Simpson sets his sights on a sprint career
FOOTBALL'S loss is definitely Bristol & West AC's gain as sprinter Omar Simpson is starting to make waves among Britain's leading 400m runners.
The 23-year-old newcomer has just ended his first indoor season placed equal 12th on the UK Rankings – and top of the South West rankings – after clocking an indoor best of 47.79secs in the national 400m at the British Grand Prix in Birmingham.
For Simpson that marks real progress and is certainly helping to soothe the disappointment of not making it as professional footballer after he was released by Yeovil Town, where he progressed through the youth-team ranks.
He was ultimately released by the League One club, but rather than drop through the pyramid he swapped his boots for a pair of spikes after being spotted by Bath-based former international sprinter Dan Cossins.
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"Omar is a good friend of Romaine Hyman and I had heard rumours that he was very quick," said Cossins. "He was at Romaine's house in Bath and had a race in the street against pole vaulter Connell Macquisten and beat him by ten metres over 60m.
"I invited him to come up to the university and the night he came Danny Talbot (Olympic relay sprinter) and Scott Bajere (top Bristol & West sprinter) were doing a time trial over 150 metres. I told Omar to join in and after 50 metres he was ahead of them both!
"His speed endurance let him down after that point, but he wanted to give it a go so started to join in training with the group and is now starting to make himself known."
Such is Simpson's talent and appetite for hard work that he has made an immediate impact and last weekend was invited to take part in the national 400m at the Birmingham Grand Prix which reinforced his belief that after barely a year in his new sport he has made the right decision.
"I did not expect to be quite like this and it is going pretty well so far," said Simpson.
"Football is a completely different sport. There's a lot more dynamics needed in football, but with running there is a lot more endurance needed and the training is quite difficult, but the transition is going okay so far.
"Competing in my first Grand Prix meeting was quite exciting and I really enjoyed it. Now it is back to some hard training in the gym and track and then look forward to the summer when hopefully I should be going quicker."
Cossins certainly thinks so and he feels that Simpson has huge potential.
"Omar is an exceptionally talented lad and I would not be surprised if he came out in his first 400m race this summer and ran 46 seconds something," added Cossins.
"He is capable of that and also going even faster, maybe even getting under 46 seconds. Omar is a very exciting talent."