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Lawrence Okoye back from NFL with sights set on return trip to Olympics

Lawrence Okoye pulls on a Great Britain vest for the first time in nine years convinced his NFL physique can power him back to the Olympics.

Okoye is still British record holder for the discus despite almost five years spent out of the sport chasing his American dream.

In Poland today he competes for Britain in the European Team Championships needing a 66-metre throw to book his ticket to Tokyo.

He is back with his trusted coach John Hillier, spent lockdown when training facilities were closed throwing in a public park and is ready to pick up from where he left off.

“He’s still the best talent in the world, still capable of breaking the world record, he’s in fantastic shape,” said Hillier.

“He’s playing catch-up, he’s missed seven or eight years and it will take a bit more time, but he’s so strong and he’s got his mojo back. He wants it badly.”

Okoye works out at the San Francisco 49ers Rookie Camp

As a teenager in 2011 Okoye threw 67.63m. A year later he set the current British record of 68.24m and reached the Olympic final.

World record holder Jurgen Schult told him he would throw further than him. Instead Okoye headed for the NFL and had spells with San Francisco, Arizona, New York Jets, Dallas and Miami without playing a competitive game.

The former London Irish and Wasps academy rugby player returned home in 2019 and two years on his best of 65.56m leaves him 44cm short of the magic mark.

Okoye returned to discus in 2019 when he competed in the London Anniversary Games
Okoye returned to discus in 2019 when he competed in the London Anniversary Games

He has achieved the distance in training and claims to be physically a “superior animal” to the thrower he used to be.

“I love him to bits,” said Hillier. “I truly believe that a winter of hard work and he can break the world record, which stands at 74.08m. For now, he can at least make the final in Tokyo.”

Britain won the European Cup, as the European Team Championships were known before 2009, six times – but not since 2008.

Beth Dobbin helped Britain to victory in 4 x 100m relay - and the overnight lead - in Poland
Beth Dobbin helped Britain to victory in 4 x 100m relay – and the overnight lead – in Poland

However, they lead at the halfway mark after wins for Revee Walcott-Nolan (women’s 3000m steeplechase), Lina Nielsen (400m hurdles), Ellie Baker (800m) and the women’s sprint relay quartet of Beth Dobbin, Imani-Lara Lansiquot, Bianca Williams and Desiree Henry (43.36secs).

GB have 95 points to lead hosts Poland (94.5) and Germany (93.5). Among the athletes in action in Silesia today are 800m star and GB team captain Jake Wightman.




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