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Meet Che Richards, student and Olympic hopeful

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We caught up with one of Edinburgh’s most imposing freshers (he’s 6“8!) to talk all things life and long jump.

It all started out early for Richards, with joining his primary school athletics team. “I don’t recall with conviction, but I signed up to the 100m/200m and long jump,” he tells us. But it was after joining the Neon Trackers Athletics Club at home in Trinidad and Tobago that athletics became a passion, “when I met Ms. George (the coach at his current club, Oasics) I took the long jump seriously… she introduced me to the national record holder Wendell Williams,” and they’ve been training together ever since.

Although not always written in the stars, Che’s assures me that him and long jump, “have become good friends.” And when it comes to being in competition scenarios Che Richards knows how to stay focussed: “I think I fall into the category of athletes who just like to put headphones on and listen to music and just focus on what’s ahead. Listen to music, pray, laugh with others to ease the tension. That’s me.”

Those tactics certainly seemed to pay off Last season as Richards put in some really strong performances that culminated in a massive jump of 7.53m, leaving him just 2cm off World Junior Standard.

He says: “Last year was my last as a junior athlete and ending it with a jump like that was great. I ended the season at the top of the national rankings and Trinidad and Tobago junior and senior champion!”

Despite coming so close to a World Junior place, Che reiterated his satisfaction at his lofty achievements: “I was happy, I’ve come a long way and I have something to look forward to in my senior career. I’d say that (the past season) sets a precedent for my senior career.”

When it comes to idols, Che Richards has a few, but he doesn’t want to get bogged down in comparisons. “I want to be the Che Richards I have in my mind so I’m working towards that but I can respect another athlete for their accomplishments.” Che mentions guys like Bob Beamon, Usain Bolt and Serena Williams, although he stresses he’s not handy with a racket.

Che’s certainly got a burgeoning career ahead of him, but why bring that to Britain - and why Edinburgh? “I won a national scholarship from the government of Trinidad and Tobago where I could have gone anywhere in the world," he says. "It was always one of my goals to go to England and study law. I expanded to incorporate Scotland, more so Edinburgh, given the great sporting facilities and the balance I was afforded.”

On Edinburgh life Che was pretty positive too: “Edinburgh life has been great so far. It’s a bit colder than I’m used to, but I’m adapting. I’m able to strike a 50/50 balance between my academic and sporting life. The sports programme has been great and law is manageable, so I would say that every week I’m reminded I made the right decision in coming to Edinburgh.”

When it comes to balancing sport and his studies Che is very realistic: “Law is tough. Any degree is tough, and it’s not something you can do using a short-cut. I’ve been juggling sports and studies for a long time now so the most important thing for me is finding a schedule which works.”

Che mixes it up, training six days a week, sometimes in between lectures and hill sessions at Arthur's Seat on Sundays. It’s not all work and no play, but Che is honest about his commitments: “I love watching and playing tennis. Every other weekend I try to go out with friends. The thing I’ve come to learn about improvements in sports is that you have to be willing to sacrifice some of your wants, and for me that means part of my social life.” Although he assures me Law is having a good go at doing that anyway.

When it comes to giving advice to other budding student athletes Che takes a similar tack. - "to take the initiative, make a schedule that works for you, and be honest with yourself with regards to your goals.”

With such a grounded attitude and undoubted potential there’s every chance we might be adding Che Richards to that list of track and field superstars one day.

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