WRITTEN FOR SKYSPORTS
She missed the championship podium on no less than four occasions last year so 800m runner Emma Jackson has been working hard to ensure she grabs the silverware on the track this summer, writes Nicola Bamford.
The 22-year-old City of Stoke athlete enjoyed a breakthrough 2010 campaign, though her performances were tainted after finishing behind the medals in fourth in the same number of key events.
Based in Newcastle-Under-Lyme, Jackson started her promising yet unlucky run of form in the European Team championships for Team GB followed by the European trials and UK championships, the English championships and finally, on her major competition debut as a senior – just outside of the medals again in the Commonwealth Games in Delhi last October.
Although slightly disappointed with these performances, the Keele University accountancy graduate had made significant advances, most notably, a second-and-a-half 800m lifetime best mark of 2:00.46 in India to place – you guessed it, fourth on the British senior rankings for the year.
“I got so much confidence from last summer and it was such a big breakthrough,” Jackson explained.
“After Delhi, which I loved so much, I want to go to more major championships. I’ve now got more self-belief and it’s whetted my appetite.
Not getting any medals showed I wasn’t ready mentally but I won’t make that mistake again this year. I know I can’t keep improving at the same rate so I would like to become more consistent around two-minutes and hopefully get under it.”
Keen to move on from her season of near-misses, Jackson is currently pulling out all the stops to ensure a be-medalled summer lies ahead.
Having recently withdrawn from a teacher training course to become a full-time athlete, the 2007 European junior silver-medallist is already feeling the benefits ahead of a big outdoor season:
“Training’s going really well because having the time to train twice a day makes such a difference,” she revealed.
“It’s a great lifestyle – training, eating, sleeping and I love to travel – I usually run better if I have to go away and I’m feeling quite excited about racing this summer.”
The Staffordshire athlete is currently running around 50-60 miles per week in an effort to build a solid endurance base for the summer and bypassed the indoor season to tackle some cross-country races.
Having finished eighth in the Midland championships, the four-time national age-group champion is next heading off to Portugal in April for a spell of warm-weather training in order to hone her speed before racing again.
Mentored by double Olympic champion Dame Kelly Holmes, Jackson will be working on her 800/1500m form in anticipation of another impressive summer.
With times of 56.0 and 4:15.3 for the 400m and 1500m, respectively, the long-striding runner wants to first prove to herself over the metric mile before concentrating on her specialist event from late May onwards:
“The big target’s the World trials and UK championships (in Birmingham) at the end of July,” Jackson revealed.
“I’m hoping I can improve as much as I did last year so the World’s (in Deagu, South Korea in August) could be in my sights.
My event’s so strong so I can never relax – if you’re top three in Britain, you know you can do well in major championships.”
With aspirations of running sub-two-minutes, Jackson remains modest and grounded on her chances of realising her Olympic dream in London next year:
“I’d absolutely love to be there – it would be such an amazing feeling to run in front of your home crowd.
It’s quite exciting as a lot can happen over the next year or so - I’m still really young so I have to be realistic. I’d love to qualify and will give it everything I’ve got.”
One thing for certain in the countdown to summer 2012 though, is that this young woman is definitely now a ‘fourth to be reckoned with’.