London 2017: From training at Wimbledon to the world stage, Cowan proves it’s never too late

Almost exactly five years ago, Dwayne Cowan had never put on a pair of spikes.

It was London 2012. He sat in the stands of the Olympic Stadium, watching on transfixed as Usain Bolt cemented his position as the greatest of all time.

Then 27, Cowan was crafting a living as a semi-professional footballer, searching, and failing, to find that full-time contract that would take him to the next level.

But, on that night in 2012, Cowan’s head had been turned. Athletics, not football, was perhaps his calling.

It all started as a bit of fun, a way of keeping fit that didn’t require muddy boots and sweaty shin pads. His coach told him he would never make it as a professional athlete.

But turn the clock forward and it’s a whole new story, as 400m specialist Cowan made his first appearance at a major competition at the very stadium where it all began.

Now 32, he’s representing Great Britain at the World Athletics Championships, a far cry from the Wimbledon track where he learnt his trade.

“I was never fast as a child. I had never done athletics until I was around 28,” he said.

“I came and watched Usain Bolt here in 2012, and that just made me want to try it and it went from there.

“I did athletics initially just to keep fit, but then I started winning some of the training sessions. I was living in Wimbledon and went to the local track.

“When I first started, I thought athletics was easy, but now I know what you have to do to make it to this level, it’s crazy.

“Every athlete puts in the hard work, getting up at seven in the morning every single day – it’s crazy.

“The first day I stepped onto the track, the coach told me I would never be an athlete. Look at me now, three, four years later.”

Most of the 50,000 people who packed the London Stadium on Saturday morning will have never heard of Cowan. All they saw was the British flag and that was enough for him to become one of their own.

But while the crowd could easily have been intimidating for an athlete facing it for the first time, Cowan thrived off the pressure, flying through to the semi-finals with a time of 45.39 seconds.

He’s not getting too carried away though – he knows he faces an almighty challenge to progress through to the final, but that’s not going to stop him from leaving everything he’s got on the track.

“I’ve had a few weeks off so I was a bit rusty. I went through the 300m a bit too slow, but hopefully I can go faster in the semi-finals,” he said.

“When my name was announced and there was a big roar from the crowd, I thought ‘wow’. I knew I had to turn up and do something.

“In the semi-finals, I’ll just see what I’ve got, and see what’s left in the tank.

“There is pressure – I’ve had a lot of texts from friends and family telling me to win the gold medal. They don’t know athletics!

“I just want to have a good run. I’ve got good flat speed over 200m, so we’ll just see what happens.”

You can help the next generation of young British athletes by getting involved in SportsAid Week this September with London 2012 hero Greg Rutherford MBE. Find out more about how you can support the week of fun and fundraising by visiting  


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