Karate kid Andrew Osagie gets a kick out of Steve Ovett


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The Independent Online

It was in the Big Apple two weeks ago that Andrew Osagie received confirmation that he was starting to truly make a name for himself as an 800m man. There he was, sitting in the meeting hotel after the New York Diamond League, when suddenly Steve Ovett appeared, offering words of encouragement.

"Steve was working for Australian television at the meeting and he came and found me in the hotel lobby," Osagie recounted yesterday. "He told me, 'You've got something; you've just got to keep going; you've got something'.

"Those few words probably mean more than an hour and a half's conversation with a coach telling me, 'This is the training to do'. It's someone who's been there and done it. It was inspirational. It's definitely spurred me on for the next five weeks."

Ovett himself always had something about him as an 800m runner: a combination of speed, power, grace and natural racing nous that took him to Olympic gold in the two-lap event ahead of Sebastian Coe in Moscow in 1980.

It would be stretching the imagination to suggest that Osagie might have the wherewithal to follow in the Brighton native's golden footsteps on the Olympic front in London in August – not least with David Rudisha, the Kenyan world record-holder, beating the best of the rest of the world's half milers by a veritable street these days, as he did in New York.

Still, there is something about Osagie, too. The 24-year-old Essex boy (originally from Harlow, now based at St Mary's University in Twickenham, where he trains under Craig Winrow, a 1996 Olympic 800m veteran) happens to be a black belt at karate but it is not just the feeling that he could handle himself in the rough and tumble of two-lap racing that is reminiscent of Ovett, who took no prisoners when push came to shove. It is more his natural feel for getting into the right places – even if he has not yet managed to get himself into the winner's enclosure on the international scene.

Snatching the bronze medal in the 800m final at the World Indoor Championships in Istanbul in March gave a glimpse of Osagie's potential at global level. Third-placed finishes in the Diamond League meetings in Doha, Rome and New York this summer have come as confirmation. The one-time karate kid has dipped under 1 min 45sec in all three races and has chopped his personal best to 1:44.61.

This weekend he has the Aviva 2012 Trials to negotiate in Birmingham, with 2010 European Championship silver medallist Michael Rimmer encouragingly coming back into form after injury. Having been held back himself by injury in the early part of his senior career, Osagie is looking to maintain his promising 2012 momentum – and to keep following in the hallowed footsteps of Ovett, Coe and Co.

"Yeah, of course what they achieved puts pressure on the generations that follow, but I love pressure," he said. "I love competing. I love racing. I love pressure. That's why I'm in the sport. There's nothing better than overcoming a challenge."