Trinity Grammar School, Sydney, Year 6 student and track and field athlete, Joshua O’Connell, has broken the 800-metre world record for 11-year-olds – a record that has until now, remained unbroken since 1979. Joshua was competing in the Under 14s 800-metre final at the Athletics Australia Championships held at Sydney Olympic Park Athletics Centre, when he cracked the world record and smashed his personal best time by two seconds.
Placing fourth overall in the Under 14s event, Joshua did well considering he was racing against boys up to two years older. Closing out his athletics season on a high, Joshua’s time of 2.09.95 broke the previous 2.10.39 world record, and saw him realise his goal for the year.
“Leading up to the race I felt nervous, because I felt a bit of pressure. This was my best chance to break the world record. Next year, as a 12-year-old I would need to run eight seconds faster,” said a jubilant Joshua.
“During the run I knew that the older boys would go out fast, so I just had to stay with them. My last lap has always been my best and when I looked up with 100 metres to go, I knew I had it, because I had worked through my splits,” added Joshua.
Joshua is no stranger to accolades on the track laying claim to the following titles:
- International Age World 800-metre Record holder
- Australian 1500-metre and NSW 800-metre Record holder
- NSW and Australian National Champion 800 and 1500 metre
- NSW and Australian National Champion Cross Country
Proud Mum, Shannon O’Connell, said Joshua has always had an abundance of energy and even as toddler, he would prefer to run than walk.
“The first significant running moment was when Josh competed in a Mothers’ Day classic run with me when he was just six years old. His talent shone through as he placed second with over 200 adults in the event. After than we wanted to nurture his natural talent, so we enrolled him in Balmain Little Athletics and he progressed from there,” said Shannon.
Joshua trains for athletics three days a week for an hour with his Coach, Paul Switzer, with whom he has trained with for two years. During key competition time, he also trains with the Trinity Grammar Middle Distance squad and Coach, Bradley Woods.
Asked what drives Joshua, his coach Paul said, “For a young boy, Josh has an amazing ability to define a goal and achieve it – he’ll set himself a time and then work hard to realise it. He never misses a training session and is always on time and ready to start, putting in 110 percent at every session. He really enjoys chasing older athletes and this has helped him to improve his personal best times year-on-year. He makes my job easy.”
Older athletes are indeed inspiration to Joshua who had the opportunity at the Championships to cool down after a race with his mentor, Olympian Luke Matthews and Trinity Old Boy Rohan Browning (Class of 2015), who recently recorded the fastest time over 100 metres by an Australian on home soil, and is the equal third-quickest Australian sprinter in history.
“I was super proud of how well Josh interacted with all of the boys from other States at the National Championships, who he hadn’t met before – his confidence and social engagement has come a long way since he started at Trinity,” said Shannon.
Joshua has faced a number of challenges along the way, including disqualification at his first school national championship for stepping on the line, pneumonia and recent heel pain.
“He also feels pressure to win every race, so his Dad and I try to get him to focus on always giving his best regardless of the final outcome. It hasn’t been an easy journey for an 11-year-old, but Josh works exceptionally hard to achieve success and loves what he does,” commented Shannon.
“When I’m running I feel happy. I never sit still. It feels more normal. Training definitely improves my running and I like to do it, but I love to compete,” concludes Joshua.
Beyond athletics Joshua is equally committed to playing team sport. During winter he plays AFL in Division 1 for Trinity Grammar School, for the East Sydney Bulldogs Junior Club, and is a member of the selective Sydney Swans Academy. He is also in the Division 1 team for Basketball at Trinity Grammar School.