After winning the NCAA title with a mighty 77.92m, the British hammer thrower is going for gold in Manchester on Sunday
As a computer science student at the prestigious Harvard University, you would expect Kenny Ikeji to be obsessed with the biomechanical analysis and angles involved in throwing the hammer. Yet he is quite the opposite.
“All that stuff is cool and interesting,” he says, “but I am very much into ‘just doing it’ and I try to feel the feeling.”
The 20-year-old has made huge improvements in 2023 and won the NCAA (US collegiate) title in Texas last month. Unleashing the hammer 77.92m in the final round, he not only won the competition but threw a British under-23 record and went No.3 on the UK all-time rankings behind Taylor Campbell (78.23m) and Nick Miller (80.26m).
History for 20-year-old Brit Kenneth Ikeji as he becomes @NCAATrackField hammer throw champion 🔥
His throw of 77.92m puts him third on the UK all-time list 🤯
It’s also a British U23 Record 🇬🇧 https://t.co/bAjmhYbMUv
— AW (@AthleticsWeekly) June 7, 2023
While he leaves the number crunching to his coach, Brandon Amo, there is one particular figure he is interested in, namely the additional 8cm he needs in order to hit the World Athletics qualifying standard of 78.00m for the global championships in Budapest.
He has already been picked by UK Athletics to throw at the European Under-23 Championships this month (July 13-16) in Finland, but he would prefer to make an impact in Budapest in August.
“The European Under-23s is my first GB international,” he says. “It should be a lot of fun. The Ukrainian who was fourth in the Olympics in Tokyo (Mykhaylo Kokhan) is still under-23 so should be a good level of competition.”
Talking to AW on the eve of the UK Championships in Manchester, he adds: “This should set me up well for, fingers crossed, a World Champs campaign in August. I’m 8cm away from A standard as we speak. The big, big focus this season is hopefully the World Champs in August.”
Ikeji was a talented teenage athlete growing up in Dagenham and won the 2017 English Schools title in Birmingham under the coaching of Paul Head. But he has really flourished since going to study at Harvard near Boston in the United States two years ago and the spectators in Manchester this weekend will have a rare chance to see the US-based athlete perform on British soil.
Quick, agile and showing great athleticism in the circle, he is also an entertaining athlete to watch as he doesn’t hold back with his celebrations when he realises he’s thrown a long way.
“I do my best when I’m just having fun putting on a show,” he says. “I feel like if you don’t see me jumping around shouting and smiling at the competition then I’m just too much in my own head.”
See the July issue of AW magazine, out in a few days’ time, for the full interview with Kenny Ikeji