WRITTEN FOR TEAM 2012 VISA (ON FEB 16TH)
After clinching European and Commonwealth gold last season, Andy Turner made the decision to train with his biggest rival this year in a bid to step up to world-level in the summer, writes Nicola Bamford.
The 30-year-old enjoys a constant reminder of his ultimate career goal when often driving past the 2012 Olympic stadium on his way to training in and around London, and after a golden 2010, the sprint hurdler is determined to ensure he has a global breakthrough en route to his third Olympic Games.
Last in his heat in Athens 2004 and fifth in the quarter-final stage in Beijing four years later, Turner has endured two injury-ravaged campaigns but after a glittering few months, the 110m hurdler has established himself as a medal contender for next Augusts’ track and field extravaganza.
And in an effort to bridge the gap between European and World number-one, the father-of-two has created an unlikely friendship with his fiercest rival, current world 60m hurdles leader and reigning Olympic 110m hurdles bronze-medallist David Oliver.
“We have a strange relationship as we get on really well,” explains Turner.
“He’ll sometimes train with me at home when he’s over in the UK, though you can’t have friends when you step onto the track to race.”
In preparation for a tilt at the world championships in Daegu, South Korea this August, Turner plans to join Oliver at his Florida base in for three weeks in April before opening his 2011 outdoor season in Philadelphia and then in Jamaica.
“I’m looking forward to spending some good quality sessions with him,” Turner reveals.
“His biomechanics are much better – we’ve analysed videos of us both and he’s taking three-tenths of a second less over the hurdles so I’ve got a lot of improvements to make.”
It is this attention to detail and willingness to live in the lion’s den that could
see Turner as a new athlete a few months from now.
The Lloyd Cowan-coached athlete was cross-training through an Achilles problem and a prolapsed disc in his back twelve months ago and after a disappointing start to the indoor season, Turner has decided to again miss the European championships in Paris next month.
Following a solid 7.66 60m hurdles debut for the year behind Oliver in the Aviva International in Glasgow, the part-time fitness model sped to a 7.63 clocking in Stuttgart behind Oliver again then captured his seventh national title in 7.61 and a clocked a useful 20.90 200m personal-best at the European trials.
However, frustrated by his execution of a recently-learnt technique over the barriers, Turner announced his withdrawal from the continental event in which he finished fourth in the 2007 and 2009 editions.
“I’ve been working on a lot of different things in training this winter,” Turner explains.
“I’m happy with my start now but it’s frustrating not to get the rest of the race right. I’m focusing on other aspects of the race so much and it’s annoying.
I’m taking too long over the barriers so I’m not getting into my running quickly enough – it’s about really concentrating and it’s tricky trying to change something which has been engrained in you for over fifth-teen years, it’s not natural but I’m sure it will come.
My speed’s still there but I need to be running 7.50 really – this is a transition year for me really and we hope to see the main results next year.”
With a taste for success after last year’s achievements, Turner’s search for perfection will surely see him improve on the global stage six months from now since placing fifth in his heat from the 2009 world championships in Berlin.
After losing his funding status following two injury-plagued years, Turner spectacularly turned his form round in style last year.
A promising footballer with Notts County F.C, who was also offered a trial with England as a rugby player in his youth, Turner’s highlights included a world 200m hurdles record (22.30) at the Bupa Great Manchester CityGames in May, victory at the European Team championships in Norway in June and second place for Team Europe at the IAAF/VTB Continental Cup in Split last September.
His two major championship gold medals were of course, the most satisfying accolades and by clinching the European crown in 13.28 in Barcelona back in July, Turner jumped to third on the British all-time list before leading an England clean-sweep of the Commonwealth medals in Delhi three months later.
“2010 was a fantastic year,” reveals Turner.
“Barcelona was the main target and if I was still feeling ok, Delhi was too, so to achieve gold in both was an amazing feeling, unbelievable.
I feel I’ve got more self-belief now that I’ve shown I can produce my best when I need to – it’s a confidence-booster and I’m not scared of the best in the world on the start-line anymore.”
Indeed, Turner’s regular training stints with the crème de le crème of his specialist event prove a distinct lack of intimidation and his sacrifice to travel half-way across the globe is greater than most.
For back home in South London, his daughters – Jasmine, six and Carmen, four - with partner Natalie Gaynor, a former Great Britain 100m sprinter, feel his absence yet remain supportive of his quest for glory.
“It’s hard going away from the family all the time so using Skype’s just the best,” explains Turner.
“They (his daughters) love to watch daddy train and race and they love to run about.
The stadium is a massive playground for them with the track, sand and jump beds.
They love watching me on television and they’re picky about my medals – they only like gold.”
Evidently with the same impeccable taste, Turner is going all out to ensure that he continues to only bring the silverware of desired choice back home:
“This year, I’ve got to get my technique sorted and I want to be running consistently faster than last summer and to make the world final.
I’m thinking more of next year, as this year I’m just practising for 2012.
It’s the ultimate aim - it will be cool and to have my kids there will be special for me. The home crowd support will be brilliant and it will boost and benefit all the GB athletes.”
And who knows – perhaps the trip across the Pond will be just the start to creating an improved athlete whose journey may take him to home-turf glory when it matters most.