Sprowston’s Michael Painter is hammer’s golden boy

Sprowston hammer thrower Michael Painter established himself as one of Britain's brightest young athletes by claiming gold at the Aviva English Schools' Track and Field Championships, held in Gateshead.

The 16-year-old Sprowston High School student cleared 66.08m to take to the podium at an event that has previously launched the careers of the likes of Olympic and Commonwealth champion sprinter Mark Lewis-Francis.

Kent's Tom Parker finished second in the intermediate boys' final with a throw of 65.13m, with Berkshire's Taylor Campbell's effort of 61.49m good enough for bronze, leaving Painter top of the podium.

'My PB is 69.69m, but I can't complain with the gold medal obviously,' said Painter.

'I'm pretty happy. I have been doing hammer since I was about nine. I started off in Sportshall in the under-11s.

'Initially what attracted me to it was I watched the 2000 Olympics and just liked the event and I wanted to do it.

'At that point it was the Polish athlete Szymon Zi�?kowski. I really want to try and make the Olympics in 2020, I hope there's a good chance of me doing it, and I'd like to think so.'

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Along with Lewis-Francis, the competition was also where Olympic 400m bronze medallist Katharine Merry cut her teeth.

And Merry is adamant that Painter will have benefited enormously from the experience of scooping a medal in front of a packed crowd at the Gateshead International Stadium.

She said: 'It is huge for Michael because this is the be all and end all and if he can perform to the best of his ability in front of a big crowd and live television, it is a big confidence booster.

'I remember thinking after I won a medal that I am the best school child in England and that really rubberstamps their potential.

'You can't put a price on the confidence that brings. When you look down the list of past record holders you can see that this competition does produce world champions and you just don't know how many of this group will go on to make a name for themselves.'

Other Norfolk stars included Wymondham College's Jimi Tele, third in the senior boys triple jump, while Langley's Emma Tillbrook finished fourth in the under-17 girls' long jump.

Wymondham's Zino Mario Ghae cleared 1.90m in the senior boys' high jump for sixth.

The Schools Track and Field Championships are part of the Aviva Athletics Academy, which encourages and enables children to get involved in athletics. For more information go to aviva.co.uk/athletics