Dwain Chambers — Olympic Sprinter, Youngest-Ever World Championship Medalist, and Former European Record-Holder

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[00:00:00] Hello and thank you for joining us. My name is Richard Gerver. I've worked in education, human development and leadership for the last three decades. In this podcast series, I'm chatting to a diverse range of inspirational people from a number of different fields, from business, sports, the arts, education, politics, and philanthropy, to explore what our young people and organizations really need in order to thrive, not just survive, in times of increasing change and uncertainty.

Richard Gerver: Welcome to The Learning Bridge. Today, my guest is, well, I suppose I can admit this on camera. My guest is a guy that I saw as a hero. A British Olympian, an extraordinary athlete, but [00:01:00] also a man who has gone through the incredible ups and downs of success, of challenge, and all the things that, that come with that.

My guest today is also, and correct me if I'm wrong, Dwayne, one of the few sprinters that has actually beaten Usain Bolt. We'll get on to that, I'm sure. I mean, my greatest triumph was coming third in the dad's race in my kid's sports day, but which I think has an equity to your achievements.

Today is Dwayne Chambers. Dwayne, thank you so much for joining us on this podcast. Thank you, Richard.

Dwain Chambers: I like that little analogy of me and you saying Bolt and yourself in the same comparison of the Dads Race. You have

Richard Gerver: no idea how seriously those Dads took the Dads Race, Dwayne, right? I turned up one year and one Dad stripped off down to lycra and running spikes.

I mean He

Dwain Chambers: was ready.

Richard Gerver: So, look, I mean For those people that maybe , don't know [00:02:00] as much as others about you, can you tell us just a little bit about yourself, about , a little bit about your achievements and what you're up to at the moment?

Dwain Chambers: Right, so I've been an international athlete for the best part of 30 years.

I started my career at the tender age of 14 and within two years of starting my career, I was the fastest teenager in the whole entire planet. So I just want to put that into perspective, like how big the planet is and how many people participate in sport? I was the fastest teenager in the whole entire planet.

So with that being the case, I had a wealth of talent and ability, and as we delve further into this little talk, you'll understand the pitfalls of lack of education, and where that followed me throughout my career, and ultimately came to a point where it came, And it caused me to make some poor decisions.

But in terms of my athletics career I'm the only athlete to have run sub 10 seconds across three decades. There's no athlete in the entire world that's ever done that. I still hold the British record for the [00:03:00] 60 metres. For the 60 metres, I am the eighth fastest man in history. So that includes athletes like Maurice Green, Andre Kaysen Christian Coleman.

There's a handful of athletes who have marginally run faster than me. I have run under 10 seconds five times. I've raced the great Carl Lewis. I've raced Usain Bolt. I've raced Limpa Christie. I've raced Donovan Bailey. You name it, I've been there, done it. And with that wealth of experience, it's brought me to a point where I live life on both sides of the coin.

And I can also offer advice in terms of how you get up when things don't go so well. It's easy to win. That's not what challenges you. The winning part is easy. It's how you get up when things don't go so well. So, that's why I thought my entirety of experience within sport and life has put me to a point where you and I are going to have a conversation that delve a little bit deeper.

Richard Gerver: Brilliant, so much. Honestly, it just blows my mind every [00:04:00] time you mention those things. And I'm just thinking about , the fastest teenager in the world. Unbelievable, absolutely unbelievable. And then the generations of athletes you've competed against. I mean, right the way back to the Carl Lewis all the way.

forwards. I mean, when we're off camera, I'm going to ask you which ones of those guys you actually liked, but that's for another day. That's for another day. So, so there you were, right? 14 years old. By 14, you were already competing, which means you must have been training to an extremely high level.

How did you get from being , Dwayne Chambers toddler, normal child, to being Dwayne Chambers, who was Running extraordinary times as a 14 year old. So, what did that pathway, that little bit of the pathway look like to you? How were you identified as a supreme athlete? And then, how did you get engaged in high level athletics?

Dwain Chambers: So, I want to put into a little scenario. I want you to imagine a young man or young kid, for example, [00:05:00] been in their room throughout the whole entirety of the summer holidays. Not allowed out, listening to all their friends, laughing, cheering, screaming in the street and wishing you could be outside and being free as them.

That was me. So I was, myself and my two younger siblings were brought up in a very physically and mentally abusive household. So with that being the case, we weren't allowed out, we weren't allowed to express ourselves, we weren't given freedom to just be kids. And the only time we were allowed out was when my stepfather wasn't in the house and my mum was like, okay, go out and have a little bit of a run around.

But then she had to keep herself somewhat quiet so she didn't get us in trouble and we had to do the same for her. So I spent days, weeks, months wishing that I could be as free as these young, my friends that were outside playing. And what got me to where I was the ability of me creating this little mind board.

I would cut out images in catalogs and newspapers and magazines and comics of the [00:06:00] things I wish I could have. That would be cars, it would be houses, it would be destinations, it would be items of clothing, and I was watching them all day because I couldn't do anything else. And the more I imagined these things happening, as time went along, The more these things actually start to materialise, I then had the freedom to go to a track, and that came in the shape and form of my primary school teacher, Mr Dave May.

