Right. Who’s going to be Usain Bolt?. Who will be his Jamaican rival Yohan Blake? And who will be, erm . . . Timi Garstang.
Timi who? He’s the Eddie the Eagle of London 2012, who came into the Olympics as the slowest male sprinter on paper – and left with the same tag.
The Marshall Islands ‘rocket’ finished his 100 metres heat in a time of 12.81 seconds, more than three seconds slower than the gold medal winning time.
But like Eddie the Eagle on the ski jump, and Eric the Eel in the swimming pool, Timi is an unlikely inspiration. The endearing efforts of a man who said he was picked for the Games ‘because I never miss practice and I’m always on time’ fire the dream that we can all become Olympians if we try.
That is why, as the Olympic Stadium basks in golden glory for one final weekend, on a grass verge near you kids mimic Usain Bolt, running and jumping over jumpers previously used for goalposts.
On scraps of land on housing estates, at sports clubs and leisure centres, the London 2012 effect is evident: people inspired by Britain’s most golden moment in a century, and the achievements of role model athletes, are getting out of their armchairs and taking up sport.
And so, on a running track at Oakengates Leisure Centre, a Telford Athletics Club training session is ‘flash-mobbed’ by ordinary Joes in rubbish trainers and an idea that they could be the next Bolt, Blake and, yes, even little Timi Garstang. They are all going to try and beat Tortoise Tim.
You can tell the serious runners. They are the ones doing things like stretching and warming up. And wearing lycra. Among them is 21-year-old Santino Dummett, of Telford Athletics Club, who can run the 100m in 10.7 seconds.
Any tips, Santino? “I try to get nervous because the adrenaline gives you more potential, depending on how you cope with it,” he explains.
“Imagine people are watching you – or imagine a lion running at you!” Hang on. . .
Could he beat Timi G’s time and be good enough to get in the Olympics? “I don’t think I’ve run slower than that for a few years,” says Santino.
Nik Penfold, 23, on the other hand hasn’t run a race since sports day when he was 16. But, inspired by the Games, and carrot that is Timi Garstang’s Olympic sprint benchmark, he’s keen as mustard to give the 100m his best blast.
Then there’s Todd Nash, who’s traded his comfy chair at the Shropshire Star internet desk for a crack at a blue riband dash he hasn’t run since he was at school. Sprinting, admits Nash, is a relatively new idea to him.
The competition is stiff. Amy Bowen, just 15, from Waters Upton, has a personal best of 12.6 seconds, a time that knocks spots of our Timi.
And there’s Loviu Ngo-Zulu, 19, from Brookside, who’s relatively new to sprinting and says: “I walk the five miles to the track before training.”
Then there’s me. I came in the car.
Amy Bowen offers a bit of last-minute advice. “Hold yourself back for the final,” she says. That, should this rushing around lark go pear-shaped, will be my excuse.Eric Cartwright, sprint coach for Telford Athletics Club says: “A fit person that came down, someone who does a bit of running on the roads, they could possibly do it in 16 or 17 seconds. I might be proved wrong by that, it depends how fit they are and what kind of fitness training they do.”
On our marks and set to go, each of us, our hearts punching through their chests in readiness for flight, know just how Mr Bolt felt as he stared down the 100m track in the Olympic Stadium.
I want so much to beat Timi’s time that I try to scare myself by imagining a lion chasing me, but all I can think about is whether I’m having chicken nuggets for tea.
The next few seconds will separate the men from the boys. Or in several cases, the men from the tortoises.
Coach Eric is also the race starter, but as his pistol’s playing up and he throws it into the long grass. “I can make a sound a bit like a gun,” he says.
Steady on, Eric.
“On your marks . . . set . . . GO!” Santino is out of the blocks like a bullet, getting the better of his imaginary lion; Nash stumbles and loses his legs (he quickly finds them again – just where he’d left them); Loviu burns up the track and Amy flies by. Nik and Nash are neck and neck, but Nash’s dip isn’t what it used to be on sports days, and Nik triumphs.
Did I mention that I trundled down the track with the aerodynamics of a wardrobe? That’s me, there, bringing up the rear. Chivalrous to the last.
But still last.
The race over, there’s a nervous wait for the official times. Some of us will be Timi Garstangs, others closer to Usain Bolts.
Loviu Ngo-Zulu, who finishes second, says: “I didn’t notice them (Timi-style ‘non-runners’). No offence. I didn’t look back – I looked left and right and I couldn’t see anybody.
“Timi Garstang could train with us if he wants to – we’ve got a good coach and good facilities. If he wants to.”
Todd Nash, happy in a spent, delirious kind of way, adds: “When I watched Timi Garstang run it in the Olympics in 12.81, I turned to my girlfriend and said ‘I could do that.’
“Timi was my inspiration for this, but when I look at the runners here and how hard they train, it really puts it into perspective. The man in the street can’t just turn up and beat Timi Garstang.
“He may not have been as quick as the others, but he’s still a darn sight quicker than me. Respect to Timi – I won’t be qualifying for the Olympics in Rio.”