Bill Carne enjoyed a chat with James Tomlinson about his progress in the discus – and that amazing moment in the Bahamas when his discus hitting a marshal cost him Commonwealth Youth Gold Medal...

JAMES Tomlinson competed in his first major multi-sport international when he proudly donned his Welsh vest on July 20 at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Nassau in the Bahamas.

He is a world-ranked discus thrower for whom selection for the athletics in this prestigious games, which included 64 nations and had 1034 participating athletes, was fitting reward for his total commitment over a number of years and it certainly proved eventful, to say the least, before he returned home with a coveted silver medal which now takes pride of place alongside an amazing array of other mementoes at the family home.

The 2017 season was a challenging one for James because as an international athlete, at the age of 17 he fell into two separate age groups and therefore had to throw two different discus weights. When competing in domestic UK competitions run under the UK Athletics rules he fell into the under 20 age group throwing a 1.75kg discus while all of his international competitions saw him compete in the IAAF under 18 age group throwing the 1.5kg discus.

This age group disparity is a challenge for all athletes but it is an especially tricky challenge for throwers as events like the discus are highly technical events where tiny differences in technique can lead to very large differences in the distances thrown – but as he knew that the biggest competition of his season was always going to be the Commonwealth Youth Games in the Bahamas he decided to focus his training on the 1.5kg discus that would be used there.

The day at the Thomas Robinson Stadium started with a welcome from Hubert Minnis, the prime minister of The Bahamas, with rain clouds threatening but holding off for a while - but no sooner had the event started than huge lightning strikes not too far from the stadium caused an immediate evacuation of the field while the dramatic electric storm passed.

After the competition finally resumed James was able to regain his focus and get back into his personal groove with such good effect that he found himself in the silver medal position going into the last round with his best throw being 60 metres 11centimetre – but even then the drama hadn’t finished.

As James told us: “I knew it would take a mighty effort to beat Connor Bell (New Zealand) as I launched my last round throw and I knew from the moment it left my hand that it was going to be a good one as everything seemed to click into place.

“I was thrilled as it flew to a distance later shown on video to be several metres in front of the leading mark but unfortunately a field judge failed to get out of the way of my discuss in time and it hit her on the foot and caused her to collapse in pain.

“It was one of those moments in time when things seemed to stop before I joined a number of others rushing to see if she was alright - and in the unfortunate commotion that followed my throw wasn’t marked or measured and although I was given another chance to launch the discus again after some delay it was perhaps inevitable that I was unable to reproduce that magic moment!”

So James had to settle for second place but as he said himself there were no regrets as he was delighted and proud to represent Wales and a silver medal at the Commonwealth Youth James is a fantastic achievement.

James was invited to open his season in April at an international competition in Leiria in Portugal. In an excellent start he won the event and smashed his own Welsh youth 1.5kg record with an excellent throw of 62.48 metres.

The following month James was selected to represent the GB & NI Junior team at the Loughborough international where he again threw the 1.5kg discus. This time he went one step further with what was seen as one of the performances of the competition when he broke the British youth record with an outstanding throw of 63.48 metres.

James maintained his excellent form in the few competitions leading up to the Commonwealth Youth Games with one notable performance at the Welsh Athletics International in Cardiff leading to him being awarded the title of male athlete of the match after winning the discus by a huge margin of just under 12 metres.

The last 1.5kg discus event of the season and therefore of James’ career turned out to be one of his favourite competitions, The Celtic Games in Dublin, where he was delighted to win the event with a 60.33m throw, beating the games record previously set by Olympian thrower Brett Morse by over of three metres.

Although James wasn’t concentrating his training on the 1.75kg discus this season, he did achieve several notable performances. The first 1.75kg competition of season saw James off to an excellent start with a PB of 55.08 metres at Carmarthen. Some excellent performances mid-season included a gold medal at the Welsh Schools Championships and in his last competition of the season, James again donned his GB & NI vest to represent GB Juniors at the Manchester International, where he finished the season as he started with an excellent PB of 55.40 metres and a creditable fourth place out of a strong field of eight senior international athletes.

James now starts an intense winter training program targeted towards giving him the best possible preparation for the World Junior Championships to be held in Finland next July, and has finished the season as number 2 Europe and number 4 in the IAAF world rankings, another reward for his terrific season and memorable medal at the Commonwealth Games.

He really is a fine example to others of how hard work, allied to high skill levels, can take someone to the highest levels and we wish this modest and unassuming young man every success in the future!