WRITTEN FOR TEAM 2012 VISA (ON FEB 15TH)
Frustrated to be left off the squad for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, 1500m runner Hannah England is determined to make it on to Team GB for the London Games next summer, writes Nicola Bamford.
The 23-year-old ended 2010 as Britain’s number-three metric miler and despite a disappointing summer, managed to turn her campaign around with two promising performances at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi last autumn.
Guided by Bud Baldaro in Birmingham, England finished a lacklustre tenth in the European championship 1500m final in Barcelona last July after suffering an ankle injury days before but bounced back to claim fourth and fifth, respectively, in the 1500m and 800m in India.
In a mostly-impressive campaign, England’s 4:04.33 1500m season’s best in Gateshead from July left her third on the British rankings for the year, whilst her 2:00.47 800m recording from the Commonwealth final placed her as fifth.
“Last year, it was great to make the two big championships but I was disappointed in Barcelona, I didn’t run at all the three days before so I didn’t think I’d even make the final,” England explains.
“It was a massive learning curve as I didn’t deal with it very well but I hope to learn from it and I didn’t let it ruin Delhi for me.
There, it was great being in the mix and being able to ease through the rounds – I was happy with both of my performances even finishing fourth because I’d come back from disappointment and was proud of myself – it was a nice note to end the season on.”
Her season, indeed was eye-catching - after additionally smashing her 3,000m indoor lifetime best with 8:56.72 in Boston last February, England went on to win the
Loughborough International 800m, the UK outdoor title, place runner-up in the European Team championships and run a scintillating 4:25.29 road mile in New York to go to third on the national all-time list – but as she is well aware, success is often solely defined by championship performances.
After being left off the 2009 World championship and 2008 Olympic squads despite having the qualifying times and finishing third in both national trials, England vowed to not miss out on selection again.
With an impressive thirteen national medals over the past seven years to her name, England – who captured her first UK crown in 2005 – used the agonising experiences to storm to her first senior title five years later and is keen to re-establish herself as UK number-one again this year.
Engaged to GB 3,000m steeplechaser Luke Gunn, the Birmingham University Biochemistry graduate and Honorary research fellow reveals:
“It was gutting to win the national title to then get overshadowed by Lisa (Dobriskey, World 1500m silver-medallist) and Steph (Twell, Commonwealth 1500m bronze-medallist) in the rest of the season.
But I’m going just as well as last year and I’m hoping to make my first world outdoor championships (in Daegu, South Korea in August) - I’d like to make the final, though the qualifying rounds are ruthless.
I’d also like to run faster over 1500m this year, as my personal best doesn’t reflect my ability and I’d like to retain my UK outdoor title.”
Training alongside European 3,000m steeplechaser fourth-placer Hatti Dean at her west-Midlands base, England has just returned from a month-long spell of training in Kenya with the UK Athletics team in an effort to further progress this year:
“Training’s going really well and although Kenya was a bit of a culture shock, it was also a lot of fun,” she explains.
“It was really cool training with such a big team all with the same work ethic and it was also nice to get to know my team-mates more.
I worked hard there and I’m now really excited to see how strong I can get. I really enjoyed the experience and it was beneficial having the medical team out there with us as well.”
Mentored by double Olympic gold-medallist Dame Kelly Holmes, England is keen to get back to the form with saw her cause shockwaves in the 2009 season.
After bursting onto the senior international scene in 2008 during a year studying at Florida State University, the tall, elegant athlete improved further to set stunning marks of 4:04.29 and 1:59.94 to place sixteenth and seventeenth, respectively on the UK all-time rankings.
Although the Berlin world championships were not to be, England’s speedy achievements were proof that major championship selection was just around the corner and after a mixed 2010, she is hoping a three-week stint at high-altitude in Font Romeu this spring will kick-start a year to rival her 2009 season:
“This year’s a vital stepping stone for next but the project right now is to have an amazing summer to hopefully be even better in 2012,” England reveals.
“I find the Olympics both motivating and scary. I’d love to make the final and what’s awesome about the 1500m is that anything can happen.
Having the Games is amazing and it doesn’t make me feel the pressure anymore by being at home.
Luke and I would both be over the moon if either of us made it as it’s a life-changing experience for any athlete. We’ve been through enough together in various championships to not feel jealous of the other but it would be so cool if we could both go.”
With a desired wedding date of Christmas 2012, the duo plan to have the event organised before the biggest event of their careers and should England qualify, she will certainly have more than one cause to celebrate next year.