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howard aiming for strong start in grosseto 

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Josh Howard
07 April 2016 

This weekend will see Josh Howard (coach: Joe Frost) go into unchartered territory, as the 17 year old lines up in three events at the IPC Athletics Grand Prix in Grosseto, Italy (8-10 April).

The long jump specialist is clear evidence of a conveyor belt of talent being rolled through the British Athletics system and is looking to make his mark on his first overseas competition.

Howard said: “A good weekend would be to beat my personal best (5.09m) and jump what I’ve been jumping in training. Also, I’ll be looking to better by best times in the 100m (12.68) and 200m (26.48). I’ve heard it’s a really fast track, so we’ll have to wait and see this weekend.

“I’ve been jumping really well and I can’t wait to show that this coming weekend. I’m looking forward to showing people what I can do.”

Howard, who has cerebral palsy, which affects his balance and the right side of his body, has high hopes for the 2016 outdoor season starting with Grosseto, the host venue of this summer’s IPC Athletics European Championships.

“I was born with the cerebral palsy I’ve got and it’s affected me throughout my whole life. I always thought to myself that I’ll never let it define me because I know I will battle this. Younger years were the worst, but the more I train, the better it gets so it’s a really big part of my life. I make sure people know it because I’m not afraid to hide my disability which comes as a surprise to many people.

“The way I look at it, it’s (Grosseto) a trial. It’s good to see the other athletes I’ll be competing against and learning. This is my first international competition this weekend, so it’s all a learning curve and I feel this is really important because I don’t want to turn up to the Europeans and not knowing what to do. Having this now will keep me steady and focused for knowing what to do in the big events to follow.”

Like many athletes, Rio is the big goal for many athletes in 2016 and while the Stockport-based teenager is not getting ahead of himself, he admits that competing at the home of the Copacabana Beach and Christ the Redeemer would be a dream come true.

“Rio is in the future, so you’ve got to focus on the next major competition, which will hopefully be the Europeans in Grosseto.

“It would be amazing (to be selected for the Paralympic Games), I’d be over the moon. It’s something people train for years to achieve. When I was younger, I would never have thought I’d be in contention to make a Games, so to be in that position it blows me away. It would be an opportunity I’d never forget.”

While the sun of Rio is waiting, the rising star has a bigger ambition closer to home over the next 12 months.

“In my opinion I’m looking forward more to London (2017 World ParaAthletics Championships) than Rio simply because of that feeling of competing in your home country.

“I think the most important thing is representing the British team and being able to bring your friends and family to the event because not a lot of people will be able to see me compete abroad. To give them that opportunity to come and watch me in a major competition back at home would be amazing.”  

Among some of the other athletes competing in Italy this weekend are Kylie Grimes (Phil Peat), Invictus Games gold medallist Dave Henson (Roger Keller) and Isaac Towers (Pete Wyman), who all represented the British team at the IPC Athletics World Championships last summer in Doha.

For more information on the IPC Athletics Grand Prix in Grosseto, please visit: https://www.paralympic.org/

Follow Josh on his journey on Twitter here