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Versatile Knight channelling learned instinct ahead of hopeful Olympic bow

Jessie Knight soared to glory at the British Athletics Indoor Championships in Glasgow in February

Growing up, running fast wasn’t just something Jessie Knight did to win trophies and medals - it was the one opportunity she had to express herself.

It was the chance to recognise her own potential, and to have the confidence to believe in her own abilities, as well as connect with people – it brought her out of her shell.

From there, the Surrey-born star has glittered on the track, culminating in 400m gold at the British Athletics Indoor Championships in Glasgow in February.

And in light of her success, Knight knows her ascent to the highest stage wouldn’t have been possible without the help of an old schoolteacher, a man she owes everything to, but has never had the opportunity to thank. 

“I was eight when I got into athletics. I had a teacher called Mr Bezodes in year four and I was really shy as a child. I didn’t speak to anyone but my family, but he changed everything,” the 25-year-old said. 

“He saw I had a bit of speed and forced me to do sports day, forced me to go to district sports, and then I’d go there and win. Suddenly my mum was like, ‘You’re really fast, do you want to go to a club?’ so I joined Epsom & Ewell Harriers which was my local club.

“I can remember being a junior but racing at women’s level, and it was nice realising I was quite good at it. It’s all stemmed from Mr Bezodes – I’m not in touch with him anymore unfortunately but I would love him to see me running because it was him that got me into it at the start.”

Guidance at such a young age can be vital for so many young children, and as a beneficiary of that Knight knows all too well how much the right teaching environment can help the youth of today.

That goes some way to explain how she manages to balance training, working as a teacher at Danetree Primary School in Epsom, as well as winning titles on the track.

It’s a juggling act of two careers that your average human would struggle to do either of, but Knight isn’t someone who does things by halves. 

She tried, but the lure of the competition reeled her back in. 

“I just had one year off. It was my NQT year as a newly-qualified teacher and it was just too hard. I was working, marking books until about 10pm so it was basically impossible and I wasn’t willing to do this half-heartedly - it was all or nothing,” Knight said.

“I decided to leave it there and focus on my career, but I just missed it. That reignited my love for the sport in a way because I really missed it and I think it had become part of my life because I’d been doing since I was eight.

“So now I’m even more passionate about it which is probably why I’m putting a bit more into training and I’m seeing the results.”

At 25-years-old Knight is running as quick as ever, thanks in part to changing to the guidance of coach Marina Armstrong last year, which seems to have brought the best out of her abilities.

A new personal best of 51.57s set at the Muller Indoor Grand Prix in Glasgow earlier this year is testament to that, and sees Knight in the conversation for Olympic or European qualification later in the year, if the events go ahead.

But as someone who keeps her feet firmly on the ground, Knight is focused on taking every day as it comes, with everything achieved from now a bonus. 

She added: “It’s been very gradual for me and stalemate at times, but I think having found Marina Armstrong everything has come together. Fingers crossed it can continue.

“With the 400m you can have more speed-based or endurance-based training and in the past I’m not sure the training programmes were right for me.

“Going into training we’re not going to think about the Olympics and the Europeans, we’re just going to take it session by session and give it everything.

“I know it’s going well but I don’t like to think about the end goal because it just adds unnecessary pressure which I don’t think helps.”