David Omoregie

David Omoregie

Emily Moss spoke to David Omoregie for our latest in the series on recent Jean Pickering Olympic Scholarship recipients

First published in Athletics Weekly, April 17, 2014

David Omoregie does not fit the image of a stereotypical sprinter. Quietly spoken, modest and articulate, the 18-year-old sprint hurdler does not “strut his stuff” and admits that his coach often tells him he must not be too “nice” to his competitors. He may not have all the talk, but Omoregie certainly has the walk. This winter, the talented teenager has let his legs do the talking, as he broke the British and European junior 60m hurdles record with 7.50 and claimed bronze in the UK senior indoor championships.

Omoregie’s somewhat reserved demeanour could have a lot to do with his background. With his parents originating from Nigeria, the family have moved around from Cardiff to Durham to Haverford West and back to Cardiff.

While the Cardiff AC athlete has spent most of his life in Wales after being born in Durham, he has not had an easy life and it is refreshing to see that Jean Pickering’s Olympic Scholarship has been awarded to not only a huge talent, but also to a young athlete to whom it can genuinely make a difference. Two years ago his dad passed away after suffering from cancer, leaving his mum to raise Omoregie and his brother and sister as a single parent.

Omoregie explains how important the grant will be to him. He says: “I feel honoured to have been selected for this award. It will really take the pressure off my mum, who doesn’t work. I am currently in the sixth form and this will help with my travel costs and also my nutrition, which I pay close attention to. I plan to go to university next year and the money will be really useful for rent and living costs.”

Omoregie has his own car, which he uses to get to training, but with that currently being repaired, it has meant the dedicated youngster has to make an 80-minute bus journey into Cardiff and back out again to go to school and again to get to the stadium for training.

Also impressive is his academic commitment. Currently studying for his A-Levels in maths, biology and chemistry, the intelligent teenager is tipped to get top grades this summer and hopes to go on to study economics at Bath, Loughborough or Bristol before going into a career in the finance sector.

“My dad and sister were both doctors, so having been brought up in an academic family, I am passionate to do well in my studies,” he says. “Currently, whenever I am not at school or training I go to the library, so I don’t have time to take on a part-time job.”

Even more remarkable is that Omoregie’s achievements have come in his first winter focusing on the hurdles. Having won the England Athletics under-20 indoor combined events title in January last year, Omoregie’s first taste of international competition came when he represented Great Britain in the Combined Events Indoor International in Spain later that month and placed third. His hurdles was going well outdoors, and he qualified for the European Junior Championships where he ran a PB of 13.45 and placed fifth. Still undecided about his event choice, he did a decathlon three weeks later and he was not that pleased with how he did. This competition, combined with his progress in hurdles and his background with injuries planted the seed for a switch to the hurdles.

He explains: “I had a few injuries with multi-events and the decathlon is a discipline that is demanding on the body. At the start of winter training, I discussed it with my coach and we decided to focus on hurdles and see what we could achieve.” Although happy with his decision, Omoregie is quick to credit the contribution that his background in multi-events has played to his rapid rise as a hurdler. “Combined events has made me stronger and more agile. I think the switch to focusing on one event has led to my improvement,” he reveals.

Coached by Mike Guest, he trains five times a week, involving sprinting, hurdling, strength and conditioning, and sand dune running in Methyr Mawr. He has not yet started weights, so feels there is room for improvement in the coming years. “My performances got better and better once I started with Mike,” says Omoregie of his coach. “He just always tells me that I shouldn’t be so nice to my competitors, but I don’t want to come across as big-headed,” he says quite seriously.

After a bronze in the UK Senior Indoor Championships and a gold in the England Athletics Under-20 Indoor Championships, Omoregie saved his best performance for his final indoor race. On home soil at the Welsh Athletics International, Omoregie sped to a PB 7.50 clocking, which was not only a British and European age-group best, but also temporarily a world junior record until French athlete Wilhem Belocian ran faster later that day with 7.48.

Reflecting on his race, Omoregie reveals: “I had been running fast in training, so knew I was capable of it, but I knew I needed to get it all together in a race. It was literally the perfect race and has given me a lot of confidence for outdoors.”

Based on his form indoors, it is of little surprise that he has his sights firmly set on improving the British Junior record for the 110m hurdles, currently held by Andrew Pozzi with 13.29.

“I prefer the 110m hurdles to the 60m hurdles, so I hope I can run fast and beat the record,” he says. “My other main target is the World Juniors in Eugene where I hope to get a medal, but I would also like to do some races over the senior hurdles, as it gives me experience and a competitive edge,” he says when speaking of his hopes for this season.

However, with Euan Dickson-Earle and Khai Riley-La Borde also having broken the previous British record with their respective 7.63 and 7.66 indoor clockings this year, Omoregie knows that he will have to be on top form even to qualify for Eugene and is full of respect for his rivals.

“Only two can go to the World Juniors so it is going to be competitive,” he says. “The England Athletics Under-20 Indoor Championships was a close race, but it is good because we push each other to fast times and it keeps us all on our toes.

Indeed, it would seem that the standard of British men’s hurdling is at an all-time high in the UK.

Led by Pozzi, the fastest five under-20 110m hurdles marks ever in the UK have all been recorded in the past five years. However, given Colin Jackson’s achievements and his Welsh heritage, it is of little surprise that Omoregie is inspired most by the former world champion and world record-holder.

“We are from the same club. I have watched all his races. He was technically so good and very fast. I look up to him and I hope I can follow in his footsteps,” he explains.

Having equalled Jackson’s junior record over the senior barriers, Omoregie clearly has the potential. And there is no doubting his commitment. Perhaps the Jean Pickering Olympic grant can go some way to helping Omoregie fulfil his talent and emulate some of the achievements of his idol Jackson.

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