Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Wanting More Than a T-Shirt


With little over five-hundred days to go until the 2012 London Games, 400m man Martyn Rooney is making changes to ensure that his second Olympic appearance is even more outstanding as the first, writes Nicola Bamford.

At the Beijing Games three summers ago, Rooney sped to one of Team GB’s most pleasant surprises when placing sixth in the 400m final after clocking a scintillating 44.60 in the semi-final stage, which saw him leap to eighth on the British all-time list.

The one-lap-wonder from London went onto run a breath-taking 43.73 to anchor home the British squad to fourth in the 4x400m relay and now, at aged 23, Rooney is working hard to not only replicate such fine Olympic memories, but to also improve on them when he competes on home-turf next August.

A former European and World junior medallist, Rooney spent the beginning of the year with the Aviva/UK Athletics training camp and now back at his Loughborough University base, the 6ft5 quarter-miler is continuing his quest for world-class fitness.

Coached by Nick Dakin at the same High Performance Centre which will play host to Team GB in the build-up to the Games next summer, Rooney explains:

“I’ve been with Nick for six years now and we’ve made changes to really focus on 2012 to be really competitive – we’re thinking outside of the box.

Training’s going pretty well – this year, I’ve decided to really focus on my core strength to help me become a forty-three-second runner and not have to worry about injuries. I actually model myself on Phillips Idowu (the World triple-jump champion)’s strength and balance.

We’ve got a good group at Loughborough and we’re pushing each other well and there’s nothing like the standard of facilities there – it’s a great place to be especially as you’re surrounded by so many elite athletes.

Coming into the next two years, my focus has massively improved and it (2012) changes your attitude towards everything - it’s really important to me.”


Originally an 800m runner, Rooney enjoyed a strong 2010 campaign despite being plagued by a career-threatening injury.

Despite winning the Loughborough International, European Team Championships and UK Championships/European Trial, he registered a best of only 44.99 and ranked second in the country behind American-born Brit Michael Bingham.

The biggest disappointment, though of Rooney’s season was undoubtedly in the European Championships in Barcelona last July, where he collected only bronze behind silver-medal-winning Bingham before bouncing back to anchor the British team to 4x400m relay silver.

“I didn’t train very well last year, as I had to have an epidural in my hamstrings to save them then re-start my season in the mid-summer,” he reveals.

“I had a big tear but hopefully I’m over it now – I’ll always have problems due to my height and the event that I do but I give as much TLC as I can.

Although disappointing, Barcelona was a relief, though I felt I would have had a better opportunity to win a better medal if I’d had a different lane but I know that I can get in the mix and into the top three in the world this year.”

Having torn his quadriceps muscle in the summer of 2009 before reaching the World championship semi-final and capturing relay silver, Rooney already has vast experience of returning from adversity which stands him in good stead for an impressive forthcoming season.


The partner of British pole-vault record-holder Kate Dennison, Rooney will spend six weeks in Los Angeles this spring in preparation an outdoor season which will act as a vital springboard to success for the following year.

Targeting the World trials and UK Championships in Birmingham in July, the Loughborough University graduate also hopes to attract invites to as many IAAF Diamond League races around the globe as possible so he can face the world’s best before the global championships in Daegu, South Korea this August.

“I’d like to really compete in the World final and I aim to bring an individual and
relay medal home,” Rooney explains.

“This year, I’m in great shape so I’m quite excited going into 2011.”

Sure to be his fiercest domestic rival for the fourth-successive season, Bingham too will be looking to ruffle a few feathers on the world stage:

“The rivalry between myself and Bingham is great – we push each other and hopefully we can establish ourselves further,” reveals Rooney.

“He’s out in the Florida weather all the time but I have faith in my coach and what we’re doing is working for us. The standard in Britain’s improving so hopefully we’ll get more running sub-forty-five seconds this summer.”

As for the pressure and expectation surrounding the following, most important year in his athletic career to date, Rooney explains:
“Making the Olympic final was massive and really emotional so London will be even bigger.

2012’s massive – I’ve made big changes to be at my peak but I’ll leave the pressure to Jess (World heptathlon champion) and Phillips – I just hope to sneak in the back door and pick up a medal.

It’s all about medals - I’m not going just to get the t-shirt.”

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