WRITTEN FOR SKYSPORTS
Fresh from scintillating form on the European circuit, British 800m man Michael Rimmer spoke to Nicola Bamford about his quest for gold in this summer’s European Championships...
Training hard to quash the critics’ view that British middle-distance running will never return to the eighties glory days of the likes of Coe, Ovett and Cram, a young, modest, whippet-like runner with bags of confidence and a steely determination is ready to prove them wrong.
Rimmer; the 24-year-old Liverpool Harrier, recently clocked a swift 1:44.98 over two-laps in the IAAF Diamond League in Oslo to place himself as the current European number-two on the season’s rankings and also squeeze into the global top-ten.
The time edged him ever closer to his best of 1:44.68; dating back to the 2008 season where he reached the Olympic semi-final in Beijing aged-22, and followed a big 1500m personal best of 3:41.1 and a collection of consistent performances in the 1:46/7 range in Dakar, Doha and Ostrava, respectively.
Rimmer; a seven-time national junior and four-time senior champion on the track, explained how his latest competition unravelled:
“It’s really nice to run the time but it was quite strange as it was like two different races,” Rimmer revealed on the race which also witnessed a world-leading 1:42.04 from Kenyan David Rudisha.
“The pace at the front was so hot but I hung back so I did well to do a good time. I did even laps so there’s hopefully more to come. It’s pleasing to run the time in early June so it bodes well for the rest of the summer.”
Coached by Norman Poole in Manchester; where he regularly commutes to from his home in Liverpool for training several times per week, Rimmer explained how months of hard graft after an injury-ravaged 2009 is paying dividends:
“Training’s been really good. I had a shocking past season with injuries and illness but I’m now on top of it. I’ve been getting a good endurance base from lots of morning runs and cross-training and I go in the gym twice a week and on the track three times a week.
“2008 was quite disappointing; I went to Beijing really confident - I wanted to make the final after running 1:44 in Monaco shortly before. It took quite a while to get over Beijing actually; it was gutting and very frustrating,” Rimmer said of his Olympic debut in which he lost half a stone through food poisoning on the eve of the event.
“Then I was pulling my hair out last year so I’m grateful now. I’ve put the bad times behind me and I’m looking forward.”
The 800m event in Britain has suffered of late; with no athlete bar Rimmer making an impact on European - let alone World - level in the past three seasons. With few domestic battles to drive him onto better times, Rimmer has performed admirably since his breakthrough 2006 season, thanks to the international opportunities provided by his agent, Ricky Simms; the man who guides the career of Jamaican sprint superstar Usain Bolt.
“It’s (the British 800m scene) a bit up and down now,” Rimmer explained. “I’ve been lucky. Sam Ellis and Richard Hill have had their troubles; it’d be good if we could all push on and it would help me to run better and feel more satisfied to be pushed domestically.”
Rimmer; who always wears his trademark t-shirt under his racing vest “for comfort rather than a lucky charm like it was” in his younger days, jumped onto the international athletics scene when finishing eighth in European championships four years ago, aged 20 and it is the very same continental championships this summer which the former part-time DJ hopes to make a further step up in class:
“My main objective for the year is the Euro’s then I’ll evaluate to see if the Commonwealth’s are an option,” Rimmer explained on the Barcelona event next month and the New Delhi competition this coming October.
“I’d like to do it (the Commonwealth’s), as I think I can get a medal but it’s tough to peak twice in July and then again in October. Getting to the final in Barcelona and getting a medal is the target, as I got there in 2006. I’ll need to get myself into 1:43 shape to get the gold but it’s my job to get into great shape.”
Rimmer has so far done a very good job of reaching peak form in time for championships, too; as the avid Liverpool FC fan has reached the semi-final stage of each global and Olympic event since 2007.
“2012’s obviously the big aim,” Rimmer insisted looking ahead to his longer-term aspiration. “I’ll be 26 and hopefully hitting my peak. The aim is to get into 1:42 shape; I believe it’s a genuine goal. I think I have a strong chance in global finals and it’ll be unreal in London; I’ll hopefully get a medal.”
Supported by national funding and the Barry Wells Sports Foundation, Rimmer next takes to the track in Norway on June 19th to compete for the Great Britain team in his specialist event at the European Team Cup.
Following this, the UK Athletics ambassador; who works in schools to promote the sport and would like to coach after his track career, will compete in the Paris and Monaco Diamond League races to sharpen his form and tactical awareness in advance of the bigger European test in Spain.
Evidently on the b-Rim of success, Rimmer has certainly plied his trade over the few short years in his promising young career and may well be set to finally land his first major championship medal next month, should his rate of progression and maturity this year be anything to go by.