Bourne Academy student Robbie Shaw (17) has come a long way since winning a shot put competition at a school sports day in 2013.
Since then, Robbie has collected under-17 county titles in the discus and hammer, a Lincolnshire Schools shot put gold medal and a bronze at the English Schools Championships, all of them last season.
But it didn’t stop there for the teenager from Burton Coggles, near Bourne, with bronzes at both the England Athletics Under-15/Under-17 Championships and Sainsbury’s School Games.
Robbie said: “It all started when I met Gary Huskisson (throws coach at Nene Valley Harriers) who saw how I was throwing and then introduced me to a lot of new people.
“It was my first season of competitive shot putting but Gary wanted me to throw for the seniors and I did a few competitions where things really started to happen.
“At one event, I threw the same distance as a guy coached by Geoff Capes and he asked me to come down so that he could watch me throw and it went from there.”
Holbeach-born Capes is easily the greatest shot putter Britain has ever produced with two Commonwealth golds, two European indoor crowns and he also won the World’s Strongest Man title twice.
Robbie said: “I was self-taught up until Geoff Capes met me and since then, he’s developed my technique so that I could throw further and hopefully that will continue.
“At the English Schools Championships, my main aim was to throw a personal best which I did with my first throw and at the end of the competition, I ended up with a bronze medal.
“Afterwards I rang Geoff and told him that I didn’t think I’d make the top five, never mind get a medal.
“I was informed that I’d thrown 17 metres during my warm-up which proved to be further than the winning throw in the main competition.
“Under the guidance of Geoff Capes, I’m continuing to improve so who knows what the future holds.”
Robbie, originally from Suffolk, is studying physical education and art at Bourne Academy which is also home to Deeping St James triathlon star Kayleigh Adams.
“I’ve always liked sport so anything that involves it is a bonus for me,” Robbie said.
“As a career, I’d like to do something in a sporting capacity but you can never tell what the future holds.
“At the moment, shot putting is my first priority but I have a back-up plan as well.”
Robbie is benefiting from the friendly but competitive culture at Nene Valley Harriers and the 17-metre mark is well within his grasp this season.
“I started off at Grantham Athletics Club but didn’t fit in there because the sprints took priority and therefore I was on my own,” Robbie said.
“An athlete at Nene Valley Harriers, Alex Hampson, got me into the club which eventually led me to Geoff Capes who gave me a few tips which have put two metres on my throws.
“I go to a gym in Stamford every day after school and I also train at Stoke Rochford.
“When I think back to last year, I was throwing a shot put in my garden.
“Now I’m representing my country and training with brilliant people who also have a passion for shot putting.”
Robbie’s rise to shot put stardom started in September 2012 when he threw 11.74 metres at an under-15 Lincolnshire Athletics League meeting in Grantham.
At this time, the teenager was also showing potential in the javelin, hammer and discus, winning county titles in the latter two events, on the same day, last May.
“It all happened so quickly and I didn’t expect to get anywhere near the newspapers,” Robbie said.
“I started about two years ago but last year was my first season at elite level.
“But in throwing events, it depends how you feel on the day and I took every opportunity that came my way, going really well.
“I’m just thrilled at what I’ve achieved and the rate at which I’ve achieved it, but I have made a bit of an aim for myself this season.”
After the county championships, Robbie’s rate of improvement began to accelerate after deciding to specialise in shot putting.
At an Eastern Young Athletes’ League (EYAL) meeting in Luton last May, Robbie threw 13.60 metres, followed by a 13.90 metres effort at an EYAL meeting in Hendon a month later.
In July, Robbie reached the 14-metre mark at an EYAL event in Hendon and won the Lincolnshire Schools Championship with a throw of 14.29 metres.
Robbie said: “What started off as such a technical sport suddenly became one where I was in the frame of mind to constantly look at changing my technique.
“Geoff has turned me into a shot putter who glides across the circle and that’s why I think I went so far up the rankings.
“My technique is more like Geoff’s, but I also get experience from training with other throwers who are throwing the same distances as me which pushes me to go further.”
Robbie had his first experience of competing at one of the UK’s top athletics venues, Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium, last July when he threw 14.36 metres at a UK Athletics Jumps and Throws Festival.
In the same month, Robbie threw 14.84 metres at a Lincolnshire Athletics League meeting in Lincoln and then went over 15 metres for the first time in claiming bronze at the English Schools Championships in Birmingham on July 11.
“If it wasn’t for Geoff, I wouldn’t have gone to those championships and he’s been a massive help to me,” Robbie said.
“As soon as I met Geoff, there was a connection but being at Nene Valley Harriers has also helped because it’s more of a club where everyone is together and all the throwers get on well.
A series of successes came in rapid time for Robbie after the English Schools Championships - a throw of 15.43 to win the Biggleswade Athletics Club Jumps and Throws Open in August.
Then at the East Anglian League meeting in St Ives, the Bourne Academy student threw 15.72, going out to a personal best of 16.25 metres at the Kettering Open Meeting.
In September, came bronze medals at England Athletics Under-15/Under-17 Championships in Bedford with 16.24 metres and at the Sainsbury’s School Games in Manchester, a multisports festival for young sportsmen and women with promise.
Robbie said: “I’m lucky to have Geoff Capes as a coach and I want to succeed for him, as well as for me.
“Geoff can’t compete anymore, so the training sessions we have are a way of paying him back.
“But I also train for myself and when I see shot putting on the back page, it really makes me smile.
“I have dreams but I want to take it one step at a time and go on to the next level.”
Robbie finished the season with a throw of 15.92 metres at the Biggleswade Open Graded Meeting which saw him end the year as the fourth-highest ranked shot putter in the UK at under-7 level.
But the teenager is now looking ahead to what 2015 may bring.
“I’m training like mad because I want to throw a huge personal best,” Robbie said.
“Both my dad and Geoff have told me how good I can be, but I have no idea how I’m going to progress because it’s only been a year since I decided to become an elite athlete.
“Hopefully, I’ll go on to do better things this season.”