Dalton Grant: Ex-high jumper aims to lift Dagenham & Redbridge

By Rob StevensBBC London & South East Sport
Dalton Grant
Grant has been working at Dagenham & Redbridge since September

Three years ago a little-known Dagenham & Redbridge reserve by the name of Adam Gemili hung up his football boots for the final time.

The 18-year-old had not been released by the Daggers. He just had other plans.

Taking up full-time training as a sprinter, Gemili competed at the London 2012 Olympics just nine months later and won European 200m gold and Commonwealth 100m silver this summer.

Dagenham's loss was certainly British athletics' gain.

Now, the League Two strugglers are looking to get something back from the world of track and field.

Former Commonwealth high jump champion Dalton Grant is hoping his knowledge can assist the Daggers in a strength and conditioning role, using tips picked up from some of the legends of British athletics to help players at the east London club improve their running technique.

"It has come from bits and pieces of knowledge the greats have passed on to me: Linford Christie, Colin Jackson and Daley Thompson - and even Sebastian Coe," he told BBC London 94.9.

"I am not trying to make anyone a high jumper or a sprinter. It is the Dalton Grant philosophy.

"The training sessions are things I have done myself over the years, so I know the outcome. It's about understanding your body."

Dalton Grant
Grant, pictured competing at the 1995 World Athletics Championships, achieved his personal best high jump of 2.36m in Tokyo in 1991

Grant has been working at Victoria Road since September.

It might seem a strange move for a man who spent the best part of two decades attempting to propel himself over a crossbar.

But for Grant, who competed at three Olympics, coaching footballers gives him the chance to work in the sport he loves.

"My passion was always football but my talent lay in athletics and the high jump," the 48-year-old said.

"Once I retired I wanted to find something I was passionate about and where I could pass on my talent and encourage someone to improve.

"Hopefully people buy into what you have to offer them."

Hackney-born Grant arrived back in east London from Fulham, where he had been working with the Championship club's youngsters.

Dalton Grant factfile
Born 8 April 1966 in Hackney, north east London
Had a 17-year international career as a high jumper
Won Commonwealth gold and European silver in 1998 and competed at three Olympic Games
His personal best jump of 2.36 metres was at the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo
Since retiring he has worked with badminton player Liz Cann and joined Dagenham after a spell coaching in Fulham's youth set-up

Having previously spent time working on the technique of several footballers on a one-to-one basis, Grant thinks many players need to improve their running style.

"Unless you are being coached to run then you can't run," he said.

"A lot of footballers run on their heels. You can still run fast with bad technique but you can pick up injuries.

"It's about breaking it down, the mechanics of it, getting strong in the right areas - whether their calves or their hips, and plyometrics.

"They are responding to it well. I am just doing bits and pieces because it is a big learning curve for them."

Encouragement is something the Daggers' players are in dire need of.

Languishing 22nd in League Two, just three points above the drop zone, and having been knocked out of the FA Cup by Conference side Southport this week, Dagenham manager Wayne Burnett admitted he understands the fans' frustrations.

Fortunately Grant is not a man to shirk a difficult task.

"I like a challenge in life and it is hard, rather than going into a team which is successful," he added.

"You need to have structure and belief in what you are doing. Even under immense pressure you still have to be consistent and upbeat.

"Every day I am confident in what I can bring to the table.

"I have experience of going to competitions and losing, with nowhere to hide. I share my experiences to try to help pick the players up."

Interview with Dalton Grant by BBC London 94.9's Jeanette Kwakye.