Darryl Neita

I know it’s only mid-May – and as my old friend Kriss Akabusi used to say, they don’t give out any medals in May – but you cannot deny that Darryl Neita is flying. Two Diamond Leagues, separate distances, and two wins. You cannot ask for more.

In Sukhou/Shanghai, in the 200 meters, she was the 7th fastest on paper in the race. Three of the field were sub-22 runners. While Darryl was running her first 200 of the year, all the others had at least one under their belt this season. Neita won in 22.66 from Anavia Battle, with Sha’Carri Richardson third. She commented afterward: “I feel amazing. It was such a strong field; running that time at this stage of the season is amazing. To hear the crowd, who were so loud and received so much support from the Chinese people, was something else. My main focus for the rest of the season is to stay healthy and in one piece. I hope to really win a medal at the Olympics.”

In Doha, it was 100 meters with the win in 10.98, beating Tamari Davis for the second week running.  She summed up her performance: “I am thrilled with the race today. I have not run a 100 meters since the semifinal in the Budapest World Championships, so it feels good to win in the Diamond League and especially to do so in Doha. It is a great place. The crowd was amazing. I had not expected such a loud crowd, but it was wonderful, and the atmosphere was so good. I will take it race by race when it comes, and during the process, I hope to stay humble and healthy. I am aiming for medals”.

Daryll Neita, British Champs 2023, by Getty Images for British Athletics

I have been privileged to follow Darryl’s career throughout. I have always appreciated her honesty in interviews. In the Rio Olympics, she missed the semi-final by one-hundredth of a second. I sympathized, but she would not have it, telling me, “I ran tragically badly.”

In 2021, she ran 10.96 in the Olympic prelim, repeating the time in Lausanne. In Zurich, when she ran 10.93, I congratulated her on another sub-11. She replied, “Thank you, but I cannot allow sub-11 to be special. It has to be normal.”

Darryl called 2022 ‘the year off the hundredth’, explaining, “I didn’t qualify for the worlds in the 200m by 1/100th. I ran 10.90 as a PB, but 10.89 would have been lovely! I was 1/100th away from the 100m final in Oregon. And in Munich [European Championships], I was 1/100th away from the gold.” In the Commonwealth Games, she ran 10.90 in the semi but just 11.07 in the final, taking bronze behind Elain Thompson-Herah. The season included another 6 legal sub-11 runs.

Daryll Neita, photo by Getty Images for British Athletics

In 2023 in the Worlds, she was fifth in the 200, running a PR of 22.16, but missed the final of the 100 by 2/100 ths this time.  She also won her first Diamond League race – a 200 in Stockholm.  It has been several years of steady progress.  Her assessment of her progress confirms that humble confidence: “I remember the days when I was trying to break 11.2, so running sub 11 is always a good achievement.  I think being able consistently to run sub 11 is huge.  A dream for so many people.  To be in the 10-second club (sub 11 clubs) because it really feels like a private members’ club because not everyone can do it.  I wouldn’t call 10.95/10.97 a disappointment, but now I always feel that I’m capable of more”.

Daryll Neita, British Champs, photo by Getty Images for British Athletics

2014-19, Darryl was coached by Jonas Dodoo in the UK, but when she sensed she needed something different, she made the courageous decision to relocate to the USA to work with Rana Reider. When problems arose, the easy choice was to return to the UK, but instead, she relocated to Italy to work with Marco Airale. She credits him with her progress: “Marco is an absolute genius.  He ticks every single box; he covers everything.  No corners are cut.  We train very hard.  He’s just dedicated, focused, and passionate about what he does.  He wants to get the best out of us.  It’s great.  He’s a good coach!  Marco is just so refreshing.  Working with somebody so hungry and dedicated to what he does is so nice.  He loves track and field.  It is literally his passion.  And I love track and field as well so it’s nice to be around someone who is just focused on wanting to be better, to be around someone who brings out the best in you.  He creates a light-hearted environment for you to focus on the training in hand and have a bit of fun.  I just feel happy that I have found a coach I can be with for the rest of my career.  It’s a really nice environment”.

I have no doubt that there’s more to come for Darryl this season.