I remember clearly to this day, he would say to me, Dwayne, boy, you give me trouble, but Jesus, can you run fast? And he introduced me to a guy called Chris, and Chris took me under his wing and showed me the ropes. And what was the defining moment in my career from that tender age of 14, 15, was the praise.

And the rewards and the encouragement I received out of the house was more enjoyable than the non praise, non encouragement, and mass of physical abuse I was receiving in the house. So, my coach then moved me on to another guy called Selwyn, and it was Selwyn's, it was the [00:07:00] ability that Selwyn had to come and get me from my house and say you're coming to training that got me out of my house.

If it wasn't for him coming to my house, I would not be in this position talking to you, this career of mine wouldn't have happened.

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Richard Gerver: Unbelievable. I mean, there's a couple of things, sorry Dwayne, that I just want to pick up on, which I think are so intensely powerful in what you've just said. The first is this idea of a mind board, which , one of the things that struck me throughout my time as a teacher, and I worked in areas of social debt were, You know, that fundamental thing that we had to help our kids to dream, because a lot of those kids, because of, for different types, some similar experiences to yours, some for different reasons.

Those kids never had, nothing lights the flame, because unless you've got something to light the flame, right, it's , it's a dead handle. And I think that's so important. I mean, there's a couple of observations that I'd love you to just. [00:08:00] Was there anyone in your life at any point that said, Oh , mind board's a good idea?

Or was that purely something that just came from your own imagination?

Dwain Chambers: It just came from my own imagination. It's the fact that I was bored. I was bored and I thought what else can I do to occupy my mind and I had tons of magazines and comics and catalogs and I cut them out. I liked symmetry so I placed them in particular orders and before I knew it I had a big A5 piece of paper with everything I wanted, the things I liked, cars, you name it.

And then before I knew it, I had all these things, and I thought, these are the things I like. And then it got to the point where I thought, okay, with that car, what kind of would I like? What would I do with it? Would I put a speaker in the boot? What kind of alloys would I put on it? And I started to detail every image.

Holiday destinations, where on the beach would I like to be? What would I like for breakfast? I went into that much detail. Wow. Well, how? Because I had time on my hands. So with my kids now, I encourage boredom [00:09:00] because it gets them thinking, it starts using parts of their brain that is normally occupied with their devices.

Richard Gerver: See, I think that is just pure gold in our first question, right? That idea for me , because sometimes Kids need that support, that stimulation. And again, what I think is fascinating about your story so far, one is , despite the abuse and horrors of what you must have been party to in your own home, there was the constancy of your mother.

So you had a parent who, was, showed you love and care and amidst, if you like, the war zone you were living in. Sometimes, as we know, some kids grow up devoid of that altogether. And I just love the idea for educators to say to some of the kids in that position, start a mind board start an ambition board.

And of course, perversely, for kids today, it would be even easier than it was for you because of the access to technology. So, I mean, I just, I love that. And the second thing I wanted [00:10:00] to touch on from your first answer is this thing about, and I think sometimes we underestimate this, right? The, when kids are growing up in challenging, challenging circumstances, The refuge that a school or , a coach or can provide.

And what do you think, I mean, you talked about your teacher, you talked about a couple of your coaches. You know, what do you think was the importance of the way they behaved towards you that allowed you to love and trust them in the way that you did?

Dwain Chambers: The fact that they were warm hearted, they weren't physically abusing me, and they spoke to me in a way that was easy for me to understand.

So I coach in a way that I wish I was coached. I talk in a way I wish I was spoken to. Now there's a time and a place you've got to get a little bit sharp with your children. You know, sometimes you're just repeating the same problems over and over in their life. I've said this a thousand times now, what's going on here.

However, when it was [00:11:00] more of, I realised how I operate. If you give me suggestions, I can come to my own conclusion. If you tell me what to do, I back off and I rebel. So it's taken me a long time to realise what kind of individual I am and how I process information. But that wasn't taught to me, I just had to learn on the job.

You know, so, and it took me a long time to voice my opinion on, this is how I'd like to deal with things. Whereas I was afraid, because of the abuse that we went through as young children, I was afraid to say, Please don't talk to me that way because this is how I process it, and I'll shut down. But it takes a certain character to say this.

because you're afraid of offending people. And again, that's what an issue that me and my siblings had. We were afraid of saying things in case it offended people or they disliked it. Because anytime we told the truth or lied, we got physically abused for it.

Richard Gerver: Yeah, [00:12:00] sorry. Again, sorry to cut across you there, Duane.

One of the things that I think is fascinating about your insights here, we have camps, don't we? And particularly In countries like, I think at the moment, the UK and the US, in the education system, or in elements of the education system, that believe , rightly, we know that there are very challenging circumstances right now for our children, and some of them are behaving in ways that show that complexity of their lives, the fallout of the pandemic, of all of those things.

