Jake Stein on the way to the 2011 World Youth Octathlon title (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Stein looking for happiness with his '10 girlfriends' in Barcelona

Few people who were at the IAAF World Youth Championships in Lille last summer will have forgotten Jake Stein, for his presence both on and off the track in the French city.

The Australian multi-events exponent took the Octathlon gold medal with a World Youth Best of 6491 points, after notching up personal bests in seven of the eight events.

Taking his title on the second day of the Championships, he could then relax and was very visibly seen around the stadium at regular intervals for the rest of the five-day event, decked out in green and yellow face paint, usually accompanied by an inflatable kangaroo, while cheering on his team mates.

There is no doubt that Stein is a larger-than-life character, even taking into account the exuberance of youth and the excitement of having proved himself on the global stage.

"Being a decathlete is like having ten girlfriends. You have to love them all, and you can't afford losing one," is the motto at the top of Stein's Twitter account.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Stein's hero among all the men who can claim to have had the honour of being 'The World's Greatest All Round Athlete' is the well-known British extrovert and two-time Olympic champion Daley Thompson.

Barcelona beckons

This summer Stein - and with a blow-up marsupial presumably packed alongside a variety of specialist shoes and other equipment - will return to Europe with the aim of adding a Decathlon gold medal at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Barcelona to his list of honours.

He has shown fine form ahead of the gun going in the Catalan city by improving his personal bests in seven of the 10 Decathlon disciplines since the start of the year.

A measure of how much better he is than 12 months ago can be gauged particularly by his increasing strength in the throws.

His shot and discus bests with the heavier junior implements are almost the same as he threw last summer with the much lighter youth models and, back in January, he sent the 800gm javelin out to 62.62m, a distance many of the senior decathletes that will be contesting the medals at the Olympic Games later this summer would be happy with.

In his two Decathlons so far this year, Stein improved the Oceania area junior record on both occasions; firstly to 7637 points at the Victoria State Championships in Melbourne on 11 March and then three weeks later to take the Australian title in Sydney with 7887 points, the best mark in the world this year by a teenager with junior implements although the United States' Gunnar Nixon scored 7892 points in senior competition at the recent NCAA Championships.

Sydney superlatives

His Sydney performance moved Stein up to seventh on the world all-time list, the World record of 8131 points with junior implements having been set by Russia's Arkadiy Vasilyev in 2006, and his superlative performances were despite a knee injury last November which hampered his training at the end of the year.

"It took me about 10 to 12 weeks to get back to 100 per cent, but training has been very good, I’ve done a lot of training PBs and have improved in things technically, so things couldn’t be going any better at the moment," Stein told his local newspaper Penrith Press at the end of May.

"The way I’ve been training. and still with about six weeks to go, I think I can do what I need to do to win the gold.

"After my injury, I came back and the focus was only on the under-20s stuff, so the Olympics went out the window with that injury. The focus remained on the 20s and then in four years time I can go for the Olympics, I have plenty of time for that," he added.

There have been regular rumours in Australian athletics circles that the prodigiously talented teenager was being courted by Australian rules football and rugby league clubs to join them but Stein is very clear about where his future lies.

Rejection to rugby

"It’s very humbling to know that these other sports think I have what it takes to participate in their sport and do well but still at the end of the day it’s not athletics, so it doesn’t interest me really.

"It’s something I watch on the TV but I’m never going to go out of my way to play it. Athletics is the only thing I want to do."

In Barcelona, Stein will be aiming to follow in the footsteps of France's 2010 World Junior Championships winner Kevin Mayer in more ways than one.

Mayer is still the only man to have won a World Youths Octathlon gold medal and followed it up immediately with a World Junior Championships decathlon win.

He will also be looking to join an elite club of junior decathletes which only has three members at the moment.

Only Vasilyev, Mayer and the United States' Kevin Lazas have scored more than the halcyon mark of 8000 points and as Stein doesn't turn 19 until next January, he could become the first 18-year-old to achieve such a feat if all goes to plan in Barcelona.

Phil Minshull for the IAAF