Dillon LaBrooy (coach: Jenny Archer), is a man stamping his authority in the world of para athletics.
In 2015, at 17-years-old, he switched from pursuing a sporting career in basketball to athletics and has not looked back since.
That same year, he announced himself on the international scene with a gold medal in the men’s T54 1500m at the IWAS World Junior Games in Stadskannal, the Netherlands.
And last month at just 20-years-old, he was one of the youngest members of Team England at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, making a big impression down under as he finished fifth in the T54 1500m final, just 0.22 seconds away from a bronze medal.
He spoke of his time on the Gold Coast: “The Commonwealth Games was such a good experience because it was my first major senior international. It was good being at a multi-sports event and mixing with other athletes.
“I was pleased with the race, I just got boxed in on the last 150m and it was a very tactical race. I’ll learn from that for next time. One of my goals last season was to qualify for the Commonwealths and I achieved that.
“Competing was up there with the World Junior Championships in 2015. That (the IWAS World Junior Games) was my first international event as well so that has to be a highlight,” LaBrooy said.
His next big challenge is to hit the qualifying standards to compete at the World Para Athletics European Championships in Berlin, Germany, in August, which he hopes to achieve in Nottwil, Switzerland, at the end of the month.
However, he has his sights set beyond Berlin with the goal of reaching the Paralympic Games in Tokyo 2020 his major goal.
He added: “The European Championships are the main thing for me to focus on now that the Commonwealth Games are over. I have to try and hit the qualifying times for the events I want to race in, then it’s about going there and doing well.
“It would mean quite a lot to get there, it’d be the next step up in terms of getting to Tokyo for the 2020 Paralympic Games. With the European Championships this year and the World Championships next year, there’s a lot coming up to focus on.”
LaBrooy was inspired to try athletics after watching the success of British athletes at the London 2012 Paralympics , in particular David Weir. The latter achieved the remarkable feat of winning four gold medals in his home city in the T54 800m, 1500m, 5000m and the marathon races, a highly motivating factor in a number of para athletes getting involved in the sport.
LaBrooy, now trains alongside his idol at the Weir Archer Academy, is also coached by Jenny Archer, who played a key role in Weir’s success over the years.
He admitted that sometimes he forgets he is working alongside the man who inspired him to take up the sport and is now picking up tips to emulate Weir’s success.
“I attended the Paralympic Sports Fest at the Surrey Sports Park in Guildford where I met Katie Jones, who told me David and Jenny had their academy in Kingston and that I should probably go down and try it out.
“I’m quite fortunate to have them as my coach and mentor considering what they achieved in London, I’ve learnt a lot from them. When Dave goes around the track quickly and trains with me, I pick up tiny details from him.
“He’s taught me how hard work and determination can get you through a lot of hard times. You’re not going to have an upward career all the time, you’re going to have difficult times and it’s about persevering and staying focused.
“I do sometimes have to take a step back and think about how amazing it is training with David. I never thought I’d be in this position,” he assessed.
LaBrooy has been identified by the British Athletics Futures programme as an athlete who can challenge for medals at future Para Athletics World & European championships, as well as at the Paralympic Games.
He feels the support of the programme has aided his development and offers him a clear and structured path to follow as the European Championships draw nearer as he bids to hit the qualifying standards.
“The programme gives me a feel of how far I’ve progressed and that gives me a vision of where I have to go from here,” he said.
“The support and funding they have given me is incredible, I’m competing in Switzerland at the end of the month and I’m able to use that funding to go there to try and get the qualifying times for the Europeans.
“It gives me a lot of confidence that they are recognising the work I do and I appreciate the support that they give me. It’s a real confidence boost and gives me motivation to do better.”
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