Langley prospects impress Olympian Macey
Olympic athlete Dean Macey cast an expert eye over track and field hopefuls at a school sports day in Norfolk yesterday.
Britain's top decathlete for a decade, who finished fourth in his event at the Games in Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004, Macey was special guest at Langley School, near Loddon, where 400 pupils were competing in different disciplines.
The 33-year-old world championship silver medallist and former Commonwealth champion, from Canvey Island, was invited to Langley by head of athletics Tim Malone, who had attended one of Macey's athletics master classes, to watch the afternoon events and present awards.
He passed on advice and chatted with the school's young athletes, including middle-distance runners Nastassja Potgieter and Tom Hook, who competed at the English Schools Championships at Gateshead at the weekend.
'To be honest, I've been here only 10 minutes and I've already seen some really good athletes and really talented people,' said Macey.
'I came from a very average school but when the teachers are really passionate and they're in it for the right reasons you tend to get an awful lot of passion within the kids and I can see that everywhere I go, not just here at Langley but at various other schools.
'At such a young age they've got such a focus that I never had. I always compare them to me because I was such a lost kid. I just knew I wanted to do sport, but these kids definitely seem as if they know exactly what they want to do.
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'I just like coming along and seeing people take part in a sport I love and I tried to perfect myself for nearly 20 years.'
Macey is hoping next year's Olympics in London will help give athletics a higher priority in schools across the country.
He said: 'The schools I have been travelling to in the past couple of years, I'm extremely impressed, but I would say athletics is probably overlooked in a lot of schools in numerous parts of the country because football, rugby, cricket and netball take priority.
'But here you can see that the athletics season means an awful lot and to get this number of kids to turn out for sports day is incredible.'
Macey, who retired from athletics in 2008 and has since competed in bobsleigh and presented a TV angling programme, believes that despite advance ticket sales and great publicity, the British public have yet to grasp the scale and significance of the Olympics.
He added: 'There are an awful lot of people talking about it and people within the industry who have been to an Olympics or been to watch will know within themselves how big a deal it is, but I have to say I don't think the general public have any clue as to how big or magnificent the Olympics is going to be.
'They all talk about it and are enthusiastic about it. But however enthusiastic they are, when that time comes, when that opening ceremony is here, that will double. If you haven't been, you can't imagine how big an Olympics is going to be or how big a difference or how much an effect it's going to have on the country.
'I like the fact that even though they think they know how big it's going to be, it's going to be so much bigger.'