Omar Simpson on fast-track to the top after late athletics introduction
Former Ralph Allen School student Omar Simpson is starting to make waves among Britain's leading 400m runners.
The 23-year-old sprinter has ended his first indoor season in equal tenth place on the UK Rankings list – and top of the South West standings – after clocking an indoor best of 47.79secs in the national 400m at the British Grand Prix in Birmingham on Saturday.
That time was just two one-hundredths of a second outside the personal best he set last year in his first summer of competition and has reinforced Simpson's belief that, after barely a year in his new sport, he has made the right decision.
"I did not expect to be quite like this and it is going pretty well so far," said Twerton-based Simpson.
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"Competing in my first Grand Prix meeting was quite exciting and I really enjoyed it. Now it is back to some hard training in the gym and on the track and then look forward to the summer when hopefully I should be going quicker."
That is also the plan of his coach, Dan Cossins, who revealed it was a stroke of good fortune that brought Simpson to his attention last year.
"Omar is a good friend of [Team Bath sprinter] Romaine Hyman and I had heard rumours that he was very quick," said Cossins. "He was at Romaine's house in Bath and had a race in the street against pole vaulter Connell Macquisten and beat him by 10m over 60m.
"I invited him to come up to the University of Bath and, the night he came, [London 2012 Olympian] Danny Talbot and Scott Bajere were doing a time trial over 150 metres. I told Omar to join in and after 50 metres he was ahead of them both.
"His speed endurance let him down after that point but he wanted to give it a go so joined in training with the group and is now starting to make himself known."
Ironically, athletics' gain is football's loss – so often it is the other way around with young make athletes – because Simpson had originally hoped to forge a career as a professional footballer with Yeovil Town.
"Omar is an exceptionally talented lad and I would not be surprised if he came out in his first 400m race this summer and ran 46secs," added Cossins.
"He is capable of that and also going even faster, maybe even getting under 46secs. Omar is a very exciting talent."