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Olympic champion jumps at the chance to attend Track Academy Invitational competition

PUBLISHED: 09:00 16 July 2015

Olympic triple jump champion Christian Taylor

Olympic triple jump champion Christian Taylor

Archant

Former Commonwealth medallist Connie Henry is hoping the presence of 2012 Olympic triple jump champion Christian Taylor will lure a full house to the Track Academy Invitational competition next week.

Taylor will be one of the VIP guests at the meeting on Thursday July 23 at Willesden Sports Centre, Donnington Road, which promises to be Track Academy’s most prestigious outdoor event since it was set up in 2010.

Henry, who took bronze in Kuala Lumpur in 1998, insists no arm twisting was necessary to get the American to come across the pond to her corner of north-west London.

“As a former athlete I still have a lot of connections within the sport and also it is a great cause, so I’d have to say Christian did not take much persuading to get involved,” Henry told the Times. “It was really an appeal by one triple jumper to another.”

As an invitational meeting, next Thursday’s event is open to anyone to compete, but for Henry the most important thing is for the people of Willesden and the surrounding area to take advantage of the free admission and pack out a venue which played a big part in her own athletics roots.

She added: “The track at Willesden is where I started training at 15. The stadium opened in 2007 and it has never had every seat filled, and that’s what we want to see.

“We have lots of ideas we are working on to make it special, including dancers between races and some giveaways.” Doors open at 6pm, with the first race off at 7pm.

The roots of what became Henry’s Track Academy – an educational, mentoring and sports programme through which young people reach their potential – were in the Willesden Athletics squad founded in 2007 under coaches like Clarence Callender and Tony Jarrett.

However, in an area of social deprivation, it soon became clear the youngsters coming through the door needed guidance on more than just their sporting prowess. But why did Henry go the extra mile?

“I’d love to claim I’m some great philanthropist, but the truth is I really fell into this role,” she said. “It became really obvious that 90 per cent of our young people had real social issues and we spent as much time mentoring as coaching.

“So in 2010 the founding of the academy was my response to ‘what am I going to do to fulfil my promises to the coaches and look after the children at the same time?’.”


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