Kim Collins in his 40s racing in the 400 and 100 – when you are more intense as well and need more looking after.

“I’m not worrying about things, I take it season by season and if I have another one after this then that is brilliant. If not then so be it.’’

Representing his adopted home is something he is proud of, something he doesn’t want to give up on: “It means so much for me to pull on a Team GB or Team England vest. My first opportunity came at Loughborough, walking around it felt good. It’s a big thing.’’

Yousif has become a fixture in the 400m relay team. It’s an event which comes towards the end of the international spectacles, one which has captured the imagination over the years.

Team England and Team GB have a storied history in the event and Yousif wants to write a new golden chapter later this year.

“The relay is a great team event, one thing about it is you need everyone working together, team spirit and that’s everybody – staff, athletes, coaches,’’ he said.

“There is a good camaraderie with us. Before we go out we gather as a team, people who are running, head coach people who are not running, and get together. Neil Black had a lot to do with it and it gives you an extra boost – OK, we have a big job to go together here, let’s do it.

“Running a relay is all about showing an image, showing what you are all about, being unbreakable. Show the others how solid you are. Go over the years, and look at Botswana. They had individuals who are running 44, 43 seconds each and amazing but never made the final as a team.

“Jamaica the same, great individuals who win, but the last few years we give them a hard time.

“We have had problems with injuries, but I am proud of everyone. We never hide, we always give it a go, but we definitely come back form Tokyo with a medal.’’

There was disappointment last year in Doha in the relays when the baton was dropped in the men’s event and then captain Martyn Rooney was picked for the mixed 4x400m relay, later admitting he shouldn’t have been included after a fourth-placed finish: “We have been as a team for many years and against each other as well. We respect each other. Martyn is a real character.

“He’s a very good leader who tells you how it is. Last year, not many people know this, but in Doha he walked into the room and he was absolutely distraught and it’s sad to see people like that. No-one can doubt his commitment and ambition. He stood there and said he was sorry. No it wasn’t his fault, it’s a team event and we move on.

“That’s a man who gives people confidence and I see that from others too. Cameron Chalmers, Lee Thompson coming in and there’s a good mix.

“Historically we have always had a strong relay team and this time we have to go and get it done.

“Let’s make it count when it matters.

“This will be the first time representing Great Britain in an Olympic Games if I, when, I make the team.

“To me it’s always nice to be an Olympian. It’s something to be part of that. But that’s what I do and I need to make it happen.’’

Settled and comfortable at home, Yousif is an adopted Teessider, a Boro fan with a wife and four children at home to keep him in check.

“Middlesbrough means it all for me, from 2003 to today,’’ he admitted. “If I’m away then I miss home. I don’t like to be out of Middlesbrough for a while, even going to Loughborough for a few days is hard.

“It’s a place I feel very welcome.

“I like to stay in and spend time relaxing. At this level you need to recover and rest. At training camp, most of the time you are in bed watching telly, in the pool with a recovery session. At home I do the same. I visit people and friends, but most important time is about relaxing.

“My children keep my busy, Noah is 13, Tiber is 10 and also eight and four and it’s lovely to have the family with me. When you settle you have a base for focus.

“Not everyone gets the honour to do this and represent your country so I make the most of every day I get.’’

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