And we definitely have , increased numbers of behaviorally challenging. kids in and around, not just our education system, in our communities, in our society, but there seems to be a school of thought, one school of thought, in the education system that what you do is one size fits all and it's purely about laying down the rules, putting kids in a kind of blinkered state, this is the trap, this is how you behave, [00:13:00] and I just wonder from your insight and your view and what I think you're saying.

is it's more nuanced than that, and you need to treat each of those young, you need to find out that what's underneath that for each of those young kids, and particularly what you were saying, and then I'll, was , if you're born into a home, or if you live, sorry, in a house, where there is an abuse you know, power, there's a power thing, an abusive parent, or abusive parents, where you as a child are never allowed to express an opinion or view or to even converse, then actually, I wonder whether that kind of high disciplined, sit down, keep your head down, do as you're told, be silent, actually has an even more profoundly negative impact on children like you were.

Dwain Chambers: It would. And it did. For years. Me and my sisters always say, yeah, we're a little bit Not right in my head because of it. And we openly admit and laugh about it [00:14:00] because we can now. But we say that upbringing had a knock on effect on us. And what's been useful, in my opinion, is the ability now that I can talk.

So I think that has now become very therapeutic for me. Whereas in my early stages, I wouldn't talk, so I didn't know how to express myself. And with poor levels of education, I didn't know the words to use either. So that in itself threw its own sets of challenges in. I was making notes as I was reading some of the questions that you sent earlier in the week.

And I said, I often find kids that are poorly educated, they resort to physical abuse because they don't know how to express themselves. So they've got years of pent up frustration and anger and they lash out as a result. So, that for me is an area that I always try to address when I'm talking to these young students that I work with.

I try to dig a little bit deeper, what's going on at home, how's things? And then if I can [00:15:00] get a better understanding of what's going on outside of the sport, then I can find ways to help them use sport, to relax them, to push them, to, to educate them, to educate themselves. Thanks. To learn how to self coach, I mean by self coach is see when you're approaching mistakes you've made in the past and pull back from them.

Go to one of our coaches and ask advice, how do I handle this? And try and use that advice to push you in another direction.

Richard Gerver: I, and again, I think that is a massively topical issue there. And I think I'd love just to explore that a little bit further with you, this idea of self coaching , because again, one of the things I do a lot in my work is talk to organizations about developing cultures of self leadership, self management.

And I think it's a major issue, not just in the education space, but actually in the modern workspace, that people are too reliant on people managing them. And there are two parts to this question, really, for me that I'd love to explore. The [00:16:00] first is that, how do we get to a place? And I guess professional elite sports is one of these areas.

I talked to , I've talked to a number of people across different sports. Who say , in a way, the golden, the pinnacle of working with an athlete as a coach is getting that athlete to be able to make split second decisions for themselves, to take ownership of their own decisions.

Decision making of, to an element of their training, to their progression. I talk a lot to guys, and you do much more of this than I do in, for example, football. And one of the great complaints in professional football is when things aren't going right on the pitch, the players will look to the coach as if to say, well, what do you want us to do now?

And the coach can't do anything because they're the ones on the field of play. Correct. You know, in that moment. And I'd love to talk about that idea of how do you as a coach, [00:17:00] how do you, in your own history and experience, A, go about developing that sense and superpower in the young athletes you work with, right?

And I suppose the second part for me is how do you marry that to You know, what you've achieved in your life, Duane, isn't just raw talent. I mean, what you've got is a God given talent. Not that I'm in any way jealous of you, but you had a good when God was giving out the talent, right, I was clearly last on the production line.

You can have that bit. But the thing for me is, You had to have, to achieve what you achieved, the discipline levels you had to have were extraordinary. So one, how do you help young athletes , develop the self leadership? And where did that sense of discipline for you come from? Because I cannot imagine what it must be like every single morning [00:18:00] to drive your body to the level you had to drive your body to, to get to the pinnacle that you did in your profession.

Dwain Chambers: All right, so I'm going to touch on the second question self discipline. Yeah. That is something I've constantly had to work on and that's not something you're inherently born with. A lot of self discipline came from the routine we had at home. Routine meaning you got up, you made your bed, you got your uniform on, you had your breakfast, you went to school, you came home, you cleaned, you read, bed.

So I've been somewhat programmed and because of that discipline, I carried it through to sport. I couldn't carry it into education because I didn't have. the mental capacity to sit and read because every time we read and I struggled reading to the point I'll read a sentence and I'll read the same line again over and over my mum or my stepdad would just we would skip yeah so reading this was out of my radar I just didn't like it I wasn't comfortable with it so I knew I was very good at discipline [00:19:00] myself and programming myself so how I carried that into sport I knew to get up every morning and repeat the same routines I had at home and whenever I had a Race or not a race that didn't go so well?

Again, I would revert into myself and that wasn't useful because of the disciplines of what happened at home. I didn't know how to express myself, so I knew how to get ready to perform, but I didn't know how to handle disappointments. So that came with time and that taught, that came with me. Learning to confide in people and talk to people, self-analyzing.

I was very critical because remember you're also criticized by critics, newspapers, journalists, people on the radio. Luckily for us at that, those stages in our lives, we didn't have social media because the abuse would have been tenfold. So it was more handling what the press would say and how do you come back from that?

