Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Becky returns to Steel City for international comeback (written for Athletics Weekly 07/07).

European 800m bronze-medallist Becky Lyne is set to make her competitive return to the athletics arena this Sunday at Sheffield’s Don Valley stadium, in the Norwich Union British Grand Prix, writes Nicola Bamford.

The televised international will represent a baptism of fire for the 25-year-old, as the Hallamshire Harrier has had to endure a lengthy injury lay-off since her last race six-months’ ago. The Sheffield meeting will provide a homecoming for the British middle-distance star, and a stepping stone to a potential return to international class.

On the forthcoming event, at which she will contest the 800m, the former Tapton school pupil commented; “I’m sure I’ll be really nervous when it comes to it, as I’ve done very little 800m-pace work. I’m anxious but as it’s at my home track, there’ll be lots of support and a good atmosphere.” On her aims for her season debut, the Stockport-based runner is reluctant to predict an immediate return to world-class performances; “Last season I would have hoped to win, and although I’m a very competitive person, I’ve got no target time in mind and won’t let myself feel pressured.”

It is unsurprising that Lyne is hesitant to forecast a performance akin to her 2006 form. The 2001 European Junior and 2003 European under23 800m champion has had to contend with a difficult and frustrating pre-season’s preparation, which would test the patience and determination of any athlete. After picking up a calf strain whilst training in Australia, Lyne then experienced Achilles troubles, followed by a reoccurrence of the calf injury. A three-month-long spell of rehabilitation proceeded, consisting of swimming and cross-training, which Lyne described as “soul destroying – I didn’t run between mid-February and mid-May; it was so frustrating.”

Fortunately for the Dave Turnbull-coached athlete her agent, sponsor and coach respectively, stayed loyal to her during these testing times. “Dave’s been fantastic; he’s got a family and a job yet he measured trails for me to run on and cycled alongside me in training – he nursed me back well,” Lyne praised. “I’ve been with Nike (her sponsor) since 2003 and luckily they’ve kept faith in me by renewing my contract and Nic (Bideau, her agent)’s been great, too.” Doing presentations and motivational speaking in schools, as well as practising her Spanish helped keep Lyne sane during those challenging months.

The support of her team has undoubtedly ensured Lyne remains in the sport and maintaining her place on the World-Class Performance Lottery Programme has enabled the Loughborough and Indianapolis University graduate to access free medical back-up and train full-time without financial worries; a contribution which was pivotal to her athletic return. “My physio; Alison Rose, was fantastic, absolutely phenomenal,” Lyne recalls

Never one to concede defeat and surrender her fitness, Lyne is eager to retain her status as Britain’s number one over the two-lap distance. Her current personal best from her breakthrough 2006 season of 1:58.20 puts her third on the UK all-time 800m lists, though a plethora of British women are fast making headway on this mark.

The next stop after Don Valley will be Manchester’s Sport City for the World Trials; it is here that Lyne hopes to book herself a ticket to join the Great Britain squad at this summer’s World Championships in Osaka, Japan. Of the July 27-29th event Lyne explains, “I can’t hide away but I haven’t decided if I’ll do the 800m or 1500m yet. My 2006 season should hopefully put me in a good position with the selectors possibly giving me more time to get the qualifying time. The event’s progressed with lots of great girls now so I won’t spit my dummy out if I don’t get to go.”
Regardless of whether Lyne attains the qualifying time of two-minutes and finishes highly at the trials, she intends to compete shortly afterwards at the Norwich Union London Grand Prix at Crystal Palace and possibly tackle the European circuit to continue her quest in returning to world-class status. As the athletics community eagerly awaits her return since overcoming such adversity, Lyne will most certainly hope to capitalise on her talent and experience and show everyone she’s back with a vengeance.

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