No two routes to athletic stardom are the same. We talk to Adrian Piperi and Sydney McLaughlin, both world youth champions and world leaders, to find out their very different paths to the top.

1. Genes

Sydney McLaughlin was born to run. Her father, Willie, was a quarter miler who reached the semi-finals of the 1984 Olympic Trials with a best of 45.3. Her mum, Mary, was a high school 400m and 800m runner. Sydney, the third eldest of four siblings, also looked up to older sister Morgan and older brother Taylor, world youth medley relay silver medallist in Donetsk 2013.

Things were very different for Adrian Piperi, who is also known as Tripp (as in triple) because he is the third generation Adrian. His father played American Football and had no involvement with track.

“I was the first in the family to do track,” admits Piperi, whose younger brother Patrick now also throws the shot. “Now I love track – both doing it and watching it. It is so much fun.”

2. Beginnings

McLaughlin’s first experience in the sport was a sweet one. She won a 100m race aged six and was awarded with a Hershey’s chocolate bar. “I saw how happy my parents were and winning a chocolate bar made me continue running,” says the sweet-toothed athlete.

The sprints were where Piperi started out as well, though he soon found his frame was better suited to the throws.

“I tried it, kind of liked it, and I got progressively better at it,” he says.

3. Other sports

Both athletes have sampled other sports on their road to track and field glory. McLaughlin was a soccer and basketball player before she came to specialise in athletics. Piperi sustained a broken vertebrae and foot playing American football, incidents that influenced his decision to focus on athletics.

“It was a very big commitment to keep playing football and track at the same time,” he says,“so I thought it was better to quit football. I broke my back playing football – an injury which set me back pretty bad.”

Sydney McLaughlin competes at the WYC Cali 2015 ()

FAST FACT: Seven of the ten best 400m hurdles times run by a female youth athlete in 2015 were run by Sydney McLaughlin. Nice!

4. Giving back

Voluntary work is important to both athletes. McLaughlin works for her local church “two or three times a year” on volunteer projects to raise funds for those in need. “I love seeing the kids and the smiles on their faces,” she says.

Piperi coaches a group of athletes aged four to eight when his school holds a track camp and he also coaches one athlete a year younger than himself.

“It makes me feel happy that I can help her out,” he adds.

5. Coaching

McLaughlin has had the coaching support of Mike McCabe and the New Jersey resident appreciates the role he has played in her rise. “He’s just such a great person, very goofy but when things are more serious he knows the right things to do and say.”

Piperi appreciates both the technical input and independence his coach Gary Madore has given him.

“I owe him a lot,” he says of his high school coach. “He really knows the spin [technique], but he has also given me the tools to be able to coach myself.”

6. Mental approach

Piperi says he sets himself “obnoxiously high goals” in the pursuit of success.

“At the beginning of the year, I try to set my goals so high to the point that they are almost unreachable,” he explains. “This year I was hoping to throw 10ft more in the shot and add 30ft on my discus PB.” Those goals had a motivating effect. Piperi was sixth in the boys' discus in Cali, but it was in the shot where he made his mark. His final attempt went out to 22.00m – the furthest throw by any youth athlete this year – to nab the first gold medal of the championships.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I’ve learned to control myself mentally. If someone throws further than me, I personally try to use it to my advantage.”

As McLaughlin hails from a house full of athletes, almost anything can turn into a competition.

“I was always very serious playing monopoly or card games at home,” she says. When it comes to the big stage she admits pre-race nerves can consume her.

“I can get very nervous and anxious and I can sometimes wake up in the middle of the night . I often don’t talk on a race day and I like to listen to calming music like Ed Sheeran.”

Adrian Piperi competes at the WYC Cali 2015 ()

Piperi won the first gold of the week in Cali thanks to a last-gasp 22.00m WYL throw in the shot

7. Away from the track

McLaughlin has proved invincible over a range of distances and events this year. But she has talents away from the Mondo, namely juggling and riding a unicycle (just not at the same time). Her fifth grade teacher taught her to juggle (with four balls, since you ask) and her father bought her a unicycle.

Learning by holding the walls in her home, the 16-year-old is now a regular sight one-wheeling around New Jersey.

“I think a lot of people were confused when they look at me out of their window,” she admits. “My dad said you can juggle and unicycle and I said, okay, I’m a clown. I can do my own show one day.” (400m hurdles on a unicycle, anyone?)

Piperi's interests are more typically American: cop shows and hunting. Blue Bloods and Hawaii Five-O are among his favourite TV shows, while the Texan also likes to head out with his rifle in search of deer.

8. Heroes

For McLaughlin, 2011 400m hurdles world champion Lashinda Demus has always been an idol.

“She always stays relaxed, she is humble and I like the way she carries herself,” she says.

Piperi says Adam Nelson is someone he has always admired, and now the 2004 Olympic champion plays a part in the development of the 16-year-old talent.

“My dad met him on Twitter and I’ve been to see Adam two or three times in Georgia,” he says. “He’s really helped me technically and also how to prepare for a championships. He’s a legend.”