A Team GB sprinter has told of how he auctioned himself on eBay to pay for training to compete in the Olympics.
James Ellington, 26, came close to quitting athletics for financial reasons before deciding to put his sponsorship rights on the auction site. Today, he was lining up in the 200 metres qualifying heats.
Ellington said: “A lot of people felt connected when I did the eBay campaign. It made people realise that not every athlete at the top level has got that support they need. To get that support and push on to make the Olympic team is a dream come true.”
Ellington was born in Lewisham and lives in Croydon with his girlfriend, Dominique, 27, a child carer, and daughter India, who is one.
He turned to eBay after getting injured and losing his funding, and because letters he sent out seeking sponsorship had gone unanswered.
A £32,500 offer on the website proved to be a hoax but after his story featured in the Standard, the firm King of Shaves pledged £30,000 so that Ellington could get the best physiotherapy and give up his job as a part-time athletics coach.
Ellington, who attended Worsley Bridge Junior School in Beckenham and Forest Hill School, said: “I thought I’ll do this eBay thing, it will either blow up and work out well or people are going to look at it and laugh. The worst case scenario was not getting the funding, carrying on part-time work and probably start thinking about a career change — it was make or break.”
His mother, Andrea, said the birth of her son’s daughter had made him even more determined.
Mrs Ellington, 46, from Catford, said: “I think I’ll feel quite emotional when he comes into the stadium and they announce him. The whole of Team GB, his fellow athletes, they’re all supporting each other. It’s really quite amazing to see how supportive they are.”
Ellington expects a surge of interest in athletics after the Games, but warns the children he coaches that they must keep studying. “I say to the kids you can achieve anything you want,” he said. “But every coach and athlete I talk to — their advice on becoming an athlete is to go and study.
“Unless you are at the very top level — as 0.1 per cent of people are — you’re not going to make the money you need to sustain your living.
“I’ve always got a Plan B up my sleeve. I’m not just a dumb athlete.”