FEATURE: Sheffield athlete Joe Hobson targets the top ahead of GB bow in Spain

Joe Hobson
Joe Hobson
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When a budding athlete states that he has “future aims such as the Olympics and World Championships”, one’s instinct may be sceptical.

But in Sheffield heptathlete Joe Hobson’s case, his words carry genuine weight.

Hobson, aged 17, has been selected to represent Great Britain at U20 level - three years ‘early’ - at an Indoor Match in Salamanca, Spain, this weekend, the first step of many to the biggest stage in the world.

The self-effacing Hobson says: “I’ll just take it as it comes. Hopefully I’ll just keep on improving and then in four to six years, when I reach my peak, I’ll be Olympic standard and one of the best in the world.

“That’s my goal”.

His coach Mike Corden, Daley Thompson’s decathlon teammate at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games, revels in his young charge’s ambition. In fact, he believes that’s exactly how it should be.

Joe Hobson, left

Joe Hobson, left

“If he doesn’t think like that, with the talent he’s got, then he’s setting his targets too low,” Corden said.

“When you hear football managers say ‘we’ll take one game at a time’, what it means is: ‘I’m scared to death to say that we’d like to win the Championship’.

“In Joe’s case, he’s got the talent. If you tell people your ambition, you’re more likely to go out and train harder to achieve it.”

Hobson grew up a talented sportsman, eventually snubbing potential careers in basketball and football for a future in Athletics. 

I joined City of Sheffield when I was about nine. They get all the young athletes together and do different events with different coaches, and Mike was there working at the time. I started going to different coaches as I improved from those sessions and wanted to take it seriously.

Joe Hobson

He remembers a reunion with Corden three years ago as the moment he started to truly unlock his potential.

“I started at the Linford Lions, which was when I was seven,” Hobson said.

“I was running for Rotherham then, and then I joined City of Sheffield when I was about nine. They get all the young athletes together and do different events with different coaches, and Mike was there working at the time.

“I started going to different coaches as I improved from those sessions and wanted to take it seriously.

Mike Corden

Mike Corden

“About two or three years ago I went to Mike to see if I could join in Mike’s group, which is a very high standard group, and from there I’ve just improved dramatically.”

Corden remembers the meeting slightly differently, humorously recollecting that Hobson ‘thought he was a footballer’.

“He thought he was a great striker,” Corden smiles.

His powers of persuasion were tested as he attempted to switch the teenager from scoring “14 goals a week” in amateur youth football, into a budding world-class athlete.

He adds: “If you can high jump two metres, and long jump seven metres, and you’re running seven seconds for 60 metres at the age of 16 or 17, and you’re in the English Schools Championships at the age of just 16, it really points you in that direction.”

That’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of sacrifices. Hobson says: “Schooling has been difficult, I’ve been travelling a lot. When I did the Home Countries when I was under-17, they let me have time off and then my current college are really supportive.

“I think it’s just the timing of everything. Sometimes I’ve got to have time off to travel to competitions and then I miss work.”

But stepfather Darren Raine is keen to stress how Hobson has made the entire balance work for himself, through pure hard work and desire. He says: “Joe, with Mike as coach, for 12 or 18 months, just kept progressing, and then became Schools champion, so we said then that we’ll commit and we’ll give all the support that we can. We were getting him to stay in education and giving him time to do his sport, and seeing how far it takes him.

“That was our commitment to Joe, but he’s very committed to it. We don’t have to force him to training or anything like that. We’ve always said to him that if he doesn’t enjoy it and it’s not something he wants to carry on doing then, we can’t make him do it, it has to be his choice.”

But the rewards are obvious, and Hobson owes much of his ascent into one of the country’s finest young athletes to Corden, who, due to his background at the highest level, is vital in every department.

“From when I met Mike again, I’ve just dramatically improved at everything”, Hobson says.

“I’ve been growing a lot, and I’ve had little injuries, but Mike’s understood that. He’s got a programme just for me, and he’s been working so hard to get me to different competitions. Because he’s my main coach in every event, he provides motivation, he’s enthusiastic about everything, and technically we’ve been working really hard.”

Hobson describes the 60m sprint as his strongest current suit - he’s run a personal best of 7.09s - with his high jump and long jump also excellent.

The fact that his shot putt doesn’t necessarily meet those heady standards doesn’t worry Corden heading to Salamanca.

“In all of your events, if you’re shuffling each of your performances forward each time, you get a massive improvement on your score,” he said.

“If we left the pole vault for two weeks, he wouldn’t even know which end to put it up at. It’s about being consistent. If over seven events you get 30 points more on each event, clearly over seven events you’ve got 210 points more. That’s a massive increase on performance.”

So while consistency will be the key over in Spain, the emotion of the occasion will play a large part for Hobson, who is relishing the chance to represent Great Britain for the first time, rather than England.

“I’ve always wanted to represent GB in anything I do. I know England is my country but GB is obviously the whole thing of being chosen out of everyone.

“To represent GB abroad, in Spain, against different world class athletes is just going to be amazing.”