WRITTEN FOR SKYSPORTS (ON JULY 12TH)
After a bout of bad luck scuppered her global debut two years ago, gritty metric-miler Charlene Thomas is determined to make a mark this summer, with a view to gaining an Olympic medal next season, writes Nicola Bamford.
The 29-year-old Wakefield Harrier has undergone somewhat of a metamorphosis in the past two years, insisting the sour taste left from major championship embarrassment in 2009 coupled with an injury-riddled campaign last season to be the prominent inspiration for her current rise in form.
Guided by her husband Aaron, the fearless Yorkshire-woman has been a revelation this summer, taking impressive victories left, right and centre - the latest of which being the shock win at the European Team Championships in Stockholm last month, where, after the greatest performance of her career to date, Thomas’ boisterous celebrations certainly made for entertaining television viewing.
The time in Sweden – in her specialist event, the 1500m – of 4:06.85 proved to be her swiftest of the summer so far and currently ranks Thomas as fourth on the British rankings and now, after an unfortunate enforced short injury break, she is ready to continue where she left off:
“I have experienced every emotion going this season!” Thomas revealed.
“I was frustrated not to be able to get into some of the Grand Prix races in Europe early on in the season but I'm now accepting that as a blessing in disguise because of how late the World Championships are.
“I was pleased with my win at the Loughborough International and Watford BMC but frustrated with the conditions and level of competition that weren't conducive to
running a fast time.
“I have been really excited to compete against some of the best athletes in the world because I really am in the shape of my life this season and I proved that by winning the race in Stockholm and I now look forward to the rest of the season!”
Based in Leeds, Thomas was disappointed to miss out on the Diamond League events in Lausanne and Birmingham recently yet insists that her brief spell on the sidelines could be a blessing in disguise after all.
With her main target for the season – the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea – falling in late August, Thomas is content to have kept the early season competitions to a minimum as she looks ahead to not only making the GB squad for the event but also gaining redemption.
Losing her shoe in her first-round heat in the Berlin edition two years ago where she vanquished in tenth position, Thomas is understandably eager to fulfil her promising potential this time around:
“I will definitely be competing at the UK Championships and World Championship trials at the end of July (in Birmingham),” she explained, “Where I hope to guarantee my selection for Korea.”
Appearing capable of revising her 4:05.06 life-time best from 2009 this summer, Thomas is also keen to win back her UK title in Birmingham before exorcising her demons on the global stage:
“My 2009 season was great because I had such a huge breakthrough but then it took me a while to get over Berlin!” she revealed.
“I managed to run a fast race right at the end of the season but ruptured my plantar-fascia in doing so and then picked up another injury last summer. I was very depressed throughout this time but because of that experience, I am now more determined than ever!”
A former design and technology teacher before becoming a full-time athlete after gaining funding from the sport last winter, Thomas is conscious of the current domestic strength in depth, causing the fight for team selection in her event to be highly competitive:
“My event is really competitive, which is fantastic as we push each other on - the lads have got some catching up to do!” she revealed.
“I have a lot of respect for athletes like Lisa Dobriskey and Steph Twell - they too have suffered through injury but have never given up and still managed to perform well at major champs.”
With the London Olympics a little over a year away, the pressure is on to assert herself as a contender and Thomas is not content at just reaching the final:
“This year is an important year for me and I really hope to do well at the World Champs to give me the confidence that I can make the team and win a medal at next year’s Olympics,” she explained.
“I am really excited about 2012 and my first goal will be to make sure I am in the team!
“There could possibly be one or two athletes with the qualifying time who will be really disappointed not to make the team and I do not want to be one of those athletes!”