28th June 2018
FUTURES IN FOCUS: JAMES TOMLINSON
Teenage discus sensation James Tomlinson (coach: Paul Jensen, club: Pembrokeshire) is gearing up for his first World Junior Championships next month having been selected as part of a 40-strong British team heading to Tampere, Finland.
This will be his first time at a world championship, earning him his seventh British vest in the process and his fourth this year. To earn a GB & NI vest is a special feeling for any athlete but this one will be even sweeter for him.
Tomlinson will be heading to the World Junior Championships next month as the sole discus thrower in the squad, having achieved the 58.00m standard in Almada, Portugal, earlier this month and being selected is a huge moment for him.
He said: “It would be my first World Championships. I wanted to go to the World Youth Championships in Kenya, but British Athletics decided not to take a team along with many other governing bodies.
“That makes things better now because I’ve still never been to a World Championships until this year and no matter what age group you’re in, a World Championships is a big thing.
“The plan was to get the standard earlier, but I had a bit of a bumpy road at the start of this season for whatever. When I went to Halle in Germany and threw 57.95m I thought they were taking the mick.
“When I did get the standard in Portugal it was amazing. That was the highlight of this season so far and I’ve gone from doubting myself at the start of the season to being on the plane for World Juniors.”
Tomlinson has competed on the international stage before at the 2016 Commonwealth Youth Games in the Bahamas where he won a silver medal, another bitter-sweet moment for him.
Despite being edged out of a gold medal by New Zealand’s Connor Bell, Tomlinson’s final round throw was on course to beat his rival for gold, only for it to strike a judge and fall short, the judge escaped unscathed. He has not let that moment deter him and has used that silver medal as motivation to do something special in Finland.
“That was bitter sweet,” he added. “I was constantly told that throw was several metres ahead of the leader. I’ve got a video of it and it was a big throw, one I really let go on. I’m not going to say I had the gold taken away from me, but having another knockdown there was good.
“What that did through the winter was make me constantly have in my head that ‘I could have been Commonwealth Youth champion’. I had that fire in my belly for the whole winter, which has bought me into this summer, which has been pretty great so far.”
All the success that has followed Tomlinson on his athletics journey started on the beaches of Pembrokeshire, throwing stones into the sea with his father, the one who noticed his potential.
He subsequently was entered into a County School discus match in 2014 which he won and the teenager was bought his first discus as a reward. Fast forward to 2017 and his reward came in the shape of the British U18 discus record at Loughborough International.
A distance of 63.48m with the 1.5kg disc was good enough for the Welshman to take the crown and stamp his place in the history books, a feeling which still hasn’t sunk in.
“That was the highlight of my career so far and that was because I was working towards that since the day I picked up the discuss really. I always wanted to be the British record holder and when I started throwing the 1.5kg a long way, I thought this could be real.
“Breaking that record in Loughborough – you can tell by my reaction if you have ever seen the video – was just a weight off my shoulders and it was just a feeling of ecstasy. It was amazing.
“I’ve never really sat down and thought about it, but when someone says, ‘no one has ever thrown as far as me at that age’ it’s huge but I’ve never thought about it like that.”
And yet it could all have been so different for him. A serious back injury threatened to curtail his discus career in the winter of 2015/16. Tomlinson was with one specialist advising him he would have to look for another sport.
After putting up with the pain for six months, Welsh Athletics physio Liba Sheeran fixed the problem within three weeks and got the Welshman back stronger than ever. Despite it being one of the toughest periods of his athletics career, he feels the injury is one of the best things to ever happen to him.
“I struggle to see a downside of the injury,” he assessed. “I was very young and it was a good thing it happened when I was 15 because I was forced to sit down and we looked at everything.
“A plan was put in front of me and how to look after my body. I’d qualified for the World Youth Championships, almost a year or two early. I was already showing potential which is why the medical team took attention to me which was amazing.
“I’d been suffering this for six months and within two to three weeks I felt like myself again something I hadn’t felt for nearly half a year.”
Tomlinson is part of the British Athletics Futures Programme, which fills him with great pride at being selected and having seen some of the names that have been on it in past years progress onto the World Class Programme, like Dina Asher-Smith, Reece Prescod and Niamh Emerson.
The programme identifies athletes who have the potential to win medals at future World and European Championships and Olympic and Paralympic Games. Tomlinson wants to replicate their progression in his own career and feels that the programme has helped him in realising how he can unlock his potential and how his progress is being noticed.
“It’s a really great feeling actually, because when you see some of the athletes who have been on it in the past and have progressed onto the world class programme, you think to yourself maybe I am doing something right because you are on the right path. Again, it’s relief, because you see everybody else who has been on it and you see your own name on it. It’s surreal in a way.”