4th September 2018
FUTURES IN FOCUS: NAOMI OGBETA
2018 is quickly turning into one of the best seasons in Naomi Ogbeta’s (club: Trafford, coach: Tom Cullen) athletics career. At the age of 20, she’s gearing up for her first senior international trip with the British team after qualifying for the European Championships in Berlin, Germany, this month.
Ogbeta jumped a personal best 13.95m (1.2m/s) at the Müller British Athletics Championships to successfully defend her crown and hit the 13.90m qualifying standard for the European Championships. She followed that up with a stunning 14.15m (-1.6m/s) PB to ensure herself of a spot in the final, setting a new Under-23 record and moving to second on the all-time British list in the process.
Heading into the year, she thought the European Championships would be out of reach but what she has accomplished is finally beginning to sink in.
She said: “At the beginning of the season I didn’t think I’d be able to get the standard but my coach believed that it was possible and I managed to add 30cm onto my PB in the process at the British Championships.
“I was really nervous going into it. Last year was a bit of a shock because everything came at once. One minute I was struggling to jump 13.00m, the next I was winning championships.
“I had no idea what this year would be like. I felt like I’d half defended my title by winning indoors earlier in the season, but the outdoors was different because all the big names were there, but to qualify for Europeans in front of my family made it more special.
“I was watching it back on tv the next day and then it hit me like ‘Oh my gosh I’m on the same team as some of these guys’. That’s when I realised how big it was.”
Ogbeta finished in 12th place in the final with a first-round best of 13.94m (0.1m/s), not bad for someone who’s career began by accident. After taking up sprinting at school, she was approached by a coach from Trafford Athletics Club to help her to improve her running style.
Her dad, a triple jumper in his youth, added into conversation that she’d try triple jump. When the English Schools’ Championships came around in 2014, Ogbeta chose to participate in the field event rather than the sprints, winning with a championship record of 12.05m, the rest is history.
“It was purely because he chipped in I’m a triple jumper,” she exclaimed. “We watched the 2012 School Games on a school trip and afterwards, my mum told me to join a local club. I got to compete the following year, but went out in the heats.
“A coach from Trafford said that my technique was awful, but he’d help me improve it. I wasn’t sure but I went along to a session. When Tom (Cullen) came over and asked what I wanted to do, I said 100m and 200m, and my dad added triple jump.
“I tried it alongside sprinting and Tom thought I was stronger at jumping. For English Schools in 2014, it became a decision as to whether I should do that or 200m. I went with triple jump and broke the under-17 record. We definitely chose the right event.”
Away from the track, Ogbeta is a part of the University of Manchester’s comedy society, performing improv and sketches in venues across Manchester, something that stemmed from wanting to be in a society in her first year of Uni.
A large chunk of the money that is raised from the society’s performances is donated to charities that work with the homeless across the city, something she is proud to be a part of.
Alongside this, she also become a hit on social media with her series of training vlogs, something she hopes to continue throughout her career.
“Comedy helped my athletics because having to go in-front of people and make a joke on the spot, it doesn’t get more nerve-wracking than that,” she joked. “Now, I picture my athletics as though I’m doing another show.
“I really enjoy doing it because it brings smiles to a lot of people’s faces. A lot of the money that we do from the shows also goes towards helping homeless charities in Manchester and it’s a really positive thing to be involved in.
“I remember walking around the freshers’ fayre in my first year of Uni wanting a society that I could fit around training, but the comedy society met when I had my gym sessions.
“I didn’t tell Tom which society I wanted to join in case he laughed at me, but he changed the time of my sessions so I could do it because he thought comedy would be good for me.
“With the vlogs, I was speaking with Rechmial Miller and he told me I should start making them. I got a GoPro and started making some training videos and it spiralled from there.
“I took the GoPro to the European Championships and hopefully people will have been interested to see what goes on.”
A strong junior career, which has seen her represent her country at the World Youth Championships and the European Junior Championships, has led to her being a placed on the British Athletics Futures Programme.
The programme supports athletes that have the potential to win medals at Olympic & Paralympic games, alongside international competitions, including the World and European Championships.
Being a part of the programme is something that Ogbeta is delighted with and the support from British Athletics has opened several doors for her in her bid to continue improving.
She added: “It’s a huge privilege and I’m honoured to be on it. It’s been really helpful because me and Tom have been working with Aston Moore who coached Ashia Hanson, the best female British triple jumper of all time.
“Having his expertise has helped, as has meeting with the athletes on the futures days. It makes you think about your goals even more and having people believe in you is a really awesome thing.
“I remember needing new spikes just before the indoor champs and thanks to the Futures Programme, I got some just in time. That contributed to me breaking my personal best.”