Had it not been for a former Teesside bodyguard by the name of Kevin, Richard Kilty would currently be plotting military manoeuvres with the British Army.
At the end of 2012, the new 60 metre world indoor champion was without any income having lost his Lottery funding. For five months his training kit was shut away in a cupboard at home. Even when he did choose to train, at times he could not even afford the small fee to train at his local track.
“I was considering going into the army and trying to fund myself that way... as I had no forms of income,” he said here in Poland after his unexpected victory on Saturday. “I was training twice a week, I had no income. I couldn’t even afford to go to the track. By myself in the cold and rain, no funding, no one to help me out there.”
His father, the aforementioned Kevin, pushed his son to continue to pursue his dream to be the world’s best, finally realised with his shock win in Sopot. Kevin was watching his son’s crowning glory in his local pub.
“Luckily my dad, my biggest help, persuaded me I had the talent and I could get back on to funding and prove people wrong and it’s a fairy tale,” he said. “I can’t believe I’ve done it from nothing.”
Sopot is Kilty’s first senior major championships as an individual, having been part of the 4x100m relay team at last year’s World Championships where he lost out on a 200m spot to Delano Williams despite beating him at the trials.
It was a decision that left the self-styled Teesside Tornado further aggrieved having been overlooked for Olympic selection in the same event despite achieving the ‘A’ qualifying standard. He appealed but it was rejected.
Having proved himself with the gold, his view that he was unfairly overlooked is partly confirmed. But he feels he has continued to be maligned. “There were a lot of people trying to tarnish my name last summer,” he said. “Nobody had it harder than me in Britain last year. No trainers, no help, no support from anybody.”
Some of the past criticism is self-inflicted. He has two charges of criminal damage against him, the second last November when he put his fist through an estate agent’s window and was fined £500 which, because of his lack of income, he could only pay in £5 instalments.
But there is a sense Kilty has turned his life around. He moved away from Teesside to Loughborough to become part of the training group of Rana Reider, who also coaches fellow Britons Dwain Chambers and Tiffany Porter.
Having revelled indoors this season, he has set his sights on the outdoors and becoming only the second white man in history to run under 10 seconds, after France’s Christophe Lemaitre.
“I think I can run nine seconds,” said Kilty. “I’m not going to say I’m going to do it this year or next year but within my career I can run well into nine seconds. I know that’s a pretty big statement with my skin colour but I wouldn’t mind being the next man to break 10 seconds.”