As the World Athletics Championships come to London, Kent will be represented by a number of young participants continuing the county’s impressive showing
As a sporting county, Kent has always punched above its weight and that will be evident again as the cream of world athletics take to track and field at the London Stadium this month for the IAAF World Championships.
As with every sport though it’s the work that goes on week-in and week-out at grass roots level – most significantly among armies of coaches and volunteers – that can really make a difference.
David Ralph, Chairman of Kent County Athletics Association (KCAA), is in no doubt it’s an exciting time for the sport.
“It’s a privilege to chair the KCAA at a time when so many of the athletes we have seen grow through club and competitions are achieving at national and international levels,” he says.
“It is, though, equally pleasing to see we have such a keen generation starting to achieve great things and we hope we’ve played our part through competitions and development leagues, the latter providing a chance for athletes to compete who may not otherwise get selected.”
It’s not just headline names such as Adam Gemili and Dina Asher-Smith – both stars of the Blackheath and Bromley Harriers Athletic Club – hoping for medal glory at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, there is track and field talent from elsewhere in Kent focused on success. We talk to three of them…
Jack Green – 400m hurdles and 4 x 400m relay
When Jack Green, 25 from Folkestone, joined Ashford AC at the age of nine it was the start of a journey that would, nine years later, see him turn professional with Nike as he moved to university in Bath. Jack competes in track and field in the 400m hurdles and 4 x 400m relay, proudly representing his country as well as Nike and Kent Athletic Club.
At London 2012 Jack reached the semi-finals of the 400m hurdles and was instrumental in the 4 x 400m relay where his exceptional speed allowed the team to qualify for the final before missing out on a bronze by just 0.1 second – quite an achievement for a 20-year-old, and all the more remarkable given a year later he would be battling depression that would lead him to take a year’s break.
“Athletics is an individual sport and that was one of the main reasons I chose it. It’s all on you and you’re the master of your destiny. The whole aim of this year has been to run fast enough to make the World Championships.” And then, of course, there’s the not inconsiderable matter of Japan in 2020.
“The Tokyo Olympics could come at just the right time in my career but my focus will be on being the best I can – if that results in a medal then it will be fantastic,” he says while clearly keen to praise those around him.
“I have been fortunate to have had fantastic coaches and role models on this journey – and June Plews and Trevor Rodwell are just two people who have had a massive impact on my career.
As this issue went to press, Jack ran a season’s best for the 400m hurdles, putting him well on track for this month’s championships.
Tom Bosworth – race walking
Tom Bosworth, 27, might now be an adopted Yorkshireman but he still proudly competes for his home club, Tonbridge Athletic. In fact, his association with it goes back to 2001 when he first rolled-up as an 11-year-old.
“I tried my hand at a few events but I was quickly attracted to the relatively unheard of event of race walking. I love it because it’s different. My training is similar to that of 10k or marathon runner but I enjoy going to races and beating runners whilst walking! I never expected to achieve what I have (five British records) and if I get to set another new one then all the better.
In fact Tom broke a world record earlier in July just before we went to press.
“I finished 24th at the Beijing 2015 World Championships and then sixth in Rio, so my aim for my second World Championships is to get another top eight finish,” he says. “The race is free to watch on a 2km lap on The Mall in front of Buckingham Palace so I hope a home crowd on 13th August can give me an advantage as I try for that gold medal.”
And looking further ahead to the Tokyo Olympics..?
“I’m entering my peak so I’d like to win a world, Commonwealth or European medal in between now and Tokyo, but an Olympic medal is the main goal.”
The harsh realities of competing in sport at a high level though are also something of which Tom is all-too conscious.
“I have a great need for sponsorship. To win a medal in Tokyo it’s crucial I am able to train as a full-time athlete.”
Zak Skinner – 100m runner and long jumper
Eighteen-year-old Zak Skinner from Sevenoaks may have got into athletics at quite a late age (if you can call 15 ‘late’) but he’s certainly made up for lost time. Zak, who competes for Tonbridge Athletic Club, began sporting life on the rugby pitch but, as he explains, school runs began taking him in a different sporting direction.
“I really enjoyed running so decided to join my local club. It was a bit of luck to be honest how I ended up with such an amazing coach and a group that is the reason behind my success,” says Zak.
“I stopped playing rugby this year to focus on my athletics. I compete as a 100m runner and long jumper within what is called the T13 classification. This is for those with the least severe of visual impairment who are eligible for the World Para Athletics Championships.
“Being an individual sport you can compare your results against others. But I also like the idea I can see how good I can be myself and push my body to the limit,” adds Zak who, as INDEX went to press, was about to compete in the World Para Athletics Championships.
“I am delighted to have made it to London. I don’t want to focus too much on medals, I just want to go out and enjoy it,” says Zak, who also has his attentions firmly focused on Tokyo 2020.
“It’s an honour to represent your country but you don’t do any of this on your own so I want to thank my coach Dave Hull and my great team-mates Luke Smallwood, Joe Fuggle and Dave Coleman who are always there pushing me and helping me grow.”
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