Friday, 24 September 2010

Big Turner-round


Two years ago, Andy Turner was suffering from injuries and a drop in form which led to him losing his funding status and struggling as a full-time athlete. Now though, the 110m hurdler is the European champion and looks set to add the Commonwealth crown to his growing resume next month, writes Nicola Bamford.

The 30-year-old Sale Harrier was outspoken during his much-publicised annoyance over the withdrawal of support in 2008 but has since turned his athletic career around by using the frustration as his motivation to become one of the world’s best.

Coached by Lloyd Cowan in London, Turner has transformed from the athlete who relinquished in the heats of the Beijing Olympics and World championships in Berlin last summer to clinching continental gold and becoming the hot favourite for glory in New Delhi next month.

“Since it kicked off I’ve moved on, as I didn’t care if I was dropped - I just wanted to prove to myself that I could run well, it’s a chapter that’s closed now,” Turner explained.

“I raced in every race I could find to fund the physiotherapy and it was extra tough with two kids. Berlin was the lowest point of my career – I tore my hamstring the week before and had so many downs, I was devastated I wasn’t in the final. It was a really tough time but I couldn’t give up like that, I wasn’t quite ready to hang up my spikes.”

Dream Season

A six-time national champion indoors and out, Turner spent much of last winter cross-training through an Achilles problem before suffering from a prolapsed disc in his back on New Year’s Day. Determined to battle beyond his issues and assert his authority in the event in 2010, however, Turner worked hard to set his stall out, come springtime.

Just as he promised, this summer has been a breakthrough for the father-of-two and it started with a bang, too. In scintillating fashion, Turner sped to a 13.34 clocking to beat a world-class field in Hengelo at an IAAF World Challenge meeting back in May, before taking a surprise double victory at the Bupa Great Manchester CityGames.

On an elevated track surrounded by the public in the middle of Deansgate, the 2007 and 2009 European indoor 60m hurdles fourth-placer stormed to glory ahead of former Olympic silver-medallist Terrence Trammell in 13.37.

To cap off a great day’s work just thirty-minutes later, Turner also took the rarely-run 200m hurdles over the Olympic 400m hurdles bronze-medallist Bershawn Jackson – in an unofficial World record of 22.30.

Shocking even himself at such early-season form, Turner went onto take the European team championships in Norway but then suffered a minor blip when losing the UK title to his rival, the 2009 World fourth-placed William Sharman.

Not one to be thrown by a bad performance, though, Turner – the third-fastest sprint hurdler on the British all-time list – bounced back in blistering shape to win the European title in Barcelona with a season’s best of 13.28 before representing Europe with pride at the IAAF/VTB Continental Cup in Split earlier this month, placing as runner-up in the process.

“This summer’s been a dream-come-true – Manchester gave me a lot of confidence going into Barcelona – my aim was the gold and it’s been crazy since,” Turner revealed.

“I’ve really enjoyed it and have kept my head with Delhi coming up, as I hope to win the gold. (Winning the Europeans) has been my biggest achievement to date – I watch the race every day and still find myself cheering at the TV.”

Icing on the Cake

Last weekend, too, Turner captained the home nation in the annual England V Australia match at the Bupa Great North CityGames, winning in 13.40 to prove his form is still holding firm ahead of his second major championship test of the year.

A promising footballer with Notts County F.C and offered a trial with England as a rugby player in his youth, Turner is relishing the opportunity to add more gold to his collection in India, despite the recent security, sanitation and health scare reports.

Four years ago, he claimed Commonwealth bronze in Melbourne and after improving on his third-place from the 2006 Europeans this summer, Turner is hoping to repeat the same position in his next appearance.

“Delhi will be good – my body’s been aching a little but I’m going with one thing in mind, the gold,” Turner explained.

“I’m doing the relay too – I did it in 2006 on first leg (but the team failed to finish). It’s a different pressure, as I don’t train for it but it will be great if I could get a medal in both – I’ve not done a relay in two-years. It would really be the icing on the cake in a wicked season.”


Questioned on how he managed to finally make this year his own, Turner divulged:

“There haven’t been any changes this year – the hurdles is difficult, some people have that natural rhythm but I’ve had to work at it over the years and it’s coming together now. The consistency and being mentally right’s been the key – Manchester got me a off to a flying start, making me believe more.”

Evidently happy with the support he is receiving from his coaching set-up and family environment, Turner continued;

“Lloyd’s amazing and he’s buzzing right now – everything he’s achieved with Christine (Ohuruogu, the Olympic 400m champion)’s been amazing and now he’s got his first European medal from me.

I live in South London so sometimes can’t get to Lee Valley so I train by myself a lot. I sometimes drive past the Olympic stadium to join the group and my daughters sometimes come to the local track with me.

I’ll set the little hurdles out, pretend to lose to them then I’ll have to present them with my European medal on the rostrum - they love it so I’d be happy if they get into athletics,” Turner revealed.

Hoping to train in Florida with World number-one David Oliver over the winter, Turner is evidently still on cloud-nine and excited about the future:

“I ran 13.28 in Barcelona into a head-wind so that shows I can do more. I know I can improve but I’m taking each day as it comes, London 2012)’s always on my mind – the dream’s to do well there.”

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