Amy Hunt: The most exciting young sprinter on the planet?
Amy Hunt is taking it all in her stride.
But despite headlining next to Bolt, trashing Asher-Smith's former junior record, appearing in Vogue and holding her own against Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce on her senior debut, this 18-year-old isn't hung up on all the hype.
"It's so surreal," she says, laughing, in an interview with Tokyo2020.org.
It's no surprise that many think - and write - that Amy Hunt is on the fast track to Olympic glory, but for now Amy Hunt is just laughing, smiling and enjoying the moment, focussed on what's now:
Outrunning the dogs in the fields near her house in Nottinghamshire.
In this exclusive interview Hunt traces her rise to maybe the most exciting young sprinter on the planet, tells us about that junior world record in Mannheim where her running spikes actually melted, her idols and inspirations, Olympic ambitions, and gives us the key to her success:
"Just enjoy it and have fun."
Amy Hunt junior world record
That blistering 200m in Mannheim, Germany, in June 2019 changed Amy Hunt's life.
And her approach to the race may have given her a formula for the rest of her career.
Only deciding to run 200m last minute, the team's focus at that junior meet in June in Mannheim was on practising for the European 4x100m relay the following month.
"They let us do another event because you're there and you might as well (laughs) so I chose to do a 200."
"I thought oh, 'I'll just have a bit of fun you know', I've raced three times over 100m in the last week so I'll just mix it up and do a 200."
It was over 35 degrees that day (95F), and she had already run the last of her relay legs just hours before the 200, "honestly it was sweltering," she says.
"I was just trying to compose myself," she continues, and, literally, stay cool - the medics spent the day making wearable ice packs.
"My main aim for this was to just enjoy it, that was our absolute number one focus, to take in the moment, enjoy it and just have fun with it, don't try too hard for a time."
While she doesn't remember much of the race itself, she remembers the shock when she saw the clock stopped at 22.42.
"When I saw the time I could not believe it, genuinely I went into the competition thinking I'll run like a 22.9 if I'm having a good day and if I'm having a superbly amazing day hopefully it'll be a 22.8, so when I saw 22.4 flash up I thought, 'oh my God I can't believe I've actually done that!"
"I think there were some really cool pictures of me afterwards and my mouth is just wide open, I really couldn't believe it at all."
She took the women's U-18 world record, beat reigning 200m world champion Dina Asher-Smith's junior best of 22.61, and at 17 shares a world record with Usain Bolt.
Hunt shies away from the Usain Bolt comparisons, naturally, still finding it all a bit hard to fathom.
"It’s just incredible to think that at my age I am on a par with Usain Bolt."
A new golden age of British sprint
Hunt looks set to join a new and exciting golden generation of British sprinters.
When Dina Asher-Smith won 200m gold and 100m silver at the 2019 Doha Worlds she became the first woman to win an individual medal at a world champs since Kathy Cook won 200m bronze in 1983.
Asher-Smith is the fastest woman in British track history and already has one Olympic medal in the bank after Team GB won 4x100m bronze at Rio 2016.
Bronze became silver in Doha in 2019 with this serious line-up:
Dina Asher-Smith, Asha Philip, Ashleigh Nelson and Daryll Neita.
And at 17 Hunt is already faster than Dina was at that age over 200m.
Britain waited three, more like four generations for a sprint star that could take on the world, now they have two.
The future looks fast for Team GB.
"As soon as I crossed that line my whole life went so hectic," she says about that race back in June 2019.
"Afterwards it all went into a massive flurry of social media going crazy, my phone crashing, my first time in anti-doping which was kind of semi-terrifying."
From summer 2019 to summer 2020 she won 200m and 4x100m gold medals at the European Under-20s, was named young female athlete of the year by the British Athletics Writers’ Association, signed with the same sports agency that represents Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Laura Muir, had an interview to study English at Cambridge University in London, been in Vogue's 'Bright Young Things' piece alongside Australian actor Jacob Elordi who played Nate Jacobs in HBO's smash-hit series Euphoria (Her sister couldn't stop screaming when she found out), and came fourth in her senior debut 60m race against double Olympic gold medallist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.
Oh, and she plays the cello too.
Amy Hunt in Vogue, and doubling down on the Olympics
Vogue included hers in their 'Electric Cast Of Faces Set To Define The Decade Ahead,' describing her U-18 record run as:
"A jaw-dropping achievement that puts the A-Level student from Nottingham on a parallel with Usain Bolt."
