Nick Westby: Debut delight as Hull’s Smith joins his father as an Olympian

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JESSICA Ennis was not the only show in town in the Olympic Stadium yesterday.

There was also Dai Greene for the exciteable British crowd to cheer, and Christine Ohuruogu and Middlesbrough long jumper Chris Tomlinson.

Tucked into the hammer throw qualifying on the opening morning of competition was 24-year-old Alex Smith of Hull.

In his first major competition – what a place to make your debut – Smith threw well, with a best-of-three 74.71m earning him 11th position and a place in tomorrow night’s final.

Qualification took him by surprise as he finished 10th in the first group of 20, and thought he was done. But only one person out of 20 beat him in the second group and he progressed.

As well as a place in the Olympic final, yesterday’s performance also gave him bragging rights in the Smith household.

Alex’s father, Dave, was Commonwealth champion in 1986 and threw 69m 12cms in the Seoul Olympics of 1988.

“Finally I can say I’ve thrown further than him at an Olympics,” laughed Alex Smith yesterday, moments after leaving an atmosphere he will cherish for the rest of his life.

“He can’t give me stick about the Olympics any more but he’s still got the longest throw in the family, so until I beat that he’s still going to give me a bit.

“He was in the crowd, somewhere, all my family are. He’s really proud of me.

“It was a brilliant experience being out there.

“The crowd were cheering for everything. I tried speaking to my coach at one time and I couldn’t hear him.

“It was a totally different experience for me and it’s given me a taste for more.”

Just getting a place in the Olympics was a significant achievement for the relatively inexperienced Smith, who did not secure his place in the British squad until after the trials in Birmingham at the end of June.

“I had a tough road to get here,” he said.

“I didn’t have the best of starts to the season.

“I was travelling a lot, I made a mess of a fair few competitons and I was struggling to qualify. I had to win the trials with a B-standard and then repeat that the week after.

“I did it, but there was a lot of stress. It had been building up for so long and not having secured a place was stressful.

“It was a hard time, but that’s all passed now. I’m here now and I’ve just had that fantastic experience.”

On his performance, Smith continued: “I’m pleased with what I’ve done, it was my first major championships and I’ve got a solid result out there.”