2nd May 2019
FUTURES IN FOCUS: GEORGE ARMSTRONG
Feeling in arguably the best shape of his career, George Armstrong (coach: Zane Duquemin; club: Shaftesbury Barnet) is hoping that he can build on the form he showed in his first competitions of the season to build towards medalling on the international circuit in 2019.
In his first competition of the new season, Armstrong achieved the European Under-23 Championship qualifying standard of 59.00m in the United States, setting a personal best mark in the process.
His 61.21m effort in California moved him up to third on the European Under-23 list for 2019 and was the first time the Loughborough-based athlete had thrown over 60m in his career.
Armstrong hopes that he will be able to continue his upward trajectory and has the goal of winning a medal at the European Under-23 Championships in Gävle, Sweden, in July.
He said: “I knew heading out to California that I was in shape to be over 60m and it was just a matter of getting it right in one of the competitions we were doing out here. Zane had the opportunity to go to America quite a few times and he knew the weather and the competitions were good early season.
“In terms of the standard, that’s exactly what I wanted to achieve while I’ve been in America so it really couldn’t have gone any better. I can’t describe the feeling when I saw the distance by my name because I knew that I was in shape to throw that far.
“It was more a feeling of relief that I’d got it done and to have actually shown I was capable of throwing that far was the most pleasing thing.
“Looking ahead, this season would be less than I would expect if I don’t get a medal at European Under-23s, based on how I’ve started and knowing the shape that I’m in. I don’t see any reason why I can’t turn up and throw enough to medal.”
Armstrong has had previous international experience for the British team, stepping into the circle at the 2015 European Under-20 Championships, finishing 10th, and the 2016 IAAF World Under-20 Championships, where he was unable to progress through qualifying.
Since moving to the Under-23 age group, Armstrong has finished the past two seasons top of the British rankings and feels like he is in a better position to make a mark internationally this campaign.
Reflecting on his junior career, Armstrong assessed: “That whole experience was just very new, I don’t think it was what I expected. I was still quite naïve and I hadn’t had the competition experience internationally until that point.
“It’s a completely different level in terms of international competition because you’re going up against the best of the best and it’s quite surreal to see the guys that are at that level.
“At world juniors, I was a completely different athlete to what I am now. I don’t think I was quite where I needed to be in terms of being a discus thrower both technically and physically. I wasn’t as well tuned as you need to be to compete at comps like that
“The main things I learnt going through the age groups as a junior were that if you want to be on that level, when it comes to the major championships, you need to be 100% focused on what it is you want to be doing.
“When it came to the big competitions and the pressure was on, the nerves started to set in. It was quite hard to control when you’re not confident in your performance. After world juniors I moved to Loughborough and started with Zane and everything changed then.”
Alongside his career as an athlete, Armstrong was also making waves in Rugby Union as part of the England academy. But at 17, he was made to choose between the two sports and elected to pursue a career in athletics.
His form in the discus saw him placed on the British Athletics Olympic Futures Programme, which supports and identifies athletes with the potential to win medals at future European and World Championships, and Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Armstrong feels that the Futures Academy Programme, has been of major benefit to him because it has enabled him to be better prepared when heading into larger competitions, in turn allowing him to continue to perform at his optimum level.
“It’s reassuring knowing there are people who believe in you and are looking at your performances and think you have the ability to make the Olympics and world championships.
“The support that you get is endlessly useful in helping to further your career, but the significance of the decision that they make and the support that they give you, telling you that you’re being backed because of your ability is massive.
“For me, competition preparation in terms of knowing what is going to be at major championships and knowing what you’re going to have to deal with is something that has really benefitted me. They help you to learn that it’s not going to be like a training camp or that you’re at home.
“There will be so many uncontrollable factors to deal with and you have to make sure you have your core strategy in place no matter what’s going on and make sure that you perform.
“That’s something I’ve always struggled with because you’re going all over Europe and the world, the chances for you to operate how you would at home are slim and you need to be ready to adapt when you get there,” he added.
Armstrong has been part of Duquemin’s stable since 2016, a stable which consists of British four-time British discus champions Jade Lally (Shaftesbury Barnet) & Brett Morse (Cardiff) and 2018 British outdoor shot put champion Amelia Strickler (Thames Valley).
Having such a good group of throwers around him to work alongside is of major benefit to him in his development and he feels their relationship will get stronger as they continue working together.
“I had a lot of respect for him as an athlete,” he continued. “He’s so professional and as soon as the likes of Jade, Brett and Amelia saw what he was doing, I think they knew he was going to be able to get them to where they wanted to be.
“He handles each athlete well and is very professional and knows what it takes to throw well at major championships. He’s at the very young end of coaches and there’s still a very close relationship in terms of age and interests.
“He’s very passionate about the event and he can tell that I am too and I’ve got a lot of respect for him being a thrower and his achievements. There’s a mutual respect too as he’s been through everything that I’m going through and it really helps he understands that.”