Olympic inspiration at Oakham

Oakham School was delighted to welcome Olympic Bronze Medallist, Marilyn Okoro, for a full day of inspiring lectures and athletics training.  Marilyn, a five times 800m National Champion who holds World Championship Bronze, European Bronze and Silver medals, talked about a range of subjects – including the topical and personally relevant issues of funding, doping and women in sport.

“It was a fantastic opportunity for our students to listen, first-hand, to real-world and highly relevant issues in sport,” says Assistant Director of Sport (Girls), Michelle Northcott.  “They can now apply practical examples to the theory they have been learning about in class.”

Only recently Marilyn’s 4 x 400 team has been awarded the Bronze medal from the 2008 Beijing Olympics, following two teams being disqualified. Students heard about the “great frustration” she feels towards those athletes who “want to win at all costs”, whilst praising the system for working to re-allocate medals.

In three different presentations, delivered to students throughout the course of the day, Marilyn covered a range of topics. She described the importance of mental preparation in sport generally and specifically from an athlete’s perspective.  Sports Science students were particularly interested in her use of sports psychology including Cognitive Behavioural Techniques, post race visualisation and daily mindfulness.  

Marilyn also talked through her journey into elite athletics, encouraging students to maximise all of the opportunities that are available to them. She encouraged those Oakhamians who have Olympic aspirations to build their resilience and perseverance in order to overcome obstacles such as injury and funding cuts. She talked through the bold changes she made to her training (moving from the UK to the USA) which have resulted in her uncharacteristically long athletics career and the title of ‘come-back queen’. Marilyn’s message, that her “dream wasn’t killed by someone else’s ‘no’ in 2012”, had real impact on students.

Oakhamians from across the School, aged 10-18, were incredibly lucky to also have the opportunity to train with Marilyn in a variety of sessions tailored to both their age and level of experience.  “I’m thrilled that we have been able to give our students the chance to hone their athleticism, from such an inspiring coach,” continues Michelle.  “All of the pupils really benefited from the training – not just our elite athletes.” Our thanks to Mintridge Events, who specialise in organising sporting ambassador visits to schools, for managing the day.

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