200m sprinter Julian Thomas is competing at the end of this month in the UK Championships, to be held at Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium. In this Q&A, he discusses his hopes for the future and his support for the HIV public awareness campaign, Saving Lives.
Q: You enter the UK championships this month in good shape – what are your hopes for it?
Julian Thomas: Yes, I’m really proud of my recent record: I’m now ranked fourth in the country, and go into the UK Championships with what I feel is some real momentum. I’m looking to perform to the best of my ability – my real aim, of course, is to make it into Great Britain’s Olympics team for 2012.
Q: That would be a real result for you for more than the obvious reasons – you’ve experienced some serious setbacks, haven’t you?
JT: I was forced out of athletics during the 2007-8 season when I contracted meningitis, yes. That turned into peritonitis as a result of a ruptured appendix – I was very ill for a time. All that time out meant I lost all the rankings I’d achieved as a result of winning gold at the Commonwealth Youth Championships, Silver at the European Junior Championships, and others.
Q: The forthcoming event is a big moment for you, then: what do the Olympics mean to you?
JT: Every athlete aims for the Olympics, of course. But 2012 is special for me because it’s going to take place in my home country, in front of a home crowd and my friends and family. The opportunity to show the nation what you can do, to make them proud, would be so precious. That’s why I’m going to try my hardest at Alexander Stadium!
Q: You have time for other things, too, though: you’re very active amongst charities.
JT: I believe in trying to give something back. I’ve raised money for the Sickle Cell Trust, Cancer Research, the Street Games Initiative and more. I did a sponsored run for the Sickle Cell Trust at the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002, and that in particular was a pretty special event – but getting kids off the street here in Birmingham and into sports is terrifically rewarding, too.
Q: So what’s driven you to choose Saving Lives as your most recent charitable cause?
JT: Health issues have always been of interest to me: I work part time with Primecare GP out of hours services in assisting doctors on home visits within the Birmingham and Dudley region. But Saving Lives speaks for itself: one in four of those with HIV in the UK do not know they’re infected. That means they can’t access life-saving treatment – and drugs today can provide normal life expectancies if prescribed early enough. It also means they might be unknowingly infecting others. If we can get more people tested more regularly, we’ll save not just their lives but those of their partners. That makes Saving Lives not just a good cause and a pressing public health issue, but a relatively easy one to explain: so anything I can do to help get this message out there I’m very happy to do.