RABAH YOUSIF quite rightly describes his forthcoming appearance for Team GB at the Rio Olympics as scarcely believable.
It was only four years ago that the runner competed at London 2012 for Sudan – country of his birth and the place he called home until he was 15 years old.
In eight days’ time, Yousif will pull on the Team GB vest in South America in the 400m and then later the 400m relay.
The stunning story is, by and large, down to Yorkshire and the city of Middlesbrough – which the forever-grateful Yousif has vowed to never to leave.
A son of an athlete and a brother to one, Yousif’s British adventure actually began while training with fellow Sudanese athletes in Sheffield in 2000.
The runner applied for British asylum which was initially rejected but eventually accepted, leaving the runner to be housed in Wolverhampton.
Middlebrough has played a big part of my life, it opened door for me. I’ll never leave.”Rabah Yousif
The athlete then received a transfer – to Middlesbrough – and Yousif has not looked back – meeting both his eventual wife and mother to his children in Sophie Legg, and also his coach Carol Williams.
With British citizenship finally granted in 2013, Yousif was able to represent Team GB at both the 2014 and 2016 European Championships – where he bagged gold and silver in the 4 x 400m relays respectively – and also the 2015 Worlds where he snared bronze in the same event.
Now comes his British Olympic debut – for which Yousif cannot wait. Nor can he over-emphasise the role played by Middlesbrough and Yorkshire.
“It’s a crazy one!” says Yousif, speaking exclusively to The Yorkshire Post.
“If you told me 11/12 years ago that I would be sat here talking about representing Team GB at the Olympics I would absolutely tell you no! But it feels great to be at the top level as an athlete and I am very excited about representing Team GB. It was a long trek for me and coming to Middlesbrough was actually the start of me deciding my future as an athlete. I linked up with a very good family for me and Carol Williams coached me and looked after me really well.
“Middlesbrough has played a big part of my life, it opened doors for me – I wasn’t going to be here without the back up I got from locals who treated me like one of their own. That’s what I need to go out there and get the job done.”
Yousif certainly did just that with victory at last year’s British trials – which was followed by a fantastic sixth-placed finish in that summer’s World Championship 400m final in Beijing. A time of 44.68 put Yousif close to the British record and the runner is now quietly optimistic about his chances in Rio.
“I’ve got nothing to prove to anybody,” he said. “I won the trials last year and went out to the world championships final last year and ran pretty close to the national record so I have done big things in this last year. I can do some damage and you can’t count me out.”
Count in also, that any gold post box will be heading to Middlesbrough – which Yousif says will now remain his home forever more. He explained: “The club that I joined is in London. It doesn’t even make sense, I live in Middlesbrough and the club I compete for is in London. But I’ll never leave Middlesbrough – I’ve got a lot of memories, I’m settled there and everything good and nothing bad happened to me there. I’m very happy to stay there for life.”