Sky’s the limit for Dominic Ogbechie as Highgate Harriers prodigy keeps raising the bar
Already standing 6ft 1in tall at the tender age of 14, Highgate Harriers’ Dominic Ogbechie clearly has a knack for defying gravity – and the sky is the limit for the prodigious teenager.
Ogbechie, who lives in Camden, is first in the national Under-15 rankings in both the high jump and long jump, and is second in the pentathlon.
He recently won the English Schools’ high jump title in his age group, and his leap of 1.91m in the long jump is an Under-15 club record for Highgate.
Unsurprisingly, Ogbechie – who attended Rosary Catholic Primary School on Haverstock Hill before moving on to Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School in Shepherd’s Bush - won the gold medal for his borough in the long jump at the London Youth Games, and he was given the Outstanding Individual Boy award at last week’s Camden Sport and Physical Activity Celebration night.
Chris Bailey, a PE teacher at Cardinal Vaughan and a member of Highgate Harriers since 1987, told Ham&High Sport: “He’s certainly one of the most promising athletes I’ve seen at the club.
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“He’s physically ahead of his peers by a long way and it’s great for me to see a boy from my school and Highgate Harriers doing so well.
“He was competing at the South of England Championships last month in combined events and Daley Thompson was watching - he said ‘this boy’s got talent’.”
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Ogbechie originally joined Highgate as a nine-year-old sprinter, having won the Camden Schools Championship on various occasions.
A couple of years later, he decided to give the high jump a go, having been inspired by Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim, who won bronze at the London 2012 Olympics.
“His technique, I think, is the thing that made me start doing high jump to be honest,” said Ogbechie. “It was just the way he glided over the bar.
“At first I found it quite difficult - I was always scared of hitting my head on the bar or falling off the mat.
“But then I realised I was quite high up in the rankings so I continued to do it, and I had dedicated high jump sessions with my coach Juliet [Kavanagh].
“At the beginning of this season, when we started really intensively working on it, I jumped 1.70m and I saw I was first in the rankings so I wanted to push that lead.
“The sprinting helps because it helps me to build up enough speed, and there’s the fitness element of it - it’s important during my run-up that I maintain my posture in order to jump as high as I can.
“I’ve had a few coaches, all of them have been excellent. At Highgate Harriers, the coaches are quite dedicated and they really do help you to perform and make the most of your talent – because it’s not only the physical training, it’s also the mental training.
“I used to do quite a lot of football but I’ve stopped to do athletics to be honest. It was quite difficult [to give it up] actually but I think it’s worth it now.”
Given his aptitude for various disciplines, a future as a multi-eventer surely beckons, but Ogbechie is keeping his options open as he prepares to make an important step up
to the Under-17 age group in September.
“I haven’t really thought about it yet,” he said. I was thinking that when I finish my first year as an Under-17 I will be able to decide then, because apparently the Under-17s is quite a hard category to go into.
“I’ll probably wait until I’ve finished my first year and see about which one to potentially go with long-term.”
Bailey is aware of the challenges ahead and added: “He’ll find it harder next year – he’ll go from being at the top of an age group to the bottom of an age group.
“I’m hopeful, and his coach Juliet is hopeful, that he can deal with what is the hardest year for an athlete - from being top dog and then being up against boys who are nearly two years older.
“The gap, physically, between a 15-year-old boy and a 17-year-old boy is huge. But at the moment he’s phenomenal and he deserves all the accolades he’s getting. He’s a wonderful lad with a very supportive family.”