Record-breaking javelin ace Harry Hughes stepped up his World Junior Under-20 Championship preparations yesterday by meeting the man he dreams of emulating.
Bury St Edmunds schoolboy Hughes, 18, spent the day with four-time European and three-time Commonwealth champion Steve Backley ahead of his trip to Poland next week.
The King Edward VI Sixth Form student is second behind Backley in the all-time lists for someone of his age.
Hughes said: “I’ve met Steve once before but I was only nine then. To receive advice from someone who has been there and done it like him is a massive boost.”
On the link-up, Hughes’ coach Mike McNeil added: “I have known Steve since my days with the senior national squads when I coached Goldie Sayers and Mark Roberson.
“I spoke with him at the Loughborough International in May and he was very complimentary about Harry’s progress.
“When I suggested the possibly of us visiting for a session with him he was very positive and said he would be delighted.”
The Stowmarket-based thrower heads to the Championships in the form of his life.
Last weekend, he smashed a record that had stood for 18 years with a throw of 73.41m to win gold at the English Schools’ Championships in Gateshead.
This came a few weeks after recording the monstrous distance of 75.46m to capture the junior men’s title in Germany.
“To win gold at the English Schools means an awful lot to me and is a significant moment in my career,” said Hughes.
“I went into the event with the aim of winning but to break a long-standing record is just a bonus.
“I’m feeling good going to Poland. My first aim is to make sure I qualify on the Friday and my next target will be to become one of the top six juniors in the world.”
McNeil expects the talented teenager to continue his incredible progress in Bydgoszcz.
“Harry has a very good opportunity to make a mark at the championships and will challenge for a place in the top six,” said McNeil.
“If his training throws and his best competition performances materialize he may well challenge for a medal.
“He is a very mature young man with a great temperament for throwing.
“His greatest accolade is that he has been compared to the legendary Backley.”
n A jubilant Suffolk team returned from the English Schools’ Championships with a record haul of medals and team points.
Suffolk claimed one gold, four silvers and two bronze medals, plus a rare championship best performance and 10 national standards from a team of 32 athletes from schools across all parts of the county.
As well as Hughes’ fabulous gold in the javelin, Emily Moyes (Stowmarket High) claimed a bronze in the steeplechase.
Moyes got off to a very slow start but got herself back in the race with one lap to go.
After passing several runners, she came home in a very creditable third for a bronze medal to go with the silver she achieved last year.
Other notable performances came from Katrina Kemp (County Upper) who was fifth in the intermediate girls long jump (National Standard) and Levi-Jack Roper (County Upper) who was sixth in the intermediate boys hammer with a personal best.
Suffolk finished with a record haul of 95 points.