But with 2019 blurring into 2020 and Hunt gearing up towards Tokyo Olympics, suddenly the world stopped to a dramatic record scratch.
A global pandemic put all plans on hold and the way that Amy Hunt reacted says as much about her as her world-beating times.
The words come bubbling out to a backing track of smiles and laughs.
Amy Hunt: Tokyo 2020 postponement "hugely positive"
"From having such a hectic life to now, not having much to do has been really nice in a way, to just take a step back and actually relax for a bit," she says.
"To have a couple of lie-ins and go for walks with my mum because I haven't had a chance to do that before and it has been really nice."
And the Olympic postponement?
"It's such a positive thing for me, I think I would have been ready this year but having an extra year just makes it absolutely the best thing for me because I'll be fitter, stronger, healthier, faster."
"It just gives me another year to be in the gym, another year that's getting closer to my prime and natural physical maturation and it just gives me that extra year to work on those technical aspects with my coach and just progress as an athlete and as a person away from the track."
"So ya it's actually a hugely positive thing for me and it massively increases my chances of being competitive when I get there. - Amy Hunt
Hunt is capable of the kind of positive mental alchemy that all great athletes perform, turning negatives to positives and only ever facing forward.
It's her attitude as much as her talent that promise so much more.
How to turn 18 in quarantine
Amy Hunt turned 18 on the 15th of May 2020 during quarantine caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
And while having your 18th birthday in lockdown because of a global virus would be a nightmare for many, again, she can only see the positive.
"It was really fun actually, it was quite a positive thing for me because I would have spent it at a hotel before a race meet."
"My A-Level exams would have been right around the corner so I would have been super stressed, my brain would have been frazzled from all the revision, I wouldn't have had such a nice relaxing time with my parents so it was really lovely to actually get that time I didn't think I would have so that was a massive silver lining to it all."
Family has provided the foundation for Hunt's rapid progress as an athlete, and as a person.
The making of Amy Hunt
Born in 2002 in Grantham town not far from Nottingham, she grew up sporty playing netball, hockey and rounders.
A young Amy stood out for her height and for athletic ability.
"I don't know how to put this nicely to my younger self, but I was ridicuously tall," she laughs.
"I think I'm same height now I don't think I've actually grown but I was really really skinny!"
Her father is a keen triathlete and Amy followed in dad's footsteps and was even coached by her father for a while.
When she joined the local Grantham athletic club they took one look at her and said: endurance runner.
"I don't know how to put this nicely to my younger self, but I was ridicuously tall" - Amy Hunt
"I had that kind of accepted type of body of an endurance runner, so I can see why it happened," she says.
"The angle that I came to athletics was through triathlon, and middle distance was still shorter than the runs I was doing at the end of triathlons so it was a step down and further steps down all the way to ones and twos."
She clocked 26.4s 200m in 2014, the fastest in the entire UK that year.
"At the end of the year I was top of the rankings for under-13's, it was something I hadn't expected, it was my first year in athletics and I ended up topping the rankings so I was like 'oh my God!' This is definitely something to stick with," she laughs, again.
Amy Hunt coach: Rapid improvement
In 2015 Amy won her first English Schools sprints title, in 2016 she went a full season unbeaten against athletes from her age group.
But things really started take off when she went to train in Loughborough under the Univerity's head coach Joe McDonnell in October 2016.
"Working with Amy is great," says the Irish speed performance coach.
"She is a quick learner so that in ways makes the opportunity to learn new drills and body positions a bit easier. Amy has mentally and physically grown a lot since 2016."
The progression is clear from her 200m times over the years:
26.4 in 2014, 25.47 (2015), 25.22 (indoors in 2016), 24.33 (2017), 23.17 (2018), 22.42 (2019 - new junior world record and the third fastest senior British 200m ever).
McDonnell reveals where that focussed improvement has come from:
"The biggest opportunity for Amy was learning to produce force and maximising her long limbs," he says.
"We focused heaving on force production and the reaction and first step out of the blocks, at max speed Amy is as quick as any of her counterparts, getting to that max speed and creating force at max speed is an ongoing project."
"Amy can win medals at Paris 2024 and LA 2028"
For now she's in no rush and just enjoying the ride.
Her view chimes with that of her coach.
"I am a firm believer in the development of young athletes at the right time," McDonnell explains.
