Former Royal Hospital School pupil Jono Ilori jumps into the big time
Former Royal Hospital School pupil Jono Ilori is targeting a place at the World Junior Athletics Championships in July, having been taken under the wing of an ex-Commonwealth Games bronze medallist.
The 18-year-old spent seven years at the Holbrook-based school and departed with A Levels in Politics, English, French and Physical Education, before linking up with Kareem Streete-Thompson, who came third in the long jump at the 2002 Commonwealth Games, and being offered a scholarship at the University of Missouri.
Ilori is the national under-20s triple jump champion and leapt at the chance to team up with Streete-Thompson, who is ranked the second-best sprinter/jumper ever, behind Olympic legend, Carl Lewis.
“To be coached by someone of his calibre is a huge opportunity and I am very excited about my prospects under his guidance,” said Ilori, who needs to jump 15.60 metres to qualify for the junior games and is around two metres off Olympic standard.
“I am really enjoying it, the training is a lot more intense, but no doubt it will pay off. Being in the US will give me tougher competition and allows me to train six days a week as well as studying for a degree in International Relations and French.
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“The facilities and resources available at the University of Missouri are of world class. The coaching staff are fantastic and no doubt this is the right environment for me to develop into a world class athlete.”
The junior championships take place in Barcelona, Spain, in the summer, but Ilori stepped up his training prior to his move to America in preparation for his next career step.
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“My aims are to firstly qualify for the World Junior Championships. I hope to win my first national title and claim the top spot in the UK junior rankings,” he said.
“In the US, I aim to qualify for the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Championships and score well for my university in both the Long Jump and Triple Jump. I don’t want to put a marker on a distance yet, but things are looking promising.”
“These last three months have taught me a lot about life, the world of professional sport and myself. I have learnt that to be at the very top, hard work is critical. At times it has been both physically and psychologically difficult to keep it up but I am beginning to see the rewards in my performance.”
Ilori started triple jumping at the age of 12, representing Royal Hospital, but only took it up seriously three years ago, competing for Blackheath and Bromley Harriers.
Fiercely competitive, Ilori is honest enough to admit that London 2012 may come too soon but he may just be the name on everybody’s lips come 2016 and the Brazil Olympics in Rio.
“Firstly, I want to qualify for the final (at the World Junior Championships). If I can make that final, anything is possible. I don’t enter any competition without the intent of winning the gold,” said the teenager.
“I am not going to put any pressure on myself. But certainly, if I continue to improve and work hard, Rio is a big possibility. I have my eyes set on London 2017 – where the World Championships will take place.”