Commonwealth Games: Lawrence Okoye wins discus silver at Birmingham 2022

Lawrence Okoye
Okoye returned to the sport in 2019 after seven years away
Hosts: Birmingham Dates: 28 July to 8 August
Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV with extra streams on BBC iPlayer, Red Button, BBC Sport website and BBC Sport mobile app; Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live and Sports Extra; live text and clips online.

England’s Lawrence Okoye, who left athletics for American Football after London 2012, won his first senior medal with Commonwealth discus silver.

Okoye, 30, returned to discus in 2019 after his NFL career ran out of steam.

He failed to make the final at last year’s Tokyo Olympics or the 2022 World Championships, but a 64.99m throw took him to the podium behind Australia’s Matthew Denny in Birmingham.

Team-mate Andrew Pozzi tumbled over the line as he won 110m hurdles bronze.

Olympic champion Hansle Parchment of Jamaica had withdrawn from the race with an injury earlier in the evening, opening the door for England’s Pozzi and compatriot Joshua Zeller.

Parchment’s fellow Jamaican Rasheed Broadbell took full advantage and gold in 13.08 seconds, with his time equalling the Commonwealth record set by Wales’ Colin Jackson in 1990.

But, from lane eight, Pozzi ran a determined race to claim a medal behind Barbados’ Shane Brathwaite.

Fourth-placed Zeller was two hundredths of a second off Pozzi’s time of 13.37 seconds.

“I drove for the line and just about got there,” Pozzi said.

“I was just desperate to get there.

“That medal was needed. People probably don’t understand the toll the past few years have had on athletes.”

Andrew Pozzi
Pozzi lost his footing as he lunged for the line

Pozzi relocated to Italy to train with fabled Cuban coach Santiago Antunez only to find himself restricted and isolated by the Covid pandemic and the complications of Britain’s new relationship with the European Union.

It also meant an often long-distance relationship with partner and fellow athlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson, who has trained in France and the United States in recent years.

Since Antunez relocated to Colombia at the start of this year, Pozzi has moved back to the UK to find form and new guidance.

Okoye lands discus medal

Okoye was one of the stars of London 2012, reaching the Olympic final and finishing the year with the fifth-furthest throw of the season.

However, the 20-year-old had other options. Instead of pursuing athletics, top-flight rugby union or a law degree at Oxford University, he signed a deal with the NFL team the San Francisco 49ers.

He was traded to the Arizona Cardinals, New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins, without ever making an appearance in a competitive game, before making his comeback to athletics.

“It’s a massive breakthrough for me. I have doubted myself quite a bit so to do this means a lot,” said Okoye.

“Since I’ve come back, I’ve thrown massive in training and warm-ups but haven’t quite got it together in competitions.

“Today was a great step forward and hopefully in the Europeans, and moving forward to Paris, I can really unlock my potential.”

Okoye’s personal best remains a 68.24m effort from May 2012, and he has previously said he believes he can throw over 70m, a distance that would have won gold at the Tokyo Olympics as well as in Birmingham.

Kinghorn and Wightman revel in Birmingham atmosphere

Getty
Kinghorn’s bronze comes after a fifth-place finish at Glasgow 2014 and a fourth at Gold Coast 2018

Scotland’s Sammi Kinghorn felt the love of the south-of-the-border crowd as they attempted to roar her home in the T53/54 1500m.

The 26-year-old could not overhaul Australian marathon champion Madison de Rozario though, eventually finishing with bronze.

“I just tried to kick and obviously burned out a little bit in the home straight and got caught, but a medal for Scotland – it’s a dream come true,” she said.

“This crowd!. Most of them are probably English but they are absolutely getting behind the home nations.

“When I started accelerating I could hear the crowd getting louder and louder and I thought ‘come on, let’s do this’.”

Earlier in the day, compatriot and 1500m world champion Jake Wightman enjoyed a similar experience as he won his heat to make into Saturday’s final.

His father and coach Geoff, who provided the in-stadium commentary on Wightman’s win in Eugene, was again on the tannoy.

Wightman said hearing his father introduce him as world champion brought home the scale of last month’s achievement.

“”It was special, it was a confidence boost if you get announced as that. That’s the most it’s sunk in,” he said.

“It was nice walking around before with a lot of people coming up to me and saying ‘well done’.”


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