He is about six feet and nine inches tall, he probably weighs in at about eighteen to twenty stone of solid muscle, he is built like the proverbial brick outhouse and until about eighteen months ago he was a rugby player.
Then he picked up a discus. He threw it a few times and found that he was quite good at it. He went on throwing it and broke the United Kingdom record. An Olympic discus thrower is expected to have engaged in 10 thousand throws before making the grade. Lawrence Okoye has performed the task for less than half that number of times in a twelve-month career but he is already ranked fifth in the World and with a further nine months left to go before the games he is climbing up the ladder to the very top. At nineteen years of age he has put his attendance at Oxford University, where he will study law, on hold and he is now in full-time training in the expectation that he will represent the United Kingdom in East London next summer.
I met Lawrence in my capacity as the host and current vice-Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group that supports Cardiac Risk in the Young at their reception in the House of Commons this week. He was the Guest of Honour .
I also met with a man who was on holiday in Spain with his wife when he received a telephone call from his daughter to tell him that her brother had gone out to play football that morning, had collapsed on the pitch and was dead. Tests upon the young lady, who was also present at the reception, revealed that she too had a potentially fatal heart condition that nobody had hitherto known anything about. Following a relatively straightforward operation she is now fit and well but there are many other young people walking the streets, going about their daily business and playing vigorous sport in blissful ignorance of the fact that they are carrying a lethal time-bomb inside their chests. And virtually all of those cases and potential fatalities can be diagnosed at a (highly subsidized by CRY) cost of £35 per screening and can then be treated so that the patient can continue to go on to live a relatively normal life and, depending on the condition, often return to a fully athletic life.
That is why, under the auspices of CRY, every United Kingdom athlete participating in the 2012 Olympic Games will be offered the opportunity to be screened by the charity`s medical team.
If and when Lawrence Okoye wins his medal next summer he will, as the Union flag is raised, be thinking a little of the friend that he lost in March to cardiac disease. All of the families represented in that room at the House of Commons this week will be sharing in that bitter-sweet moment. We all know that the Country has been left facing a fearsome economic situation but we surely owe it to our active young men and women to try to make sure that the tragedy of sudden loss through an undiagnosed heart condition is minimised. The National Health Service cannot possibly handle all of this but with the help of a generous public CRY can make a significant contribution. You can find a great deal about them on their website www.cry.org.uk
and you can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to contribute or assist.