Hometown Hero: Joy Eze is the new European U20 100m Champion

Pharmacy student Joy Eze ran an 11.39 to claim European gold in Jerusalem

Castor Chan
14th September 2023
Image credit: Joy Eze
All eyes were on the British duo who lit up the women’s 100m track, but it was Joy Eze’s supreme effort that put her on top. Despite Renee Regis narrowing down the lead to a final gap of 0.1 seconds, it was no match for Joy’s stellar pace right off the line. 

Having been part of Great Britain’s winning U20 4x100m lineup in 2021, Joy has had a taste of European victory before. But this solo accomplishment not only supersedes her 2021 100m bronze medal, she is the first British athlete to take gold in this discipline since 2011. We sat down with Joy to find out more about her training, her degree, and what it’s like being the European U20 champion.

How are you feeling right now?

It’s hard to explain really, once you understand it’s actually happened it becomes reality. It’s like a sense of relief because everyone is working to become European Champion, everyone my age wants it. And all the training sessions I was putting in, the competitions didn’t do very well in but just kept pushing, all the injuries I had this year - it just makes it all worth it. It’s hard to explain, but it does feel good to reap the rewards of my hard work. 

When did you get into running?

I got into running when I was in Year 4 because of my headteacher at my primary school, he’s still my coach now, and he saw that I was good at athletics at that age. I started off with cross country, as anyone who does athletics will tell you, and then he said ‘Join a group and see how you progress, see if you like it’. And now I’m still here. 

Having also competed in other disciplines like the 60m and the 4x100m relay, do you have a favourite event and why?

I’d like to say I prefer the 100m but 60m is very close. I like how the race is over and done in several seconds, I don’t like running for long. (This is why me and 200m don’t go well together!) But definitely 100m, that’s when I can express myself. It is also a popular event, if you do the 100m everyone’s watching. I like that, it brings out my competitiveness.

100m, that’s when I can express myself... if you do the 100m everyone’s watching. 

You run for the Gateshead Harriers, what kind of support is needed to get someone to a championship-level athlete?

Having a sports coach that understands your training needs but also that you have a life as well. They know that some days you are not going to be at your best and will work the training around that, and obviously understands your schedule and other things going on in your life. I think it’s more so knowing people rather than what you know; I have a good team, a physio, a nutritionist, a massage therapist, etc. They all help me to be at the level I am at, it’s not just one person, it’s a community. As they say ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, I’ve been at Gateshead for a long time, I know all the coaches and they always tell mine ‘You should try this’, so everyone kind of helps out.

What made you choose Newcastle University?

I feel that this is a really important point of my career, you’ve got big championships coming up, European seniors next year, the Olympics next year, and Worlds going forward, so I wanted to stay in Newcastle where I’m already set up. The transition from U20 to seniors is hard enough [as it is], if I stayed here it would be one less thing to worry about. I’ve been with my coach for ten years now, you can’t find someone who can understand you that easily in a different city. I would like to move out of Newcastle, I don’t want to be here forever, but that’s for me after my degree.

I’m sure your routines are a little different to the typical Newcastle student. Run us through what a week looks like for you.

Monday: I’ll have gym at maybe 5 or 6 pm after my lectures.

Tuesday: Training in the evening after lectures and I’ll have a break in between for studying.

Wednesday: This is my rest day, so after uni I’ll go home and sleep, catch up on any notes I need to make or meet friends.

Thursday: Lectures, then I’ve got my evening running session again in Gateshead.

Friday: Rest day.

Saturday: Gym/running session in the morning, then the rest of the day to myself.

Sunday: Rest day.

In between days and sessions, I’ll also do some running and stretching to keep my body fluid, I need to be moving around all the time.

The only thing you can control is how well you run.

Apart from the physical training, what would you say is the most important part of your mental preparation?

If you have religion, stick with it. I’m a Christian, and I always make sure to pray about my races, to trust in God for everything that He has done for me. It’s also knowing that you’ve done the best you can to get to where you are. There’s no point worrying about what you can’t control, the only thing you can control is how well you run. I try not to focus on anyone else apart from myself, which can be hard when they’re running next to me. I can’t control how anyone else runs, so I just trust in God.

Now that you’re the best junior in Europe, what is your next goal?

Definitely the Olympics. Any athlete you ask will want to make it to the Olympics. Who knows if it will be next year, but I want to get to at least one Olympics in my career. That is my biggest goal, but I also have small ones. For example, I want to be improving my times, having appearances at certain competitions, and doing well at my age group championships etc. because there are certain steps you have you take, you can’t just shoot straight to the Olympics. Some people have, but that’s not how it is for the majority so I have to focus on those mini goals. 

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