"There is no rush to make Amy be at her best right now."
"There needs to be room to progress," says Amy.
"We can't train twice a day now because there needs to be room to progress because then when I get to my peak I've got nowhere to go almost, so we're quite keen on building in that space.
"I started training with Joe when I was 14, and now I'm 18, so he's still hyper aware that I'm maturing and growing."
McDonnell likes to involve his athletes in their own progress plan, making it a team effort, and he sees an exciting Olympic future ahead for his sprint prodigy.
"Amy will be at her best for the Paris Games and LA games when she's between the ages of 22 and 26, prime age for maximum strength and elasticity.
"I believe Amy can win medals at both of those games."
Amy Hunt: 200m, 100m or both?
But now that her best results have come in 200m, will she drop the 100?
"I'm definitely going to concentrate on both," she answers.
Having run the indoor season and done so well over 60m she's convinced that she can be "super competitive" over 100m too.
"At the end of the day the 100 was always my preferred event before I ran that (U-18 world record) time, I hadn't run too many 200s before last year because I just didn't enjoy them."
"In the end I'd just be lying on the floor, dizzy, on the verge of passing out, so I just really didn't like them, I was more of a solely 100m runner and in the last year it's progressed to both of them."
"But I enjoy them both equally and would love to be able to do them side-by-side."
The inspiration to run both comes from many sources.
Amy Hunt: Inspirations
Amy Hunt was six years old when Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce won her first Olympic gold medal, but she only remembers the Opening Ceremony from the 2008 Games.
"My earliest Olympic ceremony was watching the Beijing Olympic ceremony," she says.
"I was probably six or seven, I remember all the drums, and I must have watched Usain Bolt but I don't remember it, so my first proper experience was London 2012."
"I was probably ten years old, and that was insane, watching Jess Ennis, she was such a huge inspiration for me as a younger girl, I massively used to look up to her, I reckon I definitely had a poster of her at one point on my wall,"(laughs).
"She was such an inspiration for me, such an idol, watching super Saturday was so inspiring and so incredible to prove that ya, that's definitely something I can do and I feel like I could reach that high as well, just watching her cross the line in the 800m was really insane."
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When your idols become your rivals
"I just kind of look up to everyone to be fair, even the people in the current sprint team, I've always looked up to Dina, and I've always looked up to Daryll Neita, and now I'm nearing the edge of their world so it's really weird.
"At Mannheim Daryll Neita was there and gave me a massive hug afterwards and I was like 'wow that's so weird, I've watched you on TV and now you're here congratulating me, so it was really surreal."
"I've been so lucky to have grown up in such a period of amazing sprinting figures:
"Usain Bolt, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Elaine Thompson, Tori Bowie, so many people that I've been able to call my idols and draw inspiration from, so I feel really lucky to have witnessed all these people run incredibly.
"Earlier this year I was given the amazing opportunity to race alongside Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce which, again, was one of the most surreal experiences I've ever had in my life!
"I was like: 'I've watched you on TV all my life and now you're like two or three lanes away, so ya, I kind of look up to most people to be honest," she says - laughing, of course.
Amy Hunt Tokyo 2020
"It's so weird to think about, because hopefully fingers crossed if everything goes right it'll be my first Olympic Games," she says, keeping the competitor in her for the track.
"And I don't want to lump huge amounts of pressure on myself because I don't know how I'm going to react in that situation, because it's so completely unlike anything I will have ever experienced before.
"When I talk to older athletes they say it's completely different and your first time you'll be so overwhelmed so I think my number one goal is just to take everything in, experience things and be in the moment and appreciate it for what it is.
"And be really proud that, oh my God I've actually made it, I'm here, I'm in the athletes village, oh my God, so just to embrace that moment and be happy and proud that I've made it there."
It's not in Amy Hunt's nature to talk herself up, but that fierce competitive streak is there when you watch her race: that relentless motion, rhythmic cadence, efficient arm and leg action, everything happening in a hard-fought harmony, her long stride eating up the track.
But keeping it realistic and not heeding the hype are the path she's taking.
"I do want to be competitive and I think that extra year is definitely a help in enabling me to be more competitive, but we'll just have to see."
During lockdown Amy Hunt trained harder than ever in the gym she built with her family in the garage, pacing herself against the dogs that chase her through the fields of Nottingham near her house, growing more used to staying ahead of the chasing pack by the second.