This week Bill Carne meets up with James Tomlinson, a talented young discus thrower who is ranked No 1 in Wales and No 2 in the UK – and he’s only been competing for a year . . .

In local athletics there can have been few participants who have made a more rapid improvement with Pembrokeshire Harriers than James Tomlinson because the 14 year old discus thrower has progressed from having a personal best of under 20 metres when he set out last year to a massive 50.50 metres in his final competition for this season.

It finished off what in retrospect has been an absolutely amazing first competitive season, when James took part in the ‘Final Fling’ Open Throws Competition in Wrexham on 27th September.

He broke the meeting record and, in a nail biting conclusion, he finally achieved his self-confessed prime goal of the season with his very last throw of the very last event by breaking the U15 Welsh National Discus Record with that outstanding throw.

When he received his Welsh vest it was presented by Olympian discus thrower Brett Morse, who is now a family friend, and it was understandably a moment that James won’t forget.

Although James did compete in a couple of local events last year, 2014 has been his first 'serious' competitive season. James enthusiastically competed in every discus competition that it was possible for him to attend and he quickly progressed in both the school and club competition pathways, winning local, district, regional, inter-regional and finally he won both the Welsh National Schools Title and the Welsh National U15 Closed title.

James also enjoyed his involvement at his local club and competed in the Louise Arthur (Junior) League for Pembrokeshire Harriers and was undefeated in all his matches.

“It is great to go there twice a week for training during the season with Jess Huddleston and my dad Kevin,” said James, “and everyone gets on really well there.”

He joined Pembrokeshire Harriers last year with a view to trying out a few throwing events, simply to see if he liked them or not. However, as soon as he picked up a discus he knew it was what he was looking for and he very soon demonstrated a natural talent for the timing and coordination that the event demands, perhaps following in Kevin’s footsteps because he had once been involved in it too.

He was proud to gain National Honours with his selection to the U15 Welsh Athletics Squad for the Celtic Games in Dublin, which he won by seven metres against the best throwers from Scotland and Ireland. It was a great moment for James as he stood atop the podium and he was also extremely pleased to be presented with a beautiful crystal glass trophy for being chosen as the best male athlete of the Welsh Team.

Outside of his athletics, James used to play rugby from the age of 10 to 14 for the Pembroke Dock Harlequins’ team coached by Kevin Brown and Dai Powell but found it difficult to fit in with his commitment to his discus throwing. He also played for Pembroke School and still helps out occasionally when he can.

James is also an enthusiastic Air Force cadet and was pleased to discover that they had their own local, regional and UK national athletics competitions as an added bonus. He entered and won each stage, finally becoming UK National Air Force Cadet Discus Champion 2014.

James is officially ranked number one under 15 discus thrower in Wales and is ranked a close number two in the UK, facts that can be found on the ‘Power of Ten’ site that supplies rankings at county level and above.

When he started out, James had to learn the throwing technique for discuss, making sure that it didn’t come out of the back of the hand or spun out of the index finger, being thrown out of the front of the hand in a smooth and concerted manner..

“I managed that fairly quickly, “James told us, “and since then I have improved my distance on a very regular basis.

“There have been a few plateaus but I have worked hard in training and occasionally I have shot ahead by five metres, with an average of between two and three metres each month.”

It has earned James top ranking in Wales and second spot in the UK behind Alfie Scopes, who hails from Kent – and the pair might be real rivals but have also built up a friendship which they continue on Face Book.

For the uninitiated, a discuss can cost anything between £20 and £120, although they are supplied by the Harriers for newcomers until they are ready to invest in their own – and a standard competition discuss for youngsters starts at 1.25kgs, moves eventually up to 1.5kgs and then 2kgs at senior level.

Ask him about support and he is quick to praise Kevin and his mum Liz, who is a keen runner, plus older sisters Victoria and Clare, his coaches and friends at school. He is grateful for the fact that he has free use of the fitness facilities in the local sports centre as an elite athlete and will be busy there five times a week throughout the dark winter evenings, building up his core strength,

To show it isn’t all glamour that comes with success James will also train outdoors on his technique, whenever the winter weather allows, using an old throwing circle he discovered in the grounds at school. Now that demands real commitment in the cold weather.

Another plus in James’ success is the fact that he has already learned that when the going gets tough and results don’t quite go as one would hope then that is also beneficial because he can learn from that time and put things right in training.

James is very excited that in recognition of his outstanding achievements, Welsh Athletics has just awarded him a place on the Welsh Athletics’ National Development Programme for the development of future athletes.

It is a real tribute to his total commitment linked to high skill levels and we wish this talented young athlete further success as he continues to climb the discus ladder in the United Kingdom.