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Olly Downs, 14, of Invicta East Kent AC in Canterbury, breaks England Athletics Championship under-15 octathlon record in Manchester

Teenager Olly Downs was in record-breaking form as he became a national octathlon champion.

Downs came top in the eight-event competition at Manchester’s Sportscity - and did so in style.

Olly Downs re-wrote the record books on his way to national glory
Olly Downs re-wrote the record books on his way to national glory

The 14-year-old from Invicta East Kent had realised the England Athletics Championship under-15 octathlon record was in his sights before his final event, a 1k race in the stadium, at the England Athletics under-15 & under-17 Combined Event Championships last month.

He said: “The old record was 4,407 points. Halfway through the competition, I thought I could probably chase it.

“After all the other events, I only had the 1k left, obviously, and I had to run 2min57sec. I did a 1k the week before and I only ran 3.02.00 so I had to run pretty fast.

“But then - and I don’t know how - I ran the 1k in 2.53.00. I was 18 seconds in front of second place!

“So I ended up on 4,451 points.”

Being so far clear of his rivals in the last discipline was impressive but Downs insists he wasn’t worried about what his opponents were doing on the track.

He said: “Basically, I had to run my own race.

“If someone else had gone in front of me, I’d have let them run their own race. But I didn’t really mind.

“My coach [Alex Pope] stood at the 200m mark. Every time I went round, he was telling me how much over or under I was on 2.57.00.

“When I came around the last 200m bend, he said I was one second under the record pace.

“So I, basically, just ran as fast as I possibly could from there.”

Indeed, he won in most of the disciplines he was involved in.

He reflected: “It was an eight-event competition which went over August 5 and 6.

“It was 100m, then pole vault, javelin, 400m and then, when it went to the next day, it was 80m hurdles, discus, high jump and then it was 1k at the end.

“I won six out of eight of the events. I think I didn’t win in the pole vault and the discus.”

But his octathlon performance was far from straightforward.

“I was hoping to win it and then I got kind of a scare in the discus,” he revealed. “I no-throwed the first two throws so I only had one throw left.

“I kind of just threw it out to get one out there.

“But that was my only bad event of the day, really.

“It’s definitely good at teaching me how to stay calm, nice and relaxed under pressure.

“When I’m under a lot of pressure, I tend to seize up quite a lot, which means I don’t do quite as well.”

Asked his favourite discipline in the octathlon, he replied: “I quite enjoyed the pole vault because it was my first-ever time doing it in an actual competition.

“I enjoyed the javelin quite a lot as well - I got a personal-best distance in that.”

Downs admits, having to train for so many disciplines, he has enjoyed not needing to balance training with his schoolwork this summer.

He said: “After the octathlon, I had a couple of weeks’ rest because I had a sore back. It was quite nice to just stop training for a little while.

“But in the next month or so, I’ve got quite a lot of hard work before the English Schools. I have liked summer training, building up to the octathlon.”

He now has set his sights on a strong finish to his outdoor campaign at this month’s English Schools’ Championship, where he’ll be doing a pentathlon.

“That’ll be my year done basically,” he said.

“Then, it’s all winter training for the next season.”

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