Lawrence Okoye on NFL and return to discus: ‘Bodily I’m superior now – American soccer aided me’

Lawrence Okoye on NFL and return to discus: 'Physically I am superior now - American football aided me'

Lawrence Okoye
Aged 20, Okoye got here twelfth within the London 2012 discus closing after qualifying fourth
Venue: Silesia, Poland Dates: 29-30 Might
Protection: Watch stay on BBC iPlayer, Purple Button and the BBC Sport web site and app – 14:25-18:30 on Saturday and 11:55-15:25 on Sunday

Lawrence Okoye speaks gently, however with certainty.

Seventy metres is discus’ gold normal. Solely three energetic athletes have ever thrown that far and main titles are often received with a lot much less.

May Okoye, after seven years out of the circle, actually attain that mark?

“Completely,” he says. “Completely.”

His perception is complete. But it surely has foundation. Given one other life, and different decisions, he in all probability would have already got achieved so.

In July 2011, on the age of 19, he threw 67.63m, additional than any teenager earlier than or since. In Might 2012, he set the present British file of 68.24m.

Lower than two years after taking on discus full-time, he was in an Olympic closing. His coach predicted world data and main golds.

After which? Then, Okoye had affords.

A uniquely gifted athlete, his energy and measurement got here allied to uncooked pace. He had performed for London Irish and Wasps’ academy sides and Premiership rugby golf equipment had been getting ready contracts to show him again right into a winger.

An particularly gifted scholar, he additionally had a spot to review regulation at Oxford.

However Okoye selected the unknown. He opted for American soccer and signed for the San Francisco 49ers.

It by no means fairly labored out. New gridiron converts not often handle to hold powerful so long as Okoye did, however in 4 and a half years that included stints on the 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins, he did not get right into a aggressive NFL recreation.

“America was undoubtedly one thing I loved,” he mentioned. “That call to go was 9 years in the past now; it’s not one thing I take into consideration.

“I’m very a lot centered on my day-to-day life and ensuring I do what I want to realize my objectives.”

After spells with two lower-league American soccer groups, he is now again in monitor and discipline.

And, he says, he is higher.

“I’ve a greater physique,” Okoye, now 29, says. “Bodily I’m a superior animal now to in 2012.

“Elite discus throwers are stronger than 99% of American soccer gamers. I’d be stronger if I had achieved discus my complete athletic profession. However in different points – explosiveness and athleticism – American soccer has aided me.

Lawrence Okoye
Okoye performed in pre-season video games however did not get into the regular-season motion throughout his time within the NFL

“And I do know extra about sport generally now than I did in 2012. I’ve extra expertise, extra life expertise. I’ve extra instruments in my toolbox to get the job achieved.”

One other legacy of his NFL profession – a torn abductor muscle and a critical hernia – hampered Okoye’s preliminary return to discus in 2019.

As amenities closed their doorways in early 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic, he resorted to throwing in a public park in Hull.

Now although, with an additional 12 months’s coaching below his belt, he’s on a trajectory for Tokyo.

In 5 outings this 12 months, he has thrown additional than another Briton in 2021. However his 2021 better of 65.56m continues to be 44cm in need of the Olympic qualifying normal.

“That is not one thing I’m nervous about in any respect,” Okoye says.

“I’ve thrown [the qualifying distance] so many instances, however had small toe fouls. In warm-ups I’ve thrown approach additional. It’s only a matter of studying methods to get higher at competing. That may be a ability in itself.”

He’ll get one other likelihood this weekend when he represents Nice Britain for the primary time in 9 years on the European Crew Championships in Poland.

The way in which he talks, the best way he throws, you’d guess on Okoye taking it too.

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