Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Brit Abroad


Tired of the bleak British weather, Angelita Broadbelt-Blake uprooted to the country of her birth last autumn in an attempt to get faster in the Florida heat and the sprint hurdler has no regrets so far, writes Nicola Bamford.

The 25-year-old was born in New York and joined Thames Valley Harriers in London five years ago before attending Brunel University, as she plied her trade in her specialist event, the 100m hurdles in a battle to represent her new home on Team GB.

Originally a 400m hurdler, Broadbelt-Blake registered a solid 61.46 in the 2006 season before switching her focus to the shorter event the following year and placing in the top six in the UK as an under-23 athlete.

Her Olympic year was quiet but remaining patient under the guidance of her then coach Michael Afilaka, Broadbelt-Blake progressed to fourth in the 2009 UK outdoor championships and World trials before finally breaking through in 2010.


Starting the summer with a strong 12.27 100m personal best, the then London-based athlete went on to win the Loughborough international with another lifetime best mark of 13.29 in the short hurdles.

Riding on the crest of a wave, she then made her Great Britain debut in the ‘B’ race at the European Team Championships in Norway, clocking 13.33 before placing runner-up behind World heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis in the UK championships with 13.38 in July.

Although disappointed to miss out on her first national crown and selection for the European championships in Barcelona, Broadbelt-Blake showed determination to capitalise on her fine form the following weekend, by setting an impressive 13.20 personal best in France to place her as twenty-fourth on the British all-time lists and second on the UK season list.

It was a fine performance but the ‘Yankee’ was still disappointed, so following her final race of the season – finishing second for Team England in the Great North CityGames in Newcastle last September – Broadbelt-Blake headed off to warmer and sunnier climes – to hone her skills in the USA.

“For me 2010 was not a great season,” she explained.

“It was quite frustrating as I expected to run at least 13.0 by the end of season, but only managed 13.20.

I opened up with a PB and I was ecstatic when I found out that I had been chosen to represent GB in the Europa cup. I competed in my first IAAF Diamond League and just before the season finished, I was invited to compete for England in the Newcastle street race.

However, the disappointment from 2010 comes from me knowing what I am capable of. I set goals for myself and failed to reach some of them. I had a slight hip injury that bugged me for almost the whole season. However, 2011 is a new year and a new focus.”


Now coached by Dennis Green, Broadbelt-Blake has no escape from the sweltering sun and heat whilst training among a large group of international-class sprinters and hurdlers but she would not have it any other way:

“I love America, this has and always will be, home for me,” she revealed.

“The reason I chose Florida is because it's the sunshine state and I wanted to be somewhere hot! Also, I didn't want to be in a city where I could have lots of activities to choose from outside of training. Florida is quite boring - you have to find stuff to do.”

Eager to make big improvements on her 2010 form, the outgoing athlete is thriving off the tough training schedules and opened up her 2011 campaign with a swift 8.02 indoors in nearby Gainsville in the rarely-run 55m hurdles.

“Sprinting is one of my least favourite sessions, as I hate running fast,” Broadbelt-
Blake explained.

“I am a hurdler, not a sprinter. When I run fast without a hurdle in the way, I feel like every muscle in my body is rotting away!”

On her new set-up she continued:

“I have a very good relationship with all the people I am surrounded by out here. My coach is a really cool guy and he is at all times, a professional and a
perfectionist. Everything has to be perfect and if it isn't you're not going home.

Already, he is one of few who knows me quite well and he knows what to say to me to get me running.

The relationships with my rivals are great. We all hang out outside of practice and I even live with one of them. I have a private sponsor, who helps me a lot. If it wasn’t for him, I would have no choice but to work out here. I am grateful for all his help and belief in me. We speak at least twice a month so I can keep him updated with my progress.”


Although evidently relishing life ‘over the Pond’ Broadbelt-Blake is still as keen as ever to make an impact at international level as part of the British squad.
“I think the hurdles event is one of the weakest events that Britain has,” she revealed.

“No one, including myself, is consistently running sub-13. We need to step our game up! I'm really happy to have Tiffany Offili (another American-born Brit) run for us now - the more competition the better.”

With her next few races uncertain as yet, Broadbelt-Blake is sure of her first outdoor appearance – the Florida Relays meeting in early April, an event which she hopes will set her on a road to further success in 2011 and possibly even a place in the World championship team for Daegu, South Korea in August.

“My long time goal is to be an Olympic medallist,” she explained before further revealing that she would like to write a book after her athletic career.

“I want to be known and remembered as one of the best hurdlers of all time.”

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