17-year-old Lewis Byng has no shortage of confidence or maturity. The teenage thrower was coaching himself until twelve months ago. “I didn’t really go to a gym, it was mainly track work on my own. I’d get my mum to record throws and every session I’d get five or six videos to look at and I have a good understanding of technique and where I might be going wrong.”
Last winter was his first with a full routine of training with weights, running, jumping and throwing and it seems to have paid dividends. In June, the teenager became the first British man to win national under-20 and under-23 titles in any athletics discipline on the same weekend. A month later, he followed that up by making the European junior shot put final, our first qualifier since 1989.
“I came in as the youngest out of the 34 competitors there, but it was my goal to make the final. To come in ranked twelfth and finish eighth, I was really happy.”
Lewis, who belongs to Stratford-upon-Avon Athletic Club, initially started off sprinting and long jumping aged nine. “I was getting good but suffered a bad knee injury. In that time out, I put on a bit of weight and ended up trying javelin and shot put and started to improve. Then I had a massive growth spurt and threw 15.83m in the shot put in my first year as an under-17 athlete.”
Lewis Byng at the 2019 Manchester International. Photo: Melissa Gresswell/@Lissgphotography
What followed was a year of real progress that surprised Lewis himself. “Having started off with 15m, I wanted to throw 17, but I kept improving about a metre a month! 18.85 was the European standard, I wanted it badly and had been working towards it all season.”
Nearly 40 shot put competitions chasing the mark saw him throw a best of 19.45m with a 5kg implement, the third best Britain has ever seen. Along the way, Byng won multiple titles including national under-17 gold and English Schools, also coming seventh at the European Under-18 Championships in Hungary.
Encouraged by the potential shown, Lewis got in touch with his now coach Stuart Carlaw. Moving up to the under-20 age group meant regularly throwing with a 6kg shot and developing the technique he uses.
The two most commonly used internationally are the glide or linear technique, and the rotational technique. Lewis had been using a variation on the first one known as the step back. “You kick one foot back and put you other foot back at the same time. I preferred the dynamic movement, not the glide which is more static.”
Lewis has been a regular in Great Britain kit this season. Photo: Melissa Gresswell/Lissgphotography
Lewis has now started rotating a matter of weeks ago in an attempt to build on his achievements this year. It’s hard to choose the top one between them but he ranks the under-20 and under-23 double marginally above the rest.
“I had done a session with a 7.26kg shot (used by those above under-20 or senior level) and thought I’d have a chance of second or first. After winning under-20 gold and getting automatic selection for the Europeans, it was just a bit of fun the next day. Why not? I was relaxed and threw a 1.2m PB (17.16m) on the Sunday.”
“Other throwers were capable of further but it was about who put together the best series on the day, like it always is at a competition,” says the youngster who then joined a wealth of talent at the European Under-20 Championships in Sweden in July.
“I’ve known most of the athletes since under-15 level and I think everyone performed better than expected. People watched each other’s qualifying rounds and finals and kept one another motivated.”
Looking ahead, more international events could be on the horizon, with the IAAF World Under-20 Championships taking place in Kenya in July 2020. “My main goal is to get the standard as soon as I can and make the final, maybe even get a medal.” 18.91m was needed to make the final in Finland last year, with 21.07 the step up required to get on the podium.
Byng was just 30cm off a medal at the senior British Athletics Championships in August and he and coach Stuart have been looking for inspiration from the world’s best. “We are trying to model aspects of (Olympic champion) Ryan Crouser’s technique. Long and patient at the back (of the circle) and throwing hard and fast at the front.”
Just like your average 17-year-old, Lewis balances studying with athletics. He is also talented with a rubix cube, solving a 3by3 cube in 8.89s. But there is one more key focus for next year.
“My parents are very supportive. They love what I do and taking me to competitions and training,” says the youngster, who has ambitions of driving himself. “I’ve had six lessons, hopefully I can pass in January!”