Big distances and a bright future is forecast for novice British discus record-holder and multi-talented all-rounder
Standing statuesque at 1.96m and weighing in at 127kg, Lawrence Okoye is a powerhouse of a discus thrower. If proof were needed, he holds the best-ever mark in history by a teenager (67.63m), and with a British record of 68.24m set in May 2012, his progress is very much on an upward and speedy curve.
His training loads have increased drastically since he started training full-time and Okoye says this was necessary if he were to achieve his ambitions.
“I’ve also realised that you have to monitor every aspect of your life if you want to progress quickly,” he said. “Training is only 50% of the task.”
Although he hasn’t grown up with the sport, having only been involved seriously for two years since leaving rugby union despite offers from several Premiership clubs, Okoye’s coach John Hillier firmly believes he has the capability to be world No.1 and world record-holder by the time of the next Games in Rio. A tall order for a tall man, but Hillier has gone on record as saying that if you could design a robot to throw the discus, the prototype wouldn’t be too far away from looking like Okoye.
“When he first came to me around two years ago, he could only throw 46m,” recalls Hillier. “In fact his throwing style was more akin to Freddie Flintoff’s bowling action – yet seven weeks later he was throwing an incredible 64m with the 1.75kg implement and that with no weight training – just rugby training. That led him to the World Juniors in Canada where he finished in a respectable sixth place. That was an eye-opener for me.”
Okoye came away from the recent European Championships in Helsinki a very dejected athlete after finishing in 12th place throwing only 60.09m in the rain-lashed Finnish capital. His second throw in qualifying the previous day of 64.86m would have put him in the mix. However, Hillier gave an honest assessment and said: “I hold my hands up; perhaps some of the blame should come my way. He wasn’t prepared for the conditions – he had no towel or even a wet-suit. When we train at Lee Valley if it rains we tend to go indoors and we just weren’t ready for the poor weather.
“Seven months ago he slipped in the rain while training and hurt his ankle and maybe that was also playing on his mind. It won’t happen again though – it was a warning shot and that can be a positive thing in the long run.”
In the peak of the summer season, Okoye’s lifting is all about power and speed with lighter and faster weights at around 60% of his best lifts. He also uses machines, dumbbells and rubber bands as part of his workouts. In the depths of the winter he bench-presses an impressive 225kg, while his full squat is a massive 300kg (47 stone). He also does some running in the form of sprinting at 75-80% over 40m with up to six repetitions. During the winter months he adds hopping and bounding exercises to his regime.
Hillier sarcastically adds: “If he ran 200m he would need a feeding station!”
(am) Stands and half-turn throws with light discus (1.75/1.80kg).
(am) Special strength training, full turns with competition discus (2kg), plyometrics.
(am) Stands, half-turns and full-turns with heavy discus.
(am) Full turns with competition discus.
(pm) Special strength training.
(am) Full turns with light discus.
Stands and full turns with competition discus plus running.