This is a multi-part piece on Darryl Neita on of the top British sprinters. Stuart Weir has seen her race many times and has enjoyed his interview with her. This is a new interview on the bronze medalist at the 100m from the European Championships.
Darryl Neita, intro
I first saw Darryl Neita run in the Anniversary Games in 2015. Since then, I have seen her run another 50 times in 10 different countries. Darryl is a supremely talented athlete and also an engaging interviewee. I love the way she tells it like it is. She missed the 2016 Rio Olympics semi-finals by 2/100s of a second. I sympathized, but she replied: “No, I ran tragically badly!” In 2021 she joined the sub-11 club – more about that later – and at the at the Diamond League final in Zurich, she ran her third sub-11 of the season. I offered congratulations. She thanked me politely but added, “I cannot allow sub 11 to seem special; it has to be normal”.
Her approach to 2022 was: “I’d come out of 2021, the best season of my life, breaking 11 seconds, making the Olympic final, but I felt that I wanted more”. From the age of 18, she was coached for 5 years by Jonas Dodoo. Then she bravely left the UK to go to America to work with Rana Reider. She explains: “It was a big decision because I’ve been training in the UK my whole life, but I felt that I needed to get to the next level. Going to America is not easy. You don’t pick up your stuff and just go. You’re changing your environment. You’re changing your surroundings. There are cultural differences. But I just knew that I needed to do it to reach the next level, so I packed up and went to America. And it was great; the next stage was amazing. It taught me a lot and shaped me into the athlete I am today. I feel so privileged to have trained alongside some of the greatest athletes of all time. Just watching their drive, how they train, and the mental aspect that goes into it. Just the whole package is so inspiring. It is just great to be around Olympic champions, world champions, medalists and to see how they approach things and, how they train, and the mindset they have going into the competition. Overall it was really inspiring, and I believe that it played a massive part in my growth last year as an athlete”.
Then allegations were made against Rana Reider, and British Athletics advised all British athletes to leave the environment. Darryl made another courageous decision to relocate to Italy to be coached by Marco Airale. She could not be happier with her new coaching set-up: “I think Marco is an absolute genius. He ticks every single box, and he covers everything. No corners are cut. We train very hard. He’s just dedicated, focused, and passionate about what he does. He wants to get the best out of us. It’s great. He’s a good coach! For me, Marco is just so refreshing. Working with somebody so hungry and dedicated to what he does is just so nice. He loves track and field. It is literally his passion. And I love track and field as well, so it’s nice to be around someone who is just focused on wanting to be better, to be around someone who brings out the best in you. He creates a light-hearted environment for you to focus on the training at hand and have a bit of fun. I don’t know how to explain it, but I feel happy that I have found a coach I can be with for the rest of my career. It’s a really nice environment”.
Living in Padua (known locally as Padova) suits her completely. She loves the lifestyle. When we spoke, it was pretty cold in the British autumn – sunny with a blue sky in Padova! She has a sense of getting away from the busyness of London while at the same time being only an hour and a half from the UK. “I’m loving Italy, and the food’s good. It’s a very holistic lifestyle. A lot more relaxed, and it suits me”. Her dog, Melon – he’s a chihuahua – likes it too. You can check him out at https://www.instagram.com/melon_chihuahua/