Do you believe what they [00:20:00] say? Yes, half the time you do because when a number of people continue to say that about you, you start to believe you are that way. Then you start to self question yourself or self doubt yourself. Then you look at yourself and go, okay, why did I not perform? Then when you open your mind to that way of thinking, why did I not perform, you start to go a little bit deeper and you often find that you wasn't eating well, you weren't sleeping well.

There were a number of sessions that you missed across the week, which resulted in a number of sessions you missed across the month, which resulted in a number of sessions you missed across the year. And once you start to have that routine, you start to create holes in the fabric of your performances.

And if those holes get too big, you can't fill it. and you get exposed and then you start to look at what you could do better next time so you don't have the problems and what I then found that sport and life all it is problem solving. If you can learn to solve the problems you stand a greater chance of performing more consistently because even though I've resolved those issues before, poor sleep, poor habits, [00:21:00] there was other issues that then surfaced.

It was raining, it was snowing, it was my spikes fell out, my laces come undone and these are sometimes things you can't plan for They're out of your control. So again, how do you handle things like that? When it was raining, I'd say, Okay, my mindset, Oh, it's raining. I don't want to be here. Whereas more experienced athletes would be like, Okay, it's raining.

This is a chance for me to shine because I know other athletes are going to be struggling. And it's only when I start to talk to people, I'd be like, Ah, it's a shift of mind. I'm training the physical, but I'm lacking this. And it was then that I started to really hone in on being able to move and bounce around with circumstances My thoughts go too far outside and keep everything inside.

So with regards to athletes, what I tend to do with these young athletes now, I use a lot of my experience and I would give them a notepad and I'll ask them to fill in this notepad. How's your day been? What's been going on at home? What do you want to [00:22:00] do today? And from there I can tell them to go and warm up and I'll read this and it gives me an idea of what's going on and what I can expect to get from the athlete.

We'll then come to the end of the session I'll say, okay, what's going on here? Tell me how, what's going on. And at least that way they can leave the training environment with a clear ahead. Cause if they come in with a load of mental junk, they fill it with all their frustration with training. When training gets hard, they're like, Oh, I don't want to do this.

It's filled with more junk. If they walk out of the training environment with all that junk in their head, they're going back into an environment, whether it be home or college or university with more stuff that hasn't been dealt with. And I found over time, when you choose to bury your head in the sand with situations and don't deal with them, They, you bind it, you're going to be burying your head further and further, deeper and deeper, and the only way to move forward is unless you surface.

Deal with it and move forward. And that's how I tend to

Richard Gerver: use things. I think the thing that really strikes me about what you've just said in all of that in the entirety is this [00:23:00] thing about controlling those voices in your own head and the way you process stuff, right? And that talent. of being able to be objective about often highly emotive experiences you have and particularly amongst teenagers, right?

Because their brain chemistry is different from ours. So they tend to , everything tends to be more emotional in that heightened state of the hormones bouncing all over the place. And I think , What you're saying there, which really fascinates me, I mean, it's true of every child, but certainly kids that are coming from really challenging circumstances and challenging environments, because I guess most of us at some point in our lives have felt that moment where If things, if we've had a bad day or a bad week or even a bad month, right, the next bad thing that happens is we almost just go, of course that's going to happen to me.

Everything's rubbish right now, right? Of course that's gonna happen. Oh, another example of why I'm rubbish, or another [00:24:00] example why I'm not worthy, or another example. And I think that talent, and I love your example, The notebook. I, as a teacher, I'm sat here thinking to myself, that would be so useful, particularly with those kids , are challenging , when they first come in the day to say, just spend two, three minutes writing down for me how you the last 24 hours have been or how just so I can.

Just climb inside a little bit and understand where you're, what baggage you're bringing with you today. So I then know on an emotional and intelligent level how I need to work with you today and where, if I suddenly get a tantrum from you, right, where that's coming from. I have, I honestly, I think that this, that is just so powerful.

I mean, look, I want to move on if I can slightly to the Duane Chambers post 14 because what I really want to do at this point in talking to you [00:25:00] is understand what you would have benefited more from as a child in education, both formal education, school education, but also in your coach , the profession , your athletic education.

When you look back now, because hindsight is always the powerful thing, and I often tell people it's not hindsight, it's wisdom. But I , because you have had, and you're very honest about it, right, you've had unbelievable moments of absolute, unadulterated success, and moments which have been really challenging when you look back on.

Richard Gerver: And I'd love just to explore that. So when you look at your working life What have you experienced? You know, first of all, let's talk about post 14 Dwayne. The Dwayne that was on the rise, the Dwayne that really was like the world just couldn't get in your way. Tell us a little bit about that. And then from that, what the factors were in that experience that led to some of the challenges you had in your career?

And thirdly, looking back on [00:26:00] it, what would have helped make those decisions the right ones, perhaps, rather than some of the wrong ones?

Dwain Chambers: Okay, so we'll break it down from the start. So the first one, refresh my brain in

Richard Gerver: that one. So it's post 14 Dwayne on the way up journey to superstar Dwayne

Dwain Chambers: Chambers.

Right, so post 14 Dwayne, I then became a global superstar, obviously becoming the fastest teenager in the entire planet. That for me was great. It, I didn't imagine, I didn't see this on my wisdom, my vision board. I didn't see Dwayne. I had all these luxuries, but I didn't put myself there. So I had no point of thinking about, okay, when Dwayne gets to this point, what is he going to do?

