WRITTEN FOR SKYSPORTS (ON JULY 1ST)
After igniting her summer campaign with no less than three lifetime bests on the track, Barbara Parker is hoping for a breakthrough in the steeplechase this season, writes Nicola Bamford.
The 28-year-old from Norfolk – who is yet to compete in her specialist 3,000m steeplechase event this year – has enjoyed promising early-season form which has witnessed her leap to the top of the UK rankings for the mile and 5,000m, respectively.
Clocking times of 4:30.51 in Tennessee in early June and 15:27.03 in Spain a fortnight ago, Parker additionally revised her 800m best with 2:07.18 in Florida in May to kick-start her 2011 attack with aplomb.
With hopes of not only qualifying for the London Olympic Games, but potentially even sneaking a medal next summer, the City of Norwich AC athlete is well aware that performances this year are vital in order to state her case in the countdown to her second Olympic appearance.
“It has been my dream since I was ten years old to complete in the Olympics,” she revealed.
“I hope to use everything I learned from the Beijing Olympics (in 2004) to make London 2012 a successful competition.”
The 2010 UK 3,000m steeplechase champion further explained the reason behind her current rate of fitness:
“I spent April in Font Romeu with the UK Athletics camp and it was my first time at altitude so I was excited to see how I would respond.
“Training there was great as I love running trails so the miles and miles of trails to explore was the perfect environment for me. Since then, training has been going fantastic so I am excited to get into a competitive (steeplechase) race soon.”
Guided by her husband and coach Sean Burris at their base in Atlanta, USA, Parker is keen to build on a mixed 2010 which saw her exit the heats of two major championships.
Failing to the reach the steeplechase finals of the World indoor championships in Doha and the European outdoor championships in Barcelona, Parker’s campaign was only salvaged by her third national title and 9:35.17 lifetime best in the Diamond League in Eugene last July, which propelled her to third on the British all-time list.
“2010 was very solid - it was the first time I have been consistent in the 9:30's and that is the key,” the Loughborough and Florida State University graduate revealed.
“Running fast is great, but you need to be consistent if you want to be a contender. I really focused on the steeple last year in the hope to get back on lottery funding and set myself up for 2012.”
The former British record-holder with 9:37.08 from the 2008 season, Parker is targeting the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea late next month where she hopes to make her global outdoor debut.
“My coach and I have decided to open up in the steeple later in the season this year, as we are really focusing on World’s, which is a long way away from now,” she explained.
“I hope to race in some competitive flat races in Europe before heading back to Font Romeu for a three-week training period.”
Having placed only twelfth in her heat in the Beijing Olympics three years ago, Parker now appears a different athlete but she still refuses to take anything for granted:
“I feel UK female distance running as a whole is gaining more depth,” she revealed.
“Once a standard is established, people tend to base their goals off that. Each year we have one more getting under the ‘A’ qualifying standard and it is no longer an easy ride to the major championships.
“I would love to medal in London - I believe it is all on the day.
“I have watched so many championships now and anything can happen - you have to be able to kick and that is something I am confident in.”