Emma Botham – Among Britain’s rising athletics stars
“It felt so powerful, and that's when I knew. After it left my hand, everything just felt smooth and right it felt like I had been dancing in the circle.”
Just a few weeks ago, Emma beat her personal best with a throw of 46.64 metres, to achieve a new PB. This ranks her at 15th in Britain, over all age groups – all at just 20 years old.
From the early experiments and mishaps that first got her into the sport, through to her future hopes of flying the GB flag, we chatted to the super bubbly Emma about her whole discus career (so far).
How did you first get into discus?
“I became a discus thrower after trying out a lot of sports. In primary school, I was quite talented at cross country running (I don’t know how, I can’t run to save my life nowadays) but I ended up winning a competition that gave me a free membership to my local club.
“I joined this club and after a few sessions of cross country running, I decided it was not for me! But I was still in this academy where you got to try out numerous sports. So I went from long jump to hurdles, to high jump, until I finally ended up at howler javelin.
“I found out that I was pretty good at throwing things, as I got the Derbyshire record for the howler javelin and chest push when I was in the under 11s category. So from there, I was moved into the throws group to do Javelin. But I soon found out that I wasn’t very good at throwing that, and I kept hitting my head!
“I had a go at shot put, and I did rather well at first, but eventually I reached a point when I couldn’t throw any further. I asked my coach why I wasn’t getting any better, and he simply replied, “Because I’ve been teaching you the discus technique for shot put!”. Then, he put a discus in my hand, and I haven’t looked back!
After my third competition, I became 1st in Britain when I was in the under 11’s category, and I have just been working myself up from there ever since. So, all in all, a very long-winded story!
When did you first realise that you were good at discus?
“I first realized I was good at throwing on the days after my coach told me he had been teaching me a discus technique for shot put. He put a discus in my hand, changed a few things about my technique, and just told me to give it a go.
“I had no idea what I was doing, but I threw it and the discus just flew clean out my hand so beautifully. It felt so powerful, and that’s when I knew. After it left my hand, everything just felt smooth and right it felt like I had been dancing in the circle.
“That’s when I fell in love with the sport and it’s a memory that will stick with me for life!”
What’s your weekly practice routine?
“I have my technical training sessions every Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. This normally consists of a warm-up, then a session when I throw and my coach analyses my technique to help me improve. Then, as a group we have an after session, which is normally sprints, hurdles, medicine balls, shot puts, rudiment jumps, and core workouts, they vary each day.
“On Monday, Wednesday and Fridays I have the gym! My coach writes me a programme every month with 4 different cycles, so it will change from arm day to leg day, depending on what the programme tells me, and I vary the number of reps I do based on that, too.
“Then Saturday is my rest day!”
What would you say to a young person who wanted to try athletics?
“I would explain how much it has benefited my life and molded me as a person. When I look back on my early days of athletics, it gives me so much happiness thinking about the friendships I formed and the sense of camaraderie that you get when you all join together to win a competition – there’s no feeling quite like it.
“Without athletics in my life, I wouldn’t be the determined, resilient person I am today. After receiving a lot of constructive criticism from a young age, I have now been able to take that into my later life; internalizing any feedback given to me and constantly striving to improve myself.
“The constancy it gives you in life also gives you a real sense of purpose. At times when everything seems a bit chaotic, it’s always something to fall back on as something safe. I really owe a lot of my successes in life to athletics.”
What’s your greatest sporting achievement?
“Probably being chosen to go to English Schools every year from Year 8 onwards. Although I never medaled in any of these competitions, I was so honored to have even been chosen.
“It really gave me a perspective into what national-level athletics looked like, and it allowed me to collect skills over the years, in order to better deal with the pressure that comes with those competitions.”
“The constancy it gives you in life also gives you a real sense of purpose.”
“My coach is probably my biggest inspiration, Shadine Duquemin."
What’s your favourite thing about athletics?
“I think my favourite side of athletics is the social side. Every evening that I have training is an evening to look forward to, encouraging my friends and being able to watch them progress as athletes is really heartwarming. And vise-versa – having that support network to fall back on.
“My teammates often know me better than I know myself. When I’m having a bad day or I’m rather tired, they always know how to encourage me and how to get me on my feet again. I think that, because they train as much as I do, there’s a shared understanding of the commitment that comes with athletics.
“So as a group, it is important that we are always there for each other. My group sometimes even brings me food and books my sessions for me, because I’m such a clumsy person, I often forget all this stuff! So they look after me, and in a way, it becomes a family. I don’t know what I would do without them, I have no organizational skills!”
Do you have any inspirations or favourite athletes?
“My coach is probably my biggest inspiration, Shadine Duquemin. She is also a discus thrower, and throws incredibly well. It’s amazing to watch her. But I think because I know her on a personal level, I also witness the amount of effort and commitment she gives to her training.
“She has worked immensely hard to be in the position she is in today, and it is something to look up to. She is the biggest role model to me, and I’m lucky enough for her to take me under her wing and show me the ropes. She encourages me every day, and helps me to throw further, even when I am in a bad mindset.
“She is one of my main supporters, and I couldn’t be more grateful to have her in my life.”
What are your sporting goals for the future?
“My current sporting goals are to compete for the British Championships, and to just build some consistency and muscle memory back after a horrible year of Covid.
“But my long-term goals would be to perform at a European level and earn a GB vest one day, that would be the biggest honour!”