I wasn't prepared. I didn't prepare myself for that. So as I became that much more popular and that much more famous, along came with it, well, all the Harbour Sharks, so agents, money, Women, cars going out more frequently, you name it, it happens. You see it across the [00:27:00] globe, people that come from nothing to something they splurge, as we do.

So in fact, it brought its own set of problems because I didn't know who to trust, and I didn't understand that word. I'm not sure if many people understand what the word trust means, because if you're going to put all your ideas, ambitions, goals in the hands of somebody else, then you're already setting yourself up to fail, because you've got to trust yourself first.

You've But how do you tell a teenager, a 15, 16 year old, to trust yourself and make right decisions? The only way you can come to that conclusion is by falling and seeing how people are when you're up. Seeing how people are when you're shaky. Seeing how people are when you need their advice and what they say.

And especially seeing how people are and seeing how you are when you're down. And until you've gone through every possible scenario, Then you can really identify who you are and how you act around other people. So again, I went through that phase where I got really successful really popular.

I continued to stay focused. That was important to me because the [00:28:00] physical and mental abuse we had from my stepfather was just getting in the way. And I did everything to avoid that because I wanted to keep my mind clear on running. Anytime I had to deal with him, it deflected me. I lost my focus. So when I got successful.

Popularity came, but my insecurities were following me. My insecurities were following me. My lies were following me. All these things that were happening to me. I kept on lying about them and say, I'll do it later. Putting things off, lying to women. Yeah. I haven't got a girlfriend. When I was just a mess and it was a disaster waiting to happen.

Richard Gerver: There's a couple of things before you go on, sorry, that just really fascinate me about this. The first is going back to the mood board, and I think this is a really potent lesson, because I wonder sometimes whether, when we start to have aspirations or dreams, I think what you've just said is [00:29:00] so unbelievably powerful.

You know, that mood board was filled with the cars, the holidays, the destinations, the clothes, the watches, the blah, blah, blah, blah, and then. There was not one picture there of Dwayne. In other words, there was no, it was almost this belief that it was the superficial stuff that will give you the contentment and the joy and the happiness.


Dwain Chambers: Correct.

Richard Gerver: And I think , again, I think one of the great challenges. That I think I see, and you must too because again, you are working with young athletes, for example, many of whom who wanna be the best of Dwayne Chambers, right? They're working with Dwayne Chambers and they're thinking, oh, and there is always gonna be in some young people this belief.

I wanna be Dwayne Chambers, not because. I've proved that I can overcome my barriers, that I can push myself to a hundredth of a second faster than I thought I could, or any of those things, but because I want to have fast cars, I want to be on the telly, I want to be blah blah blah blah [00:30:00] blah. And I think there's a lesson in, for all of us in that, and particularly those working with young people, that we have to , We have to get young people to see themselves at the center of these mood boards, right?

And the second thing is the issue of trust. And I think this is, again, so incredibly powerful. How on earth do we learn to, who do we trust? You know, what are the signs? What do we look for? And so just moving your, so there you were, right? You were this version of yourself and inevitably all of a sudden it's the perversity of the society we live in.

This successful young boy who nobody would have looked at. You know, years before. Suddenly everybody wants to be your friend, but they don't, do they? What they want is they want to exploit you, and they want to make money off you, and they want to rise themselves off the back of [00:31:00] you.

And looking back on that now, do you think there is anything that externally, any advice that was lacking that you would put in place now for the if you know, if you were working with Dwayne Chambers now, what, as a kid, what would, what was missing? What would have helped you find out how to trust people?

Or whom to trust?

Dwain Chambers: Good question. And I would say, if I was talking to Dwayne then, I would say, go and talk to people who have been there, done it. But the people that were currently doing well in their careers didn't really want to delve into what really was going on. Why? Because it meant they were putting too much attention on their wrongdoings.

That's the problem. We're getting advice from people who are also doing nonsense and messing around and cheating and they're not prepared to talk about it. So you're not really getting a full picture. So who do you trust? You trust them because they've been pinned up as these [00:32:00] idols on the television.

They're the best, the greatest. But lo and behold, these people still have to go home and self analyse themselves. And they've got their own set of issues mentally. We all do. People who, in the psychology world, still need mental management. Because despite what you're doing, even though I have, we have close to a hundred young children in my academy, and a handful of them have mental health issues to some degree.

And yes, we share the load amongst our cultures, but it's still taking that baggage home with you. So who's managing you? I'm talking to myself, who manages me? Who do I talk to, to then offload? And then that offloading, you jump onto somebody else that they needed to. So it's tricky to know who to trust. So I always revert to the fact that trust yourself first, know your patterns, know when you're about to go and mess up.

And the strength comes from seeing yourself going down that road and pulling back. If you're an athlete that likes to [00:33:00] work hard in training, but then goes to fast food restaurants for the rest of the day and week, then you have to self check yourself and be open and honest. You know, I need to leave that alone because coaches ask me why I'm not performing and I'm lying saying, Oh, I just, I'm just tired today.

