Neil Featherby: Working hard to look after tomorrow's Olympians

Anglian Schools Athletics Championships at the UEA Sportspark. Jack White (56A) leading the 1500m.

Today's junior athletes could be tomorrow's Olympians. - Credit: Archant

Like just about everyone else, I am looking forward to the Olympic Games which start in a week’s time (July 23). 

Whilst this year’s big occasion is somewhat different, with it being a year late and no spectators, this sporting spectacle is still the ultimate when it comes to world events. 

Some might say the football World Cup too, but when it comes to the organisation of so many different sports and athletes all gathering for what will undoubtedly be one of the highlights of their career, being an Olympian really is special and a dream come true for any sportsperson. 

Nearer to home, we are also now seeing events taking place again which also includes the Norfolk County Athletics Championships scheduled for August 1 and August 29.  

Grassroots is undoubtedly where it all starts and talking to Clive Poyner (Athletics Norfolk chairman) this week, he told me that due to lots of people coming forward to volunteer and help out, they will now be able to put events on from Under 11s through to the masters.

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“Having extra volunteers come forward really has been a blessing,” he said whilst then going on to tell me that the pandemic has not only affected the sport of athletics across the board, but very much so at junior level. “You can usually count on Norfolk having about 15 athletes selected for the English Schools Championships at junior level, but this year we only had three,” he continued. 

It is quite clear that Clive and all at Athletics Norfolk really are committed to quickly reversing this trend to ensure that we get back to normal levels again and beyond. 

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Not only are they working hard with the Quad Kids meets, but they are also looking to organise some extra special events for schools and children in the U11 and U13 age groups once the schools return after the summer holiday break. 

“When the schools return, we will be contacting them and will endeavour to put on some come and try it events in the autumn,” he added. 

Whilst we may not have had so many young athletes competing in last weekend’s English Schools Athletics Championships, there were some excellent performances, particularly from Izzy Mardle who broke the ESAA meeting record in the junior girls 75 metre hurdles.  

Schools athletics, particularly at junior level, are so important because there is untapped talent out there just waiting to be discovered who of course may just go onto be an Olympian themselves in the future. 

Talking of which, a huge good luck and best wishes to shot putter Sophie McKinna who by the time this column is published should have arrived in Tokyo flying the flag for GB, and of course Norfolk.