Rio Mitcham: making big steps on the world stage and transforming the music scene

Making it onto the World Championships podium in only his third year as a 400m runner is no mean feat but Birchfield Harrier, Rio Mitcham, has taken it all in his stride. We recently caught up with Rio at our England Age Group Indoor Championships where he took part in an athlete Q&A with UK number one F41 shot putter, Amy Thompson. 

First steps into the sport 

Rio has always enjoyed testing his speed, even when in the playground at primary school.  

“My school had this thing where if you were new, or you were being a little confident you had to race the fastest person in the school which happened to be me. I loved running and racing at lunchtime and sports day became like the Olympic Games. My parents then took me to Telford Athletics Club where I started training alongside playing football.” 

Making the move up the distances 

Rio Mitcham at Loughborough International

Seeing him succeed in the 4x400m relays at the World Championships, you may be surprised to hear that it was the 100m and 200m which started Rio’s competitive journey in the sport. 

“The last time I was at the England Age Group Indoors I won the 200m title, but I was getting a lot of reoccurring injuries from the speed aspect of these races and training. I spoke with my coach Leon Baptiste about the potential of me moving up to the 400m and we decided to give it a go. It was during the pandemic when I had no track access and was training alone, I was tending to do longer reps anyway and that’s what I was good at in training.  

“When I made the transition I didn’t put any pressure on myself, it was a lot of trial and error and not worrying about embarrassing myself if I blew up at 300m. I just wanted to give it my all and try something new and I think that allowed me to learn quicker. 

“I am still super new to the event and have only run a small number of 400m races compared to the amount I used to race the 100 and 200m. I love the longer sprints and the feeling of running off the bend and it’s as though you are flying, your legs are going too quick but your body carries you.” 

Finding camaraderie in an individual sport 

Growing up playing football surrounded by teammates and moving over to the mostly individual sport of athletics can be daunting, but Rio has made some solid connections which gives him the same type of camaraderie. 

“When I first started athletics, it was the team aspect of the sport which I craved. You can gain this through joining a club and I have also found this in the relay squads.

"One of my favourite memories is at the 2023 World Championships in Budapest during the victory lap for the 4x400m relay. We had basically lived together as a team for three weeks in the preparation and we were super close. We had achieved an incredible thing together and to celebrate in front of a cheering crowd was unforgettable.

"Away from the track and championships, athletics has also given me so much. I have made friends for life through this sport and I am so grateful for this as well as the medals we have achieved together.”  

Combining two passions: music and athletics 

Rio Mitcham

Something that started as a private way to channel his creativity, has now led to Rio starting to share his passion for music publicly. 

“I used to balance athletics and music as different activities, as though I was living two lives. I would finish my training and then head to the studio, but I now pair the two together making music about athletics which people seem to really like. I am passionate about making music and I do so alongside my brother.

"Whenever I used to race or medal, I would write a song about it when I got home and I do the same now, but I am choosing to make that more open to others. I guess I am a new generation of rapper and sprinter!” 

We caught up with Rio on the England Athletics podcast last year to discuss all about his music and athletics aspirations.  

Advice for the next generation  

Despite only being in his own senior international career infancy, the 24-year-old has been involved in the sport for many years now and we wanted to know what wisdom he could pass on to the up and coming athletes of today: 

“I love this quote, ‘don’t worry if you are nervous, just do it nervous’ and that is one of the best things I take into a race. If I am sitting in a call room about to head out, I can’t pull out so I am going to have to go out there and give it my best, even if I am feeling nervous.

"I would also tell younger athletes to be curious, whether that is about your event, your body, or the sport. People can get naïve when they win, thinking they know everything but keep being curious as there is always more to learn.”