WRITTEN FOR SKYSPORTS
Currently lying second on the 100m continental rankings list, Laura Turner finds herself in an unusual position heading into next weeks’ European Championships; but as Nicola Bamford found, the British sprinter is ready to step up onto the medal podium.
Coached by Linford Christie, Turner will be inspired as she steps out onto the very same Barcelona track in which her mentor strode to Olympic 100m glory on when she was just ten years old in 1992.
A transformed athlete since going under his tutelage last year, the 27-year-old will be aiming to take her first European championship medal over the same distance; a title Christie took three times during his career.
Fresh from a blistering 11.11 100m personal best in Switzerland last month, which took the Harrow-born athlete to third on the British all-time lists, Turner could soon to be her way to emulating such a sizeable record of achievements:
“The season started off very slowly for me but the plan was to race myself fit and the plan seems to be paying off!” an elated Turner revealed.
“I am happy with where it is going. I am feeling very happy with everything at the moment which reflects in my performances. My winter was fantastic up until Christmas when I got injured. I was unable to run for ten weeks, hence the ‘race myself fit’ strategy. Since I returned from injury it has gone really well and I am now starting to see the benefits of all this hard work.”
Hard work indeed; as Christie’s camp is notorious for undertaking a rigorous approach to training at their Brunel University base. Joined by Athens 4x100m relay gold-medallist Mark Lewis-Francis and a handful of British international sprinters, Turner’s tough regime has witnessed a marked improvement over the past season.
“It’s great (with Linford),” Turner explained. “He’s a really good person to be around. His energy rubs off on the group and as a result we all train really hard. We are always the loudest group at the track because we have a lot of laughs at training too.
My training week is pretty tough, I was quite daunted by it when I first joined the group, but I was soon able to handle it. We like at Brunel as it is quiet and I studied at Brunel University for six years (doing an MSc in physiology) so I feel at home there.”
The positive mental attitude instilled by her coach has helped Turner blossom this year to great effect. Victories at the BUPA Great Manchester City Games and in the ‘B’ race at the European Team Championships in Norway (to place third-fastest overall in the competition), were followed by a scintillating 100m and 200m double at the UK Championships and European trials earlier this month.
This far, it has been a season only blighted by her below-par eighth in her heat in the Gateshead leg of the IAAF Diamond League a fortnight ago but Turner is still in confident mood ahead of her Spanish test:
“My aim is always to win!” Turner exclaimed. “But with regards to the Championships, Linford tells me to make the final and anything can happen. But I am mega competitive so winning is always my main aim. I never put limits on my performances. I believe in Linford’s ability to get me ready and my ability to perform.”
Turner is indeed a new athlete; one with supreme confidence in her own ability and an athlete who realistically and patiently believes they will reach the top of their sport in time. It was not so long ago, for example, that she exited the heats of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Turner has spent the past five years on the cusp of making a global impression; having to make do with reaching the semi-final stage at best on many occasions. It was in 2006 that she first reached near-medal status with fourth place in both the World University Games and the Commonwealth Games but since, her major championship participation has mainly been reduced to making finals as part of the relay squads; the latest being sixth place in the 2009 World championships in Berlin.
She will again join her team-mates in an attempt to better their silver medal from the previous European championships in Gothenburg four years ago but this time, Turner’s priority will be making – and seriously impacting – on the 100m individual final.
“2009 was pretty disappointing really,” Turner explained. “I was injured for the majority of the winter so missed a lot of training. It was my first winter with Linford and I wasn’t able to do anything he had planned for me. It was very frustrating but I always say that it makes me stronger, and I think it has.”
Turner not only looks strong but fierce and hungry, too and it is clear that she is bubbling over with excitement at the prospect of potentially bringing home two medals this month:
“I just to be the best I can be. I never put limits on my ambition. I am excited for the women’s sprint relay this year. We have some promising juniors which is always exciting. Those of us at the top are striving to be the best we can be, that is all anyone can ask of us.”
With a new coaching relationship that is evidently working wonders, coupled with her forthcoming nuptials in the spring, it is little wonder that Turner is on cloud nine - and in a fortnight’s time, it may well have a sparkling gold trim to it, to boot.