Despite an injury-ravaged year, Julian Forte will finally make his debut at an Olympic Games.
Back in 2016, the former Wolmer's Boys' School standout finished third in the 200 metres at the national trials which typically ensures automatic selection. However, sprint legend Usain Bolt did not compete at the event due to injury and handed in a medical exemption which kept him in consideration for selection.
Unfortunately for Forte, Bolt was given the nod and went on to win gold in Rio.
This time around, Forte was selected run the 200m in Tokyo, despite pulling up injured in the final at this year's senior championships. He, along with Yohan Blake and Rasheed Dwyer, were the only men to achieve the Olympic qualifying standard mark of 20.24 seconds.
However, he has mixed emotions heading into competition, largely due to the pandemic.
“A lot of things you would enjoy about the Olympics aren't going to be there. No spectators, the village is completely different to facilitate certain protocols so it's not going to feel the same,” he said. “I feel excited about representing my country at the Olympics but I feel it's more about being able to complete my contractual obligations to my sponsors than actually about me being at the Olympics. It won't feel the same.”
Many expected him to be one of the most talked about athletes after an impressive junior career along with personal best times of 9.91 seconds in the 100m set in 2017 and 19.97 seconds in the 200m set in 2016.
However, it has not been smooth sailing for Forte and wishes critics would understand.
“There's pressure to perform when you're highly touted so a lot of people are expecting you to do well. A lot of athletes don't want to admit it but there's pressure there so it becomes harder to perform under that pressure, that's natural,” he said. “It's a little bit more complexed than just running fast as a junior and then run fast as a senior. It's not that simple. I wish it was, but the road is complicated and filled with obstacles.”
Nevertheless, he's expected to go up against some of the fastest men in the world when the 200m in Tokyo begins on Monday, August 2. Whilst a medal in the event may be the main goal for some, his primary objective is to compete injury free.
“Right now, I just want to get healthy enough to be able run well at the championships and if I get healthy enough, anything is possible,” he said. “My focus is on the present so it's about getting this hamstring healthy and making sure I can be in the best possible shape at the Olympics and then we take it from there.”
This will be Forte's third time competing in an individual event at a major championship after being a semi-finalist at the 2015 and 2017 world championships.