Instead of The Lightning Bolt versus The Beast, the big head-to-head on the track at the London Olympics last summer might have been Usain Bolt against Harry A-A. It was a thought that inevitably passed through the mind of Harry Aikines-Aryeetey as he departed Heathrow with the rest of the British team, bound for the first post-Olympic international track and field championship, the European Indoors, which open here in the west of Sweden tomorrow morning.
After all, the south Londoner with the bulging biceps and the double-barrelled surname did beat Bolt's future training partner to World Junior Championship gold in Beijing back in 2006. Indeed, as the record books confirm, Aikines-Aryeetey won the 100m final in 10.37sec, resplendent in the red, white and blue vest of the GB under-20 team. Yohan Blake finished fourth in 10.42sec, clad in the yellow and green livery of Jamaica.
And yet when it came to the blue-riband event of London 2012, the men's 100m final in the cauldron of the Olympic Stadium in August last year, Blake lined up as the principal threat to the world's fastest man, having beaten Bolt over 100m and 200m at the Jamaican trials. Aikines-Aryeetey was watching the action from afar, on the television set at his student digs in Loughborough.
"When I knew I wouldn't make the Games because of injury, I was heartbroken," the 24-year-old, who runs alongside Dwain Chambers and James Dasaolu in the 60m at the European Indoor Championships, reflected. "I wanted to take my mind off it and enrolled on a personal training course. I deliberately missed the majority of the Games, though I did watch the 100m.
"Doing something else helped me mentally. It was just so devastating missing out on the London Olympics. But it's made me as hungry as ever. I'm angry. I'm forgotten. The fact is that my progress has been halted by a lot of injuries. That's one of the main priorities, working under my new coach: keeping me free from injury."
To help prevent any future Harry A-A breakdowns, since last autumn the former teenage prodigy has been working under the direction of Rana Raider, the 2011 US coach of the year, who has been employed by UK Athletics to work from its new centralised national training base at Loughborough. "Rana's sprinting knowledge is unlimited," Aikines-Aryeetey said.
"He's changed a lot of things. Rana has that belief in me but we've got to take pigeon steps first because there's a lot to sort out."
Quite. With a best 60m time of 6.69m this winter, the recovering A-A man is unlikely to be in medal contention this weekend (in a British team that was shorn of the injured hurdler Andy Pozzi and 4 x 400m relay runner Conrad Williams). He is ranked only 26th in Europe. Still, he has not given up on his long-term mission of catching up with the speed machines he used to beat in his junior days.