Keighley hammer thrower Jess Mayho set for stardom
PUBLISHED: 14:00 23 June 2015
Rising star Jess Mayho is hoping athletics can capture the public imagination in the way cycling has. Paul Mackenzie reports
Rising star Jess Mayho is hoping athletics can capture the public imagination in the way cycling has. Paul Mackenzie reports Cycling has seen a massive surge in interest in recent years and now Jessica Mayho is hoping to land a hammer blow for athletics.
Big sister Hannah was double European junior indoor pursuit champion and was on track for a place in GB cycling team at the London Olympics until she was badly injured in a training accident and now Jess, who turned 22 last month, is climbing the rankings in her event, the hammer.
She threw two personal bests in her the opening weeks of the season – hurling a four kilo metal ball over 59 metres twice – but is keeping her feet planted firmly on the ground.
‘I am the fittest I have ever been and I am training the most I have ever trained,’ she said. ‘I don’t want to put a limit on how far I think I can throw, I just want to do the best I can and see where it takes me. I threw 59.92 and the conditions weren’t great so I know there’s more in the tank and that’s really exciting.
‘I just want to keep making progress and not put too much pressure on myself. My aims this season are to retain my North of England title and to be the Yorkshire champion again.’
Jess, who now lives at Coningley near Keighley, was introduced to the sport in her teens by one of Hannah’s coaches who saw her potential and gave her the encouragement to take the sport seriously.
‘At first I thought it was just people turning round in a circle and letting go of a ball on a chain but it’s much more technical than that. It’s always a challenge and I like that, you can’t get bored with it because there’s always something to learn or improve.
‘I used to play netball and I sometimes found it hard that because it was a team game, if I had a good day but the team didn’t, my performance wasn’t reflected in the result. With the hammer, it is – if I have a bad day, the result shows it and it’s down to me, but if I have a good day and I can really enjoy it because my hard work has paid off.
‘When I was in Year 13 I went to the English Schools championships and I won a medal. That’s when I thought I could do it pretty well and that gave me a lot of confidence in myself.’
At 5ft 11in, Jess doesn’t have the typical build of a hammer thrower – ‘Everyone has an image of a hammer thrower being a small, squat eastern European woman but I’m not like that, I’m a bit of a giant,’ she said. But it’s not holding her back. The Sheffield Hallam University graduate, is now ranked third in Britain and was hoping when she spoke to Yorkshire Life that she would qualify for this month’s European Under 23 championships in Estonia.
The former pupil at Parkside Secondary School and Bingley Grammar now works 20 hours a week at Leeds Uni Sports Park and spends much of the remaining time training. And it’s not all weights and throwing either, she also does weekly sprint sessions, circuit training, pilates and plyometrics (that’s jumping about to you and me).
Although she’s now a member of the Birchfield Harriers club based in Birmingham, Jess has role models closer to home. Her other sister Lucy she ran cross-country for England before emigrating to Australia and Jess added: ‘It’s good to have people like Jessica Ennis-Hill who girls can look up to and see that athletics can be glamorous but athletics is behind sports like cycling. Cycling has really hit all the family and athletics is missing that connection at the moment.
‘Hammer throwing standards have improved massively and there a lot more girls coming on the scene and that keeps me on my toes and that’s good for the sport – and it makes sure I don’t get lazy.’ #
You can follow Jess on twitter at @jessmayho