London 2012: Adam Gemili faces big decision about Olympic sprint place

• Coach Michael Afilaka warns of dangers of too much too soon
• James Ellington qualifies for Olympics with win in 200m

Adam Gemili has the biggest decision of his life to make this week. The 18-year-old footballer turned sprinter who secured automatic qualification to the Olympic Games in the 100m on Saturday has until 2 July to decide whether to take up the place. Meanwhile, his coach, Michael Afilaka, has warned of the dangers of pushing a young talent too soon.

"If you throw him into the cauldron of Olympics and he gets burned then he might never recover," said Afilaka, who described the decision-making process as on a knife-edge, just "51-49" in favour of competing at the Games. "I'm very clear what that competition is and it's brutal – from getting kitted out to walking into the Olympic Stadium. I've been there, seen it, trust me. He's not just a young kid, he's young to athletics. I'm not saying no, but it really has to be a day-by-day decision."

The teenager, who shot into the public eye when he ran 10.08sec this month – the fastest time by a sprinter in the UK this year and the second fastest time by a British junior – is so new to the sport that Afilaka is concerned about the psychological effects of such a pressured environment. "Eleven months ago the aim for Adam was to make the relay six for the [world] junior team and he was not good enough to do that. Eleven months later we are having an argument about whether he should go to the Olympics.

"The key is that we have to remember this is a young kid and everybody is getting carried away. It's not the world juniors versus the Olympics. It's always been the juniors, and the Olympics is just a bonus. We have to be sensible. We don't want to deviate from the plan."

Afilaka said Gemili was an "emotional wreck" following the 100m final on Saturday. "The higher intensity of the competition, the more demanding it is emotionally. If you saw him yesterday evening he was an emotional wreck. Literally, with no asking him, I knew there was no way he could do the 200m today."

Afilaka, who says he has the backing of the head coach, Charles van Commenee, has witnessed young British talent fall by the wayside in the past and is determined that the same fate should not befall his young charge. "Ashlee Nelson won [the women's 100m] yesterday and Ashlee Nelson was Adam Gemili four or five years ago. We have had to work damn hard. Seven months ago that girl could not walk." Afilaka also coaches Jeanette Kwakye, the first female British sprinter to make an Olympic final in 30 years when she lined up in Beijing in 2008, who has struggled with injuries ever since. Gemili is due to compete in the 100m and 200m at the world junior championships in Barcelona, which begin on 10 July.

James Ellington booked his place in London with a win in the 200m six months after the sprinter was forced to raise funds to pursue his dream by auctioning himself on eBay. The 26-year-old was initially promised £30,000 by a hoax bidder, but later won a sponsorship deal with a razor-blade company. "I'm the happiest guy in the world right now. I always knew that I had it in me," he said. "I said from the beginning all I needed was the backing and the support so I could train full time, hence the eBay idea. Now you have seen the results, I always knew what I could do. I am a very determined person and I was just trying to think outside the box. All the other ideas weren't working so I thought I'd do something different."

There were emotional scenes from Eilish McColgan, embracing her mother and coach, the former 10,000m world champion Liz McColgan, at the finish line, as the 21-year-old steeplechase runner secured her place in the British team. "I still can't quite believe it, to be honest. I knew that top two would secure my place but there's a difference between thinking about doing it and actually doing it so I'm so pleased with that," said McColgan, who had struggled with a virus earlier in the week. "The way I was feeling this week, to come out and run the way I did, I'm so happy that I've done it now. I can just rest and prepare for the Games now. I'm so excited about it, I can't wait."

In a competitive men's 110m hurdles final, young talents Andy Pozzi and Lawrence Clarke, both coached by hurdles genius Malcolm Arnold, secured automatic qualifying spots at the Games; the European and Commonwealth champion, Andy Turner, will have to wait to hear whether he is selected.

A total of 33 qualified for the Games over the weekend of trials – the youngest 18-year-old Gemili, the oldest 5,000m runner Jo Pavey, although the world indoor champion triple jumper Yamilé Aldama, 39, is also expected to be selected.

The British team for the European Championships in Helsinki this week will be announced on Monday morning.


Anna Kessel in Birmingham

The GuardianTramp

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