Nearly a decade since he stepped into the circle for the discus final at London 2012, and Lawrence Okoye looks set to return to the Olympics in Tokyo next month.
Having made an athletics comeback after his misadventures in American football, the 6ft 6in Croydon Harrier has finally thrown the Olympic qualifying distance, with a 66.30metres effort at a competition in Copenhagen last night.
Now, according to his long-term coach John Hillier, another Olympic final awaits for Okoye, who he predicts will fulfil his sporting destiny and break the world record.
Okoye, 29, is still British record-holder for the discus despite spending more than five years pursuing a lucrative career in American football, yet never managing to get a single second of game time with a succession of NFL teams.
A former Whitgift pupil and schoolboy rugby sensation, Okoye’s parents still live in Waddon.
He returned from America in 2019 but has struggled to find his previous best discus form, hampered in part because of lockdown restrictions on his training facilities. He was even reduced to chucking the 2-kilogramme disc in a public park…
Last week, wearing a Great Britain vest in competition for the first time since 2012, Okoye managed to win the discus at the European Cup staged in Poland. But the 66-metre qualifying mark still eluded him.
Last night’s performance was praised and greeted with some relief by athletics’ national body and Okoye’s Croydon clubmates.
“He’s still the best talent in the world, still capable of breaking the world record, he’s in fantastic shape,” Hillier said last week.
“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.”
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