#ThrowThursday: Seven stories from British throwing this season

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Sophie McKinna heads to the World Championships after a stellar shot put season. Photo: Melissa Gresswell/@Lissgphotography

New talent, strong comebacks and a few moments of controversy have been the stories of the season from a British throwing point of view, with some getting a fair amount of attention both internationally and from outside the throwing community.

Here are some of the bigger developments to have happened so far.

Sophie McKinna’s 18m efforts and a photo finish debacle

Sophie McKinna on her way to winning the English title. Photo: Melissa Gresswell/@Lissgphotography

One of the most popular stories has been the way that Sophie McKinna has asserted her desire to qualify for the IAAF World Athletics Championships. Sophie was just a few centimetres away from the world standard of 18m indoors and at the time it looked like more was on the way.

Then, at the Norfolk Championships in May, the British indoor champion launched a huge 18.23m throw that smashed the qualifying mark and left her all-but set to follow up her 5th and 7th places at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and European Championships respectively.

But there was a twist which verged on being comical. Despite her throw being well above the standard, it was rendered invalid because of the absence of a photo-finish system used to determine the winner of track races. This is important in order for the event to have a permit, which in turn would allow the throw – which is still recognised as a personal best – to stand for qualification purposes. It was slightly ironic given that McKinna had started her career by sprinting as a teenager.

However, the perfect response came just over a week later, when the Great Yarmouth thrower recorded an effort of 18.04m at the Loughborough International to definitely, categorically, one hundred per cent secure the world qualifying mark and put the whole issue to bed.

She even celebrated by doing a finish line pose next to the track, making light of the situation as the weight of the world qualifying mark came off her shoulders leaving her with just a top-two British Championship place needed to secure her place at the Doha World Championships. More recently, Sophie came third at the European Team Championships for Great Britain, a competition she first appeared in as a teenager in 2013.

A possible shot put duo?

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Though Sophie McKinna has consistently been a strong force in the women’s shot put this year, Amelia Strickler has not been far behind.

Last year saw her win the British Championships ahead of McKinna and London 2017 competitor Rachel Wallader and take part in the Commonwealth and European Championships. This year, she has improved her personal best to 17.83m, leaving her very close to the magic 18 metre mark.

Strickler admitted she was “heartbroken” to narrowly miss out on Doha after an IAAF invite to fill places wasn’t accepted, but she can still be proud of her improvement. Britain hasn’t had a representative in the women’s shot put final at the World Championships since Judy Oakes back in 1997, but it’s a very real possibility in 2019.

Hammer PBs galore

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UK under-20 record holder and world junior champion Jake Norris gave hammer some great attention last year, and now many other young and older athletes are beginning to follow suit by showing some top form.

Commonwealth finalist Taylor Campbell has had a bit of a breakthrough with a recent throw resulting in a very pleasing PB of 74.63m. This also saw him emerge victorious in the International Throwing Meeting in Leiria, fighting off the challenge from Wales’ Osian Jones, who also threw a Welsh record of 73.89m.

In 2017, Osian initially broke Shaun Pickering’s record that had stood since 1984. This season he has added more than two metres to that mark, breaking it five times.

Not too far behind however is Birchfield’s Craig Murch who also has thrown a PB of 73.64m and won his second consecutive England Athletics Senior title this year to stay in touch with Campbell and Jones. These athletes are all chasing the 80m thrower Nick Miller, who heads to Doha after winning British gold despite not being at his best.

On the women’s side, Jessica Mayho has been fairly dominant in the absence of Sophie Hitchon, improving her best from 62 to 66m, while Charlotte Williams and Charlotte Payne have moved up to second and fourth on the junior all-time list respectively. Williams was in touching distance of a European under-20 medal, coming fourth. She was also the only athlete to register six valid throws.

A new hope in the men’s javelin?

Harry Hughes winning the 2019 British title in Birmingham. Photo: MV4R Photography

Javelin thrower Harry Hughes has hit the headlines this season, throwing the furthest mark by a British athlete since 2012. He is also the first to be over 80m in that time.

As well as a mammoth 80.32m throw, he has also retained his BUCS title and represented Britain at the European Throwing Cup in Slovakia where he finished fifth.

In terms of all-time rankings, Hughes is now knocking loudly on the door of the top ten, merely six centimetres behind former European finalist James Campbell. Sadly injury forced Hughes out of finding out where his good form would put him at a major championships. A European under-23 and European Team Championships campaign would have been most likely, given that as far as 83m is required for Doha.

Yet more promising signs for the shot put

Stock field. 2018 Manchester International. Photo: MV4R Photography
The backdrop from the shot put circle at the Manchester International. Photo: MV4R Photography.

While Sophie McKinna and Amelia Strickler have had considerable recent success in the women’s shot put, young talent Lewis Byng has raised eyebrows on the men’s side.

17-year-old Byng became the first male athlete to reach a European under-20 final since 1989, pushing on from the European youth final he made a year ago. Despite his young age, he also won a hugely impressive double gold at the England Athletics U20 and U23 Championships on the same weekend. These achievements have certainly marked Lewis as a proven winner who still has many years left to carry on improving.

His next season will bring a chance to take on the globe for the first time at the World Under-20 championships, while the likes of normally untroubled British champion Scott Lincoln will no doubt be keeping an eye on the progress of the teenager, who could be set for a bright future.

Scott has recently gone over 20m for the first time and has been speaking to us about the consistency that has allowed him to win nine consecutive British titles indoors and outdoors as he looks to make the next step himself.

Interesting prospects in the discus

Gregory Thompson by Melissa Gresswell/@Lissgphotography

There was a considerably Scottish flavour to the top of the standings at the British Athletics Championships, with Nick Percy and Kirsty Law winning discus titles. But the one to make the biggest impression has been Gregory Thompson who threw 65.56m in Philadelphia in April.

Thompson, who has been competing since the age of seven was understandably gutted to miss out on the World Championships after finishing fifth at the trials. He’s promised to continue the fight next season and could end up going toe-to-toe with national record holder Lawrence Okoye, who returned to the sport this year after seven years out. Most of this has been spent playing American Football and it will be fascinating to see if Okoye can get anywhere near his 68m personal best, if you consider that only two men are over it this year and he is still only 27.

The progression of James Tomlinson has also been pleasing to see as he followed up Charlotte Williams fourth in the hammer with fifth in Sweden in July.

…And finally

We might never know the minutiae of exactly how or why it happened, but at the European Team Championships, Britain weren’t able to run the men’s 4x400m relay due to an admin error that saw reserve thrower Youcef Zatat named in the team ahead of regular single-lap runner Rabah Yousif. British Athletics apologised for the mistake and social media – including Youcef himself – enjoyed poking fun at the bizarre situation which is sure to be remembered. It might even feature in a future pub quiz.

Youcef also has a shot put personal best of 18.50m from this season and will hope to push on as the baton passes from 2019 to 2020. See what we did there?