But really it's a problem with your eating. So I'm glad I'm saying this because I went through this. A number of athletes do it, they won't admit it, because they're afraid of the embarrassment. But it's by exposing yourself, gives you the opportunity to be like, Okay, these are things I'm aware of, these are the things that people see.

So when people comment about what's going on, they're seeing what I'm prepared to not talk about. So now I just, nowadays I just say it as it is. You know what though,

Richard Gerver: what struck me the first time I met you, was Besides everything else , in , in the world, we kind of all, we move in meeting people who are authentic is [00:34:00] actually quite rare.

And you are one of the most authentic people I have, I've ever met, and certainly given the experiences you went through. And I just want to, I want to touch on not necessarily the experiences, but the learning that came from them. And you've touched on it already, right? There you were, absolutely globally renowned, right?

You had, and we don't have to go into these details on this podcast , you had issues that really just pulled everything from underneath you, and I'm not saying you weren't responsible for those things, but you know, We all go through moments where we screw up, right? All of us have moments where we screw up.

Very few of us screw up on a global stage, and so the worst we are is accountable to our friends and family and maybe a few of our work colleagues, right? You were accountable almost to an entire global athletics community, your country, all of those things. What I really want to understand, because I wonder, and it's maybe a challenging [00:35:00] question for you, Did you need that to become the Dwayne Chambers you are now?

In other words, has the honesty and the power and the authenticity, would you be the Dwayne Chambers you are now if you hadn't experienced that adversity? No,

Dwain Chambers: no. And the reason for my adversity, not as a child, but as I developed in my athletic career, I started to doubt myself because I'd gone from a very successful junior to the senior ranks.

And as I got into the senior ranks, even though I was finishing fourth place, which is still an achievement of a 17, 18, 19 year old, because I wasn't bringing home the medals and the trophies, I said, ah, no good. These guys are better than me. So I, I started to doubt myself. So I looked, I left myself open to, I want to know what the others are doing.

And by opening my mind to that level of [00:36:00] curiosity. I said, I wanna know what other people are doing at all costs. I wanna be the best. I wanna be number one. And I don't care how this is where the power of what you say has influenced what opportunities come your way. Said, I wanna be the best and I don't care how.

And my opportunity came in the shape and form of two bars of VPO and a syringe and I was gonna offer, you can go from number one in the world to not, you can go, I can take it from number five in the world to number one in the world. And with my low self-esteem, at the time, if I sat and thought about it a little bit more, I would've seen I had enough in me to make it.

I survived all the crap at home, I survived my school life, I survived college, I survived and got this far, so I can still do it. But I chose to let that loud voice be loud enough to say, no you don't need it, do this. And I made a decision that was costly to my career. But I always say my downfall, and people criticize me for saying this, because I said I was exploited, but I say no.

My fall from grace was [00:37:00] necessary. Why? Because there's not enough individuals out there who rise. from the grave and talk about it. Because if I had a tangible person, dad wasn't around, stepdad wasn't everywhere trying to give me that advice, that said what, this is what I did, why I did it, how I got back.

I would have had a genuine seed of thought in there, would have been like, he done it, so I can follow that route. But there was nothing there, so I chose to do that. And once I got on that gravy train, which was traveling a thousand miles on that, I could not get off. I was too afraid to get off. Why?

Because I thought, if I go from number 5 don't take this, I'm going to go from number 6, number 7, number 8, number 9 in the world. And I just totally disregarded my own ability. I forgot about all the support that my mum gave me, all the culture that got me here, all the nutrition that helped me get to this point.

I tried to disregard that. Because I [00:38:00] had one small episode of doubt.

Richard Gerver: I just want to stop you there. Sorry, that really interests me and it's just a side thought. On one of the other episodes, I've interviewed a Premier League football coach, a guy called Edu Rubio. Fascinating guy. Who most recently has worked with Julien Lopetegui at Wolverhampton Wanderers.

And we were talking about this and saying that , one of the greatest challenges and I guess it's exactly what you've just described is sometimes the most vulnerable people emotionally are the most naturally gifted, because the most naturally gifted up until a certain point in their careers don't lose.

They're not used to losing. They've never had to overcome adversity. But the nature of the sport, the nature of the game, the nature of high performance, is eventually you're going to get to a level when you come across other people who are as good if not better than you, and you've never had to deal with, and I wonder, that's where that seed of self doubt comes from, right?

So [00:39:00] it's a really important lesson for educators working with high performing children, whether it's in sport, music, academics, arts, because Those kids need to be facilitated to fail safely and encouraged to learn how to come back from it, right?

Dwain Chambers: 100%. 100%. When you're dealing with individuals, male or female, of that nature, you're not managing them physically because they've already got it.

They've already got it. You know, it's how you manage them psychologically and have a soft enough voice to quietly penetrate when their mind is shouting at 100 decibels. Your voice has to be such that it can penetrate softly through 100 decibels of noise in their own head. They're asking themselves a thousand questions because we over analyze everything, just the nature of how we're wired.

Most people are just wired differently. We know what we've got to do. We know exactly how we're going to get there, but we don't plan for disruptions. We don't know how to plan for that. And when we have [00:40:00] disruptions, Like when it snows in the UK, we don't know how to plan for snow.

