Former Olympic 110 meter hurdler Andy Turner is once again aiming for Olympic gold, this time with the kids from ISD Athletics.
Based at Dubai’s Sports City, the new academy is open to all ages and abilities as the academy sets out to bring world-class training and coaching to the city.
Three-time Olympic medallist has been in Dubai for the past three months as the academy looks to find the next athletics star using Turner’s knowledge and experience to unearth and build the talent in the region.
“It’s a passion, not just a job,” he tells Sport360. “It’s important for athletes to give something back and not just retire and take that knowledge with them. A mutual friend put us in touch and I was excited about coming to Dubai it’s really nice to be back involved. I’ve been enjoying my time here everyone has been great to me and the way they’ve set up ISD.”
With ISD Athletics, we are raising the bar on athletics in the UAE providing a platform for girls and boys of all levels and abilities from 5 years and up to enhance their skills and learn new ones. We also offer a pathway to pro careers and university scholarships.
We have all major disciplines here: sprints, middle and long distance runs, hurdles, shot put, discus, javelin, long jump, triple jump, and high jump as well as strength and conditioning to ensure each athlete gets a well-rounded development.
But isn’t exclusive only for those looking to reach the Olympics. The European and Commonwealth gold medallist is keen for all kids to get involved as the academy. “I’m trying to make it as fun as possible for the kids, I’m a bit of a kids entertainer. We have to make the kids enjoy it, it can’t be hard work all the time, we need to engage with them as well. Luckily we’ve had some great results already in our time trials, which is great to be a part of.”
Having been in Dubai for the past three months Turner has been able to cast his eye over the talent in the region and has been encouraged, with what he’s seen thus far. “I’ve been impressed with the talent; there’s a real array here. There are kids who really want to push on and become the next level, which is great because we can relate to those, having competed at the highest level. There are some kids here who are doing it just for fun, which is absolutely fine and they’re treated the same way as those who perhaps see a career in athletics. It’s nice to have that mixture of talent and one of the beauties of the sport is that you don’t know who is going to be an Olympian or not.”
After pushing his body to the limit and training vigorously throughout his career, including a stint in bodybuilding, and then boxing, the Brit is now in a place where he’s happy to be staying in shape without competing. “After athletics I went into fitness modelling, which is more about being shredded not huge so much. I needed a reason to train after I finished competing so that’s why I got into it.
“My brother was already doing it and so I decided to go into that. I did it for two years and then retired from that and took up boxing. I had five fights, I fought Dwain Chambers in a charity match, and won. He’s a friend so that was weird punching him in the face then chilling with him after.”
The fitness modelling was brutal because your body is changing all the time and the diet was so tough, it was stricter than athletics and I just needed something to keep me going. Now I am putting my focus into building adults and children’s capabilities.”
With COVID-19 restrictions halting almost all outdoor activity last summer, the kids at ISD academy are enjoying being able to compete again as restrictions are being eased. It’s so important for kids and adults to keep busy and have something to focus on. Of course we’re adhering to the current restrictions but it’s so good to get the kids outside and active after a tough year last year.”
When things to return to normal the former world record holder hopes to ramp up competition at ISD Athletics, with the help of his friends. “The facilities are amazing, you’ve got everything you need. What I’m looking to do is bring a world class set up to Dubai, I want all my athlete friends to come and compete here at the venue. I’m sure we can get it done. We’ve got the spring camp coming up for the kids as well so we’re looking to inspire them.”
Despite a glittering career on the track Turner it wasn’t until he was in his early twenties that he realised he could reach the top. “I didn’t think I was going to be in the Olympics, my first ever championships was when I was 23, which was the Olympics. Before that I just wasn’t good enough. These things take time and some people are born with the talent and others take longer to develop it, that’s what I did. And at 23 I was just starting really and others had won loads of medals, so every journey is different. My advice to any kids would be to never give up.”
“When I was 16 I was good, I was the quickest schoolboy in the country but then each year the hurdles get taller and I couldn’t do the high ones, so people who I was beating were now beating me. Then I went off to college and there were times where I was just doing it for the sake of doing it rather than I thinking something could come of it. And it took one race for everything to come together and for me to think it could be a career.”
ISD Athletics is holding its first Spring Camp at Dubai Sports City starting March 28th for boys and girls aged 5-18.
ISD Athletics also offers Adult Boot Camps every Saturday at Dubai Sports City.
For more information, please visit isddubai.com or call 058-285-8239.
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