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Teenager causing a whirlwind

RECORD BREAKER: The 19-year-old celebrates his new British record for the discus

BRITISH DISCUS record holder and European under-23 champion Lawrence Okoye had the potential to be a stellar rugby player but his decision to become a discus thrower is paying huge dividends.

A student at Whitgift School in Croydon, south London, the 19-year-old was a member of their 2010 Daily Mail Cup winning rugby team and was a part of the illustrious London Irish academy whose graduates include England internationals Delon Armitage and Topsy Ojo.

Playing on the wing, Okoye received numerous comparisons to legendary All Black try-scoring machine Jonah Lomu due to their physical resemblance and similar style of play.

RESEMBLANCE: During his rugby days Okoye received numerous comparisons to legend Jonah Lomu

However, it was the lack of rugby in the summer that drew Okoye, who threw 67.63m last month to break the 13-year British discus record by 99cms, closer to his current profession.

The Croydon Harrier, who is currently ranked fourth in the world, told the Voice of Sport:

“After the rugby season was done I always used to do athletics in the summer and discus just seemed to be my thing. Then last year I got a good coach (John Hillier), my PB soared and I became one of the best in the country and then in the world for my age group so I decided to take it seriously and keep going.”

Having previously clocked a sub-11 second time for the 100m, Okoye is incredibly faster than his 6’6”, 20 stone frame would suggest. Add strength to that equation and the force of Okoye’s throws have the potential to be phenomenal distances. Nevertheless, Okoye recognises that there are key areas where he needs to work on.

“I know I’ve got the big throw I just need to become more consistent,” said the Croydon native.

“That’s my biggest downfall at the moment – my consistency. All I need to do to fix that is to keep on training, keep on competing and it’ll come with time.

LEARNING: Okoye is still a relative novice to the discus

“I’m still learning every day. I’m not a master of the technique yet but I’m getting there. My technique has improved tenfold since last year so I’m really pleased but it can still increase. I’ve just got to keep working hard and things will start to pick up.”

Since the 1972 Munich Games, the men’s discus winner has been won by an Eastern European competitor and Okoye plans to change that fact.

“There’s no [black discus throwers] in the top four or five that have really broken through so hopefully I’ll be the first one and really make it big,” stated Okoye.

And if that goal is attainable, Okoye, who postponed his chance to study Law at Oxford in order to compete at London 2012, would “of course” want to inspire the next generation of discus throwers to participate in the event.

“When somebody does something like this a lot of youngsters get inspired and that’s the whole thing about the Olympic legacy – the youngsters being inspired to do things bigger and better than the people before them so hopefully people will be inspired by what I’m doing.”

Smashing the British record also means that Okoye is eligible to compete in his first major international senior competition; the world championships in Daegu, South Korea on August 27 which are his primary focus.

“I’m looking at the world champs and that’ll be a great stepping stone for next year. That’s my next target at the moment.”

And for anyone who has not seen Okoye in action, he confidently declared: “They can expect to see fireworks; something unusual, something special, something they haven’t seen in this country or the world. No one’s ever done what I’ve done.”

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