Richard Gerver: Should I tell people that all over the world?

They just laugh at us because we can't deal with any kind of weather that isn't just grey.

Dwain Chambers: Just don't know how to deal with it. So when you have those mental disruptions, what's the next step? And I didn't have any strategies to deal with that. So again, self doubt, depression, all that kicked in at such a young age.

At such a young age you're performing on the world stage where everybody is looking and criticising and commenting and you're not playing to your strengths, you're playing to the strengths of everybody else and trying to please them. You're pleasing your agent, you're pleasing your coach, you're pleasing your sponsors.

The media. The media. So you've got all that on top of you. So again, you become insignificant in comparison to what else is, needs to be required, or needs to be

Richard Gerver: met. Yeah. I think, I mean, that is just so powerful for me and that idea that, yeah , [00:41:00] you, we go, some of us go through our lives just obsessed with, you get to a point where you feel such a sense of responsibility and everyone else is on your shoulders, and you, again, yet again, what you're describing is you lose Dwayne, right?

You use, you lose you in the complexity of this universe. So look, as we start to wrap this, what's been an unbelievable conversation, a couple more. questions really. And the first is, so there you are, right, the pedestal has, you haven't just fallen off it, the pedestal has crumbled. How, and you're , you described it yourself, most people would never come back from that, most people wouldn't be able to.

How on earth did you, and were there people around you that then helped you, how did you come back from that? Where did the mental strength, where did the, Where did it come from, Dwayne, to come back from such a massive challenge in your life?

Dwain Chambers: I made a very clear decision in my mind, despite once the announcement of my suspension took place, [00:42:00] once all the noise settled, and I avoided, for a very long time, I avoided staying on my own.

Because the moment I was on my own, all the demons came back, and that's what I was running from. What I'd done, why did I do it, who have I hurt, all the comments, I heard them, they're just, all those demons just came coming back, flooding back, and it only became apparent when I spent about a week on my own, and I had to face those thoughts, and I didn't know how to answer them, so what I did, I deliberately ignored those thoughts, until they kind of, ran out of energy, and as those thoughts ran out of energy, And I would ignore them by just going for walks and washing up and cleaning just to not answer those questions.

And once those thoughts disappeared and got weaker and weaker, my alignment came back and I thought, Sport is still what I want to do. This is what I love. This sport has given me everything. I've taken everything from it. And it was only then that I realised, this is what I want to do. How am I going to get myself back?

[00:43:00] So, I was no longer looking at all the comments. I was looking at what Dwayne can do. I'm not trying to please sponsors or, I didn't have to anymore because all that had been removed. I just looked at what does Dwayne want to do now? And Dwayne said, I want to get back running. That's what gives me the most enjoyment.

And once I set my sail on my ship to go in that direction, That was the only direction I was going in, and I knew me coming back was going to have its own set of challenges. But the way I saw it, it's these challenges that are going to help me get back, because if I can overcome one challenge, which I was currently going through, I can overcome another.

And by overcoming these challenges, I'm going to have to learn to get a team of people around me that respect themselves, firstly.

It wasn't my friends, it wasn't my teammates, it wasn't my partner at the time, it was people that had a high level of respect for themselves, and loads of individuals that had a high end job, and they were [00:44:00] not afraid to tell me that I'd screwed up, and those are the ones who are respected, and once I got myself into that place, I said, I made this mistake.

I'm going to correct it. And these are the people I need to go and meet in order to make this happen. And every person I met during my rise back up shut the door, they kept on shutting the door. And every door that shut, I said, right, I've got to keep going. I've got to keep going. Why did I choose to keep going?

Because if I stopped at the first closing of the door, I would have stopped completely. And I didn't want to stop because the thought of sitting down and being a bum and watching TV and eating biscuits, the vision of wasn't appealing. When I look ahead, I have the ability to close my eyes. I can look at what Dwayne would look like two years down.

I just know I have that vision. I can see it. And when I looked at that in like the sphere of a cinema, the image of me sitting down being a bum didn't appeal to me. But the vision of me sitting back in the cinema watching Dwayne getting back running again brought joy in [00:45:00] here. When I get that good energy in here, I follow that.

When my spider sense is all kind of knotted up and bound and tight. I'm like, I need to stay away from that because every time I've felt that and I've gone and done it, it's gone wrong. So I always tell my kids, listen to your Spidersense because they all watch Miles Morales, they all watch all the Peter Parker, so they get what Spidersense means.

So when I talk to them like that, they're like, okay, I know what you're on about. I don't use fancy words. I say things that they relate to. Spidersense I talk about all these superheroes that they can see. When you don't follow those certain traits, things go wrong. Even if it is right and you still get funny in here, that's just a spike of adrenaline because you're about to go into somewhere where you have to perform.

And sometimes people confuse that with, oh, this is going to be wrong. It's going to hurt. No, it's not. This is new. It's just your adrenaline spike that's causing a flush of emotions, but you still have to go through this. So it was at that point I thought, I'm going to do this and I'm going to turn this around.

