Italy’s Andrew Howe exploded on to the athletics scene by winning gold medals in the long jump and 200m at the 2004 IAAF World U20 Championships. In the years that followed, he went on to win European gold and world silver in the long jump.
Fifteen years after his first global successes, he is still making Italian teams for major championships and earlier this year he competed at the IAAF World Relays Yokohama 2019. Looking back on his time in the sport, he has various pieces of advice that he would pass on to his younger self.
You’re probably reading this around about the time that your favourite athlete, Carl Lewis, is nearing retirement. All great careers must come to an end and his is certainly one to admire and use as inspiration for your own.
You may find, like Carl, that you’re good at more than just one event. Don’t be afraid to pursue more than one event at a time; you’ll have plenty of time to specialise on one discipline – or even try a new one – later in your career if you wish. If you love sprinting and jumping, which I know you do, then spend as much time as you like focusing on those.
As much as you enjoy athletics, try to make time for your other interests, like drumming. Playing in a band is a great way to let off steam and take a much-needed break from the sport. This kind of balance is key to your happiness.
For someone so young, you’re extremely determined. That’s a great quality to have, so try to hold on to that – it will come in useful during the difficult times ahead. Your goals and priorities may change over the years, but if you keep your mind focused and stay determined, then you can achieve whatever goals you set yourself.
You’ll find that one of the best ways to stay motivated is by continually trying to challenge yourself. And similarly – take it from me – one of the best ways to stay fit is to focus on injury prevention.
Like many athletes, your career may have highs and lows. There will be many medals, some of them gold, but try not to get too wrapped up in the hype or pressure that can come with your early successes. Not every performance has to be record-breaking. Concentrate on yourself and have fun with the sport you love.
There will be difficult moments too. It’s easy for me – your future self – to say this, but try not to lose motivation during the darkest of times. With courage and perseverance, you can handle anything that this sport throws at you.
Above all, try to enjoy every moment on the track or the runway. No one has a perfect athletics career that lasts forever. Not even the great Carl Lewis.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF