WRITTEN FOR SKYSPORTS
A serial high-achiever who attracts success in whatever he turns his hand to, 110m hurdler Will Sharman spoke to Nicola Bamford after claiming his first national senior title recently.
Day to day, the 25-year-old sprint hurdles man effortlessly juggles training, travel and elite competition with new fatherhood and although currently ranked seventh in Europe, he is confident of a peak performance at the right time to claim European championship success later this month.
“I always get better as the season unfolds,” Sharman explains. “My training’s geared towards performing in the championships and I enjoy competition and building on my performances.”
Born in Nigeria and currently based in Loughborough, Sharman is accustomed to showing belief in various accomplishments. A classically trained pianist and former member of the BBC youth orchestra, Sharman also boasts an economics degree and Masters in banking and finance.
With brawn as well as brains, the Belgrave Harrier was a national under23 champion in the decathlon before switching to the sprint hurdles in 2005 due to a shoulder injury. Initially coached by Gladiators timekeeper John Anderson, Sharman was his assistant in the UK television series and sport evidently runs in the family genes, as his brother Richard competed at the 2007 World bobsleigh championships and dad, David played rugby union for the Northampton Saints.
But without doubt, top of the pile of his triumphs is Sharman’s fourth place in the World championships in Berlin last summer. Coached by the Polish George Maciukiewicz, Sharman sensationally stormed to a 13.30 clocking over the barriers to just miss out on the medals – despite placing 103rd in the global rankings going into the event and receiving a late call-up to the GB squad.
His new personal best shot him to fifth on the British all-time lists behind former world-record holder Colin Jackson and came just weeks after only finishing in the same position in the British trials – a below-par run justified by the birth of his son Joshua two days prior.
“Berlin was a fantastic performance but it’s a new year now with new athletes. People may have forgotten me but will also want to beat me. I hope that will not be my defining moment in my athletics career – there’s opportunities in the next couple of years so I hope to excel further.”
Such a surprising breakthrough performance has since changed his life and though he suffered the set-back of breaking his wrist last winter, Sharman is back and hungry for more. Now with access to meetings on the European circuit, Sharman has collected some strong runs under his belt but none more so than his effort in the European trials last weekend.
Reeling in and dipping across the line ahead of European bronze medallist Andy Turner, Sharman sped to a smooth 13.45 clocking to mark his intentions for continental glory in Barcelona. Evidently thrilled with the scalp and his first national crown in the senior ranks, the charismatic runner kissed the television camera and gave an entertaining interview: “I try to be very open so my character comes out when I perform well,” Sharman revealed.
Surprisingly however, he still quoted Turner as “the man to beat” in the Spanish capital: “I’m really chuffed; the adrenaline’s pumping hard so it’s been so exciting. I respect my rivals so I won’t get caught off guard but I always focus on myself. I’m not the favourite for Barcelona – there are other athletes quicker than me.
“The wrist’s still very difficult to hold my weight; last weekend was the first time I could hold myself in the set position in the starting blocks without the wrist support so that’s an achievement – it’s slow progress but progressing well.”
Regardless of which of the British rivals come out on top, Sharman is sure to improve on his fourth place in his heat from the previous European event in 2006. Also fourth in the 2005 European under23 final, he went onto reach the semi-final stage of the World Student Games the following year then missed out on Olympic selection for the 2008 Beijing games – something Sharman is adamant will not happen again.
“My main aim’s Olympic gold,” he insisted. “I want a gradual upward trend; that’s what we’re always looking for since I’ve been on the scene from 2005. A medal at the World’s last year would have been fantastic but it’s kept me hungry.”
Sharman next heads to Madrid on Friday then onto another competition in Greece to sharpen up for his biggest challenge of the summer. Such a hectic schedule must be tough on the new dad? - “It’s not too bad being away, as I’m only ever away for two or three nights,” Sharman revealed. “They’ll support me from home during the Euro’s.”
Although reluctant to predict his placing in the event, the articulate athlete is still confident in ‘Team Sharman’ producing the goods:
“My coach’s English needs to improve but he’s cool and we have a lot of respect for each other. I’m the owner of this ‘company’ and everyone else is a consultant to me – I’m the boss, it’s a cut-throat nature. He’s made a huge difference to my performance; made a big transformation in me and my technique.
“I just want to affect my own placing so I wouldn’t want to say (where I’ll finish); especially in a technical event – I smashed the second hurdle in Rome and came last – that’s sport. The Commonwealth’s (in New Delhi in October) are an equal target for me and my aim for the season is to run a personal best – that’s all you can ever ask for. I just want to run to my potential in the Euro’s.”
And with potential as promising as his, Sharman has a strong chance to blast into the medals twice this year.