Athlete JJ Jegede is one of Britain's hopefuls for a medal at
the London 2012 Olympic Games in the Long Jump.
As a youngster, he was football mad and performances for the
Barking Abbey school team won him trials at Norwich and Spurs.
However at the beginning of secondary school when he suffered
growing pains and had issues with his knees. He was diagnosed
with Osgood-Schlatter disease, which usually occurs in teenagers
and causes pain and swelling just below the kneecap.
I wanted to be a footballer. It was my dream to be the
next Ian Wright but I could not really run from year seven to
year ten. I was not able to run as fast as I wanted to so I could
not perform to the best of my ability, he recalls.
But by the age of 15 the dream of being a professional sportsman
seemed over due to his injury woes until his teacher, Mr Tickner,
asked him to represent the school in the borough track and field
I said to him I do not like athletics I am a footballer,
They forced me down there to do the triple jump and
the guy who was meant to do the long jump pulled out at the last
minute so I did it instead. I jumped 5.88m and the winner got
5.89m. I lost by one centimetre so I thought to myself I can do
this. If I did not go to that competition at 16 I do not know
what I would have been doing right now. That one centimetre is
what made me think I could be number one in this sport.
The raw talent was clear to see as he became an age-group UK
Indoor champion within two years at the under-20 AAA Championship
Jegede jumps for the Newham and Essex Beagles - the nearest athletics
club to the Olympic site and swears his allegiance to them.
His loyalty transcends the sand pit as he does a lot of mentoring
work in the area with local children. He works with Met Track
- a Metropolitan Police scheme to get kids off the streets via
athletics and even has his own mentoring organisation called The
I will never leave this club. It is my local club. But
many people are jumping on the Olympic bandwagon and wanting to
join this club now as it is situated in East London. I used to
cycle through what is now the Olympic Park to go to Newham to
train twice a week as Hackney had no clubs or tracks. The first
event I did was for Met Track when I went down to Waltham Forest.
The kids down there were all about gangs. But the children kept
coming down every week and there was this one bad kid who did
not care about anything and he turned into a good kid. When I
saw this it made me realise that even as I strive to be the best
in my sport I can still helps others along the way.