Medal will make me happy as Larry!
PUBLISHED: 13:16 13 August 2008 | UPDATED: 13:20 24 August 2010
2008 Getty Images
By Ben Pearce LARRY Achike has high hopes for the British triple jump team, but the Willesden coach will not be granting his fellow countrymen any favours as he takes his last shot at Olympic glory. Christened Onochie Lawrence Achike , the 33-year-old fo
By Ben Pearce
LARRY Achike has high hopes for the British triple jump team, but the Willesden coach will not be granting his fellow countrymen any favours as he takes his last shot at Olympic glory.
Christened 'Onochie Lawrence Achike', the 33-year-old former world junior champion and 1998 Commonwealth gold medallist became known as Larry during his younger days as a county rugby player for Sussex.
His real talent proved to be in athletics but, after coming fifth in Sydney in 2000 and missing Athens in 2004 with a torn hamstring, Beijing will be his last chance to win international recognition.
"I'm sure this is my last Olympics and that really gives me the motivation to go out there and win myself a medal," he said.
"After Sydney I thought Athens would be a very big Olympics for me, but that wasn't to be and now I'm facing my final games.
"I just have to focus on my own performance. I learnt that in Sydney when I was third and two Cubans went past me.
"I was gutted for days and just had to think 'you jumped a personal best and gave it everything, there's nothing more you could have done."
Achike believes that the triple jump offers Team GB a good chance of success, and he is hoping that all three of them will leave with medals around their necks.
"Without a doubt Phillips [Idowu] is the favourite to win and Nathan Douglas is in good form as well," he said. "We've always had a very strong triple jump and in Sydney we had three in the top six, so it would be great to get more than two in the top three in Beijing.
"It's always been a healthy competition between us, there's not the same bravado that there is with the sprints.
"I'm not saying that we're all rooting for each other before the event, there comes a time when you have to put that on hold, but it's all very polite and it's a good relationship."
Achike may feel that two of his main competitors will come from within the GB camp, but he is confident that he can throw back the years and overcome his younger rivals.
"On the day anything can happen, and no-one's jumping anything ridiculous at the moment," he said.
"In the days when Jonathan [Edwards] was around you knew that he could get up to 18 metres if everything came together on the day.
"But Phillips is jumping 17.58 or 17.59 at the moment and that's achievable for quite a lot of us. I certainly feel that I could jump that so it's really as open as it's ever been."
And Achike has every reason to be confident, having recently jumped 17.20m, his best for seven years as he comes into form at the perfect time.
"I opened the season with 17m, which is one of my best ever starts, and followed that up with 17.20 so I'm currently the most consistent I've been over 17m in my career," he enthused, "and I still don't feel I've got the timing right."
Achike's main problem is finding the time to practise as he balances his preparation with his coaching junior athletes at Willesden Sports Centre and his job as a sports development officer, recruiting for his club Shaftesbury Barnet.
"The coaching's going very well, we're in our second year now and we've got quite a few kids who have made national level," he said.
"I enjoy it very much and I've been coaching for quite a few years now, passing on the knowledge I've learnt.
"It also gives the kids a different pathway, a route into sport rather than hanging around outside McDonalds.
"My job at Shaftesbury takes up quite a lot of my time, which is not ideal for an Olympic athlete but it pays the bills, so it has to be done."
It is a down to earth comment from a down to earth man. Achike will just hope that when he comes down to earth in the sandpit in Beijing's National Stadium next week, he is over the 17.60m line and lying in the gold medal position.