ATHLETICS: Siblings team up with helping hand from ex-international heptathlete

Oxford Mail: Callum and Jade O'Dowda go through their paces watched by Marcia Marriott Callum and Jade O'Dowda go through their paces watched by Marcia Marriott

SIBLINGS Callum and Jade O’Dowda are spurring each other on to sporting success.

Footballer Callum has seen first-team action with Oxford United this season at the age of 18, while his 14-year-old sister Jade is already a nationally-ranked athlete.

And although their sports differ in many ways, the Kidlington-based O’Dowdas are relishing the chance to train together.

Budding multi-eventer Jade is part of a group of youngsters coached by former British international heptathlete Marcia Marriott at Oxford City Athletic Club.

While his day-to-day work is with the U’s at their Roman Way training ground, Callum has started extra sprint training with the pair at the nearby Horspath athletics track.

“It will just help me that extra bit,” said Callum.

“I feel a lot quicker than I did at the start of the season.” Marriott has also worked with former United and now Northampton winger Chris Hackett and her link-up with Callum has the U’s full blessing.

“I asked Alasdair Lane, United’s strength and conditioning coach, about it and he said go for it,” explained Callum.

“He is not as experienced in that area, so suggested I got in touch with Marcia.” Marriott said:

“Callum could see the way Jade had improved her speed and wanted to get involved himself.

“We have been working a lot on his mobility and it’s starting to show through.” Jade trains four times a week, while Callum usually works with Marriott on Fridays and Sundays, with the intensity depending on his playing commitments.

“We motivate each other because we are playing different sports,” said Jade, who just missed out on a pentathlon medal at the England Under 15 Indoor Championships Callum added: “I try and watch Jade as much as I can.

“I will cheer her on when she’s competing and she watches my games when I’m playing, even if I am on the bench.”

Both O’Dowdas are training hard to succeed in their sports and would love to reach the top together.

Callum, who is in his first season as a professional footballer, said: “I think it has gone very well. “As a step-up from the youth team, it is massive, but the squad have made me feel really welcome.

“I have started three matches and come on five times, which is already more than I expected.”

He added: “I was six when I first played for Kidlington and at eight years old, I joined Oxford United.

“I am probably due a testimonial now!” As for the future, he said: “The first thing is to try and become a regular in the first team and then play at as high a level as possible.”

Although improving his speed is key to being a winger, Callum was a long-distance runner when he did compete in athletics while at Gosford Hill School.

Jade, who is a current Gosford pupil, is aiming to qualify for the English schools and national championships in the pentahlon this summer.

Marriott, who coached long-jumper and Oxford schoolgirl Yinka Idowu to the Barcelona Olympics, believes she has a bright future.

She said: “I think Jade is talented enough to go a long way, although I don’t like putting pressure on them when they are young.

“It’s all new to her. She couldn’t hurdle a year ago, but she has got all the attributes to be a top-class heptathlete.”

Jade would eventually love to follow Idowu, Nathan Douglas and Hannah England in becoming an Oxford City AC Olympian.

“I feel that my strongest event is high jump,” she said. “I started out with Irish dancing and then when that stopped, I wanted something new and turned to athletics.

“Marcia calms us down before an event. She motivates me a lot.

“My aim is just to do well and hopefully in the future go to the Olympics.”

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