Lawrence Okoye 'inspiring the next generation of throwers' in Croydon
OMAR Reid, an emerging talent, says he noticed the "Lawrence Okoye effect" among Croydon's growing throwing fraternity – even if they never see Britain's best thrower at their track.
Okoye, 20, took his first steps towards what is likely to result in Olympic selection for London by thrashing all-comers when he competed at schools level.
Then, Okoye just used his huge strength to out-muscle his rivals. Now, after two winters training with John Hillier, he has a full-blown technique and his potential, in the sporting sense as well as commercially, is frightening.
The Waddon man-mountain had his first few lessons at Croydon Arena, under the guidance of Ian Briggs, who coaches a number of youngsters, where they receive advice and guidance from Chris King and Mike Fleet as well.
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One prospect, Reid, of Archbishop Lanfranc School, won U17 Surrey Schools Championship gold last weekend at Kingsmeadow, throwing 46.73 metres.
That was just below his best, but he was throwing into a strong wind. Now he is set to follow Okoye by competing at the English Schools Championships.
"He is a smart guy," said Reid of his older Croydon Harriers club-mate Okoye. "There are certainly newcomers throwing discus and I put it down to the Okoye effect."
Reid has shown marked progress this year and has thrown 49.54, ranking him second U17 in the UK.
He put it down to "a good coach [Briggs] and going to the gym over the winter," with a programme given him by Steve Knight, one of his Lanfranc teachers.
"I've been doing a lot of strength work and kept generally healthy. I went to the weights room a lot, because I'm not the biggest guy in the world," he said. "I was hoping to achieve 50m, but I injured my shoulder playing American football." He plays quarterback for London Olympians.
"I think I'm going to cut it out!" he said of his second sport.
"At English Schools I want to throw 53 metres. I want to definitely get a medal."
Second to Reid on Saturday was Nathan Carty, of Harris Academy, Crystal Palace (42.64), who was throwing for only the third time this season. Carty, an U15 English Schools gold medallist of the past, said: "I was hoping for 46 or 45 metres, but the wind was terrible.
"This year I've got a bit of competition in Omar. Last year he was nowhere. I've got a lot of training and preparation to do for English Schools. Hopefully I'll be throwing 50m there. I only started training about two months ago.
"It's good for each other to have a rival. We can egg each other on."
Reid's twin sister, Tamara, had to contend with a new rival. Reid, who threw 28.55, had expected to win the U17 girls' title. But Saskia Navratnam, who is at school with Carty, improved her PB by five metres, to 30.58 to take a surprise gold.
The result surprised even Navratnam, 15. "I'd been doing well in my school's competitions, but I didn't expect that."
But her school "told me to get some training" and it was only natural to follow Carty down to the Arena.
"The school really encourage you to progress in what you are good at. Before, I was a shot putter," said Navratnam, who described herself as having "good upper arm strength", to which she is now hoping to add technique.
Will she switch fully to discus now? "Definitely - I want to try to get more medals as well," she said.
Tamara, also of Lanfranc, was left to ponder what might have been, admitting: "I wasn't happy with the way I was throwing. I had qualification for the nationals in mind and I'm disappointed. I just want to move on now.
"For Saskia to perform that well in her first time at these championships is fantastic. That achievement is really good."