WRITTEN FOR SKYSPORTS (APRIL 8TH)
In an effort to make his mark in the senior ranks this summer, middle-distance man Niall Brooks has increased not only the training load but also his specialism on the track, writes Nicola Bamford.
The 19-year-old European junior 800m runner-up was so encouraged by his 2010 outdoor campaign over two-laps, coming off the back of minimal training, that he has recently switched focus to the metric mile just in time for his senior seasonal debut.
Coached by Norman Poole and training alongside European 800m silver-medallist Michael Rimmer and World 1500m finalist Tom Lancashire in Manchester, Brooks has doubled his mileage this winter and tackled the cross-country season with a view to raising his endurance for the 1500m event and with current success:
“Training’s going very well at the moment,” Brooks revealed.
“Last year, I was only running 35-miles a week and ran my personal best, which showed I have room for development in my speed endurance.
My coach thinks I will be a world-class 1500m runner so we’re starting to change things for that now.”
If last summer’s achievements were anything to go by, then Brooks should indeed excel this year under a tougher regime.
Britain’s fastest junior at both 800m and 1500m for the past two years, he was also ranked fifth in the latter event on the senior rankings in 2010, which bodes well for the new chapter in his athletic career.
Having registered an impressive 3:38.62 at the Aviva British Grand Prix in Gateshead last July to improve his lifetime best by over three seconds, Brooks additionally shot to second on the national all-time junior list before improving his half-mile mark a fortnight later in Canada.
There, at the World junior Championships, the English under20 800m champion sped to a 1:47.02 personal-best to become the sixth-fastest Briton ever and capped his season with a senior international debut at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, placing fifth in his 800m semi-final last October.
“I was injured last year so to just miss out on a world medal by two-hundredths of a second and make the Commonwealth’s was great – overall, it was a successful summer,” Brooks explained.
Working full-time at a finance company and studying for a business administration diploma, Brooks is excited to tackle both the new event and senior opposition in the months ahead.
With the key aim of the year to gain the 3:35.0 qualifying time for the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea in August, he intends to begin racing in Europe from May in order to have the time under his belt so as to focus on the global trials later in the year:
“I’m aware in the back of my mind of the need to make a mark for myself again, going into my first year as a senior, but training with Mike and Tom, I don’t see myself miles away from that,” he revealed.
“I’m looking forward to it and I’m feeling excited rather than daunted.
I’ve not yet done many 1500m races so it’s definitely going to be a new experience for me but I’m stepping up the training to cope with the possibility of doing three rounds of the 1500m in a championship.”
With strong aspirations of making both the World and Olympic Games in the next two seasons, Brooks is well aware of the importance of championship experience:
“I want to go to the 2012 Olympics knowing I’ve been stuck in on the world level so I want to reach the semi-final at least this year,” he explained.
“My aim’s to make the 2012 final but the big goal’s a medal in 2016 - the final next year would be a dream result to lead me to Rio four years later.
Competing in a home Olympics is a once in a lifetime opportunity but I’m not getting carried away, as this year’s big for me in order to make a name for myself on the domestic and international stage – I’ll then get more excited if that goes well.”
And after a few smart changes this year, he may indeed be a very happy young man in the long-term.