6 January 2018
Teen sprinter John Gikas goes from nowhere to Gold Coast hope
John who? Teenager, John Gikas has created one of the sensations of the season by going from obscurity to Gold Coast hope today at Homebush. He clocked a wind assisted 200m time of 20.43 – the fastest (all conditions – windy or legal) ever by an Australian junior and the fastest by an Australian for over 11 years. He also defeated Rio Olympian Alex Hartmann and his wind assisted time was under the Commonwealth Games A standard. David Tarbotton and Ron Bendall profiled this emerging star.
As the Commonwealth Games approaches, we have a fairly good idea who will make it onto the team. Particularly in team sport, the bolder is rare, although in sports like athletics and swimming it can occur. But today there is no doubt we have witnessed the typical bolder. Let’s see how things unfold over this summer but certainly Gikas is now in the mix.
John Gikas, 18, is not your conventical sprinter. “I was not a sporty kid. It was The King’s School that got me involved in sport,” said Gikas today. He is pinching himself that a kid who just sat at home eating peanut butter sandwiches and occupying himself with playstation is now one of the finest sprinters in Australia.
He payed a little rugby in primary school with King’s school, then moved onto soccer in high school. But after a soccer tour of Europe with his school team in December 2015, he realised he would unlikely make it in Europe as there were so many good footballers playing the game. Upon his return he started to focus more on athletics and his build up towards the GPS (Great Public Schools) Championships in September 2016. His commitment paid off winning the 100m in 10.85 and his 200m winning in a time of 21.40, which broke Josh Clarke’s meet record.
“It was pretty unbelievable. I didn’t know what to say or feel.” He recalls thinking “It was one of those moments that changed the direction of my life.”
He closed the year winning the Australian under-18 All Schools Championship in a wind assisted 10.37 (2.4).
He choose not to run the remainder of the summer, rather prepare for his HSC year and the GPS athletics. He easily won the sprint double in September at the GPS with times of 10.75 and 21.83 and assisted the school relay to wins in the 4x100m and 4x400m.
“He is a hard worker in training and he handled the large GPS competition program well,” noted his coach Nancy Atterton, who also guided Josh Clarke through the same years.
After he completed his HSC he resumed serious training, late in 2017. He ventured out for his first run of the year in mid-December, but was unable to convince the officials to place him in the first and fastest heat, being grade in the eighth race. “He suffered heat stroke waiting around for his race,” said coach Atterton. However, he ran 10.78 – the second fastest time of the day. Last week Atterton knew he was ready for a big run. “He clocked 21.2 in long grass on a wet track. I was thinking ‘anything could happen here.”
And it did, as Gikas clocked a stunning 20.43 with a wind assistance of 3.1m/s, over the legal limit of 2.0m/s. In the race he defeated Australia’s leading 200m runner for the last few years, Alex Hartmann who has run 20.45, but clocked 20.44w behind Gikas.
The previous fastest ever by an Australian junior was 20.48 by Fred Martin and we have to go back to 2006, over 11 years, since an Australian senior has run that fast.
“I am shocked. I sort have been rushed into athletics. I don’t know what to expect.”
This maybe a whole new world to him but there is one thing he is definite about. “I want to be not just the best athlete I can be, but also the best person I can be too.”
He is starting to realise just how good his performances are and the effect it can have on people.
“It has been a super humbling experience and I appreciate it and the opportunity to put a smile on someone’s face.” He certainly did that 13 months ago when he won the national all schools while his coach, Nancy Atterton was grieving the loss of her husband and leading NSW coach John Atterton.
From Greek heritage, Gikas certainly now has the Commonwealth Games in his sights along with the world under-20 championships later in the year and the 2020 Olympics.
“I don’t want to get injured and stay on track.”
He is awaiting which course he will study at University of NSW this year, but it is likely to be in film production. “I like to be creative.”
Fastest Australian Under-20 200m times
20.43w John Gikas N 2018
20.48 Fred Martin N 1985
20.49 Darren Clark N 1983
20.58w Paul Greene N 1990
Fastest Australian 200m times for the last 20 years (1998 to 2018)
20.25w Patrick Johnson A 2003
20.29w Daniel Batman N 2006
20.43w John Gikas N 2018
20.43A Darryl Wohlsen Q 2000
20.44w Alex Hartmann Q 2018
The King’s School – Sprint Factory
John Gikas is just the most recent product of Sydney’s The King’s School located at Parramatta. Where they have been guided by Nancy Atterton, along with her late husband John and daughter Stacy. Anthony Benn and Mick Zisti have also coached the athletes, during their schoolboy years.
Imagine their Old Boys relay team lineup – all four could make the team for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games:
Josh Clarke 10.15, 20.88
Nick Andrews 10.32
John Gikas 10.37w/10.78, 21.40/20.43w
Nick Hough 10.39, 20.66
A handy reserve Harry Andrews 10.75
Image: John Gikas (image courtesy of David Tarbotton)