‘Sir’ is back in the classroom having learned a running lesson

Mr Webb was back in front of his science class of 30 or so boisterous teens at Harris Academy South Norwood yesterday morning, as if nothing had changed.

South Norwood’s fastest teacher, Jamie Webb

But it had. Jamie Webb was now a European athletics silver medallist.

And all the kids at school know his first name is Jamie.

Webb, 24, had raced into second place in the 800 metres final at the European Indoor Championships in Glasgow on Sunday night, setting a personal best 1min 47.13sec, although one of his coaches reckons he might – with a bit more confidence and experience – have gone one better.

Webb is unusual in this modern era of full-time, professional track and field athletes, in that he holds down a full-time job teaching physics and chemistry (did the BBC’s Steve Cram really have to do the full Alan Partridge in his commentary, and talk about Webb “getting the formula right”?) to GCSE level pupils. But he would have it no other way.

Webb, from Liverpool and a product of Loughborough University, is a former British under-23 champion who still likes to dabble in the occasional ParkRun, whether near his family home at Croxteth or at Nonsuch Park, but who in between his work and training, says he has little time for anything else.

Last year, with no Lottery funding from his national governing body, he decided to give it one last try to break into the international ranks. “I was at a point where I thought I will look back in 10 years and think I was never as a good as I wanted to be, or I take the bit between my teeth and crack on,” he said on Sunday.

Webb almost didn’t make it into the Great Britain team for Glasgow, because at the national trials last month, after winning the 800m, Webb was disqualified for “track contact”. For once, the selectors showed sound judgement and included the Liverpool Harrier in the team for the Europeans.

Webb says that he has no plans to quit teaching because he needs the intellectual stimulus. “There’s only so much running you can do,” he said.

Webb is coached by his father, Adrian, with help from Matt Yates, whose own claim to fame is that he won a Commonwealth Games medal in 1990 by beating Seb Coe in his last championship final.

Yates told Inside Croydon that he reckons Webb has lots of scope for improvement yet.

Kristal Awuah: Britain’s fastest teen

“The men’s 800 was the hardest event on the card in Glasgow, with five heats and three tough rounds in three days, and including a lot of world-class athletes,” Yates said.

“In the final, Jamie beat last year’s 800 European silver medallist and a world 800 medallist, too.

“With a bit more confidence, he could have won that race. He was just a little green in  between 220 and 190 metres from home, where he let the Spanish guy jump him and get a three-metre gap. If Jamie had got on his vest there, the Glasgow crowd would have got him home.

“It’s just inexperience, but that’s why we’ve done indoors this winter, to learn and find areas he needs to work on.”

Webb was not the only south London-based athlete to shine in Glasgow at the weekend.

Kristal Awuah, the 19-year-old Herne Hill Harrier, from Streatham, blitzed through to fourth place in the women’s 60 metres on her first senior international, missing a bronze medal by one-thousandth of a second in clocking 7.15sec, making her the fastest teenager in British history.

For Webb, it was back to the classroom on Monday, where he was anticipating some gentle joshing when he returned to school.

“They’ll all know my first name now,” he said. “That’s the biggest secret ever at school.”

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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