And I just stayed [00:46:00] focused on it. But that focus came as a result of. Dwayne Chambers as a kid with my mind board and I just stayed on it. These are the things I want and I knew how to stay there because I could see it. If I can't see it, it needs some more work and that was the turning point in my career.

Richard Gerver: Unbelievable. I mean, and again, I just , I think really successful people are wired differently. And I think your ability to self assess, to understand your own emotions, to do so objectively, to start to use that beneficially. I loved what you said about , all those other things have been stripped away and what was left, Dwayne was left.

right? And then it was about what makes my heart beat faster? What gets me up in the morning? What, and that drive ? And I think for me, sometimes that's one of those things within education. One of the great challenges isn't just to prepare every child uniformly in the same way for a world that's vastly different.

It's how [00:47:00] do we help each of those young people Go, what's best for me in here? What makes my heart beat faster? Because it's that, right? It's that sustains you, whether you get up on a day and it's snowing and you think, I've got to train today. Whether it's getting up on a day where you're just thinking, ah what, another hour in bed.

Whether it's falling from a pedestal and coming back. The one universal truth. Is what's in here and the instincts that are in here and learning how to marry those things together are what I think will ultimately ensure that more of our young people experience success and fulfillment in their lives.

Look, one, one final question I promise and then I'm gonna let you plug everything you want to plug. If you had one wish for the future for you or for . Small, big, what would it be, Dwayne?

Dwain Chambers: One wish for the future? Interesting. Good question, because as I, as you said that to me, I was making some notes and I was thinking, what would I wish for the future? I guess I would think about [00:48:00] people being honest. In all fairness, people just being honest. Because where Yeah just be honest.

Richard Gerver: That's huge. Yeah, just be honest.

Dwain Chambers: Because you know where you stand, the people around you know where you stand, and they don't know where they're getting. Instead of wasting time lying, sending people down the wrong street, and then you've got to revert from that. Once you start lying, you forget you're lying. It's hard to keep lying. Yeah.

I did that for two years while I was on my programme. It was just difficult. And I didn't like the person I was becoming. I couldn't For two years, I could not look in the mirror. I couldn't look in the mirror, and when I mean that, I've been brushing my teeth, but I couldn't maintain eye contact with myself.

Wow. I could not do it, and I could not do it, and I was like, I've got to go out there and tell people this stuff, and they believe I'm doing this naturally. I could not look in the mirror for two years. I said, what the hell am I doing? What am I doing? Oh, [00:49:00]

Richard Gerver: this has to stop. Isn't that, I mean, I, I think, what you've just, the potency of that Dwayne, because to, to an extent , so many of us.

lives, live lives to a lesser or greater degree that are almost, and I wonder whether it's more so in, in the media generation, media obsessed generation we live now, where so much of lives is almost like a veneer, like a mask we wear. I mean, girls and boys who feel they're living a pretense , we look at doctored images, girls who are looking at the doctored images of beautiful women on Instagram thinking I could never be that, and this projection of trying to be.

You know, I often pretend

Dwain Chambers: we're all pretending. We're all pretending.

Richard Gerver: I said to somebody recently, I think it, I was in my early thirties when I first was able to look in a mirror and go what, I actually like the person that's looking back at me. There you go. Comfortable in my own skin.

Yep. And I think that's a very [00:50:00] profound point on which to end because I would actually say that whether we're educators, parents, coaches, managers and leaders in organizations, I think one of the fundamental things we could do to build a legacy for the people who trust us is help them get to a place where they can look in a mirror and say, You're

Dwain Chambers: okay.


Richard Gerver: okay. You're okay. And I just, oh, thank you. Thank you for what has been a powerful, authentic, inspirational provocative. I knew it. It was everything that , I hoped it would be Dwayne. You are, and I hope our listeners will realise, you are a remarkable human being. And so my final point to you is, and I hope people are, if people are inspired to find out more about you, to connect with you, to find out more about your work, how they can get hold of you what would be the best way for them to do that?

Dwain Chambers: Just on social media, Instagram it's just Dwayne Chambers, D W A I N, [00:51:00] Chambers, C H A M B E R S. Or my website, www. chambersforsport. com. That's where they can find as much as they need to know about what I'm doing, coaching wise, and the direction I'm trying to push myself in, which is more engaging conversations like this.


Richard Gerver: you're an extraordinary human being, Dwayne, and , some people, and I hope this doesn't come across as crass, some people will say, Oh, Dwayne, you should have just stayed on the track and , never fallen off a pedestal. I actually thank the world for the person you are now, which is because of the lived experience you've had.

And I think the benefit you can give others is truly extraordinary. So thank you so very much for your time.

Dwain Chambers: Thank you. Pleasure. Absolute pleasure.

Creators and Guests

Richard Gerver
Richard Gerver
Speaker & author, President of @uksla, LinkedIn Instructor; passionate about #HumanPotential, #leadership, #change, #education & the search for #simple
Dwain Chambers
Dwain Chambers
8 X British 100m Champion & European 60m Record Holder. Performance and fitness trainer. Founder of Chambers For Sport
Dwain Chambers — Olympic Sprinter, Youngest-Ever World Championship Medalist, and Former European Record-Holder