Sunday, 23 October 2011

Loughborough ‘Future Stars’ Day a Success


Loughborough College yesterday held the fourth ‘Future Stars with Kelly’ education day, where 70 of the UK’s most talented athletes between the ages of 14 and 18 descended on the East Midlands with their parents and coaches to be educated by Dame Kelly Holmes and her team, writes Nicola Bamford.

Selected by the 2004 double Olympic champion herself for their outstanding performances in 2011 at national schools and youth international championships, the athletes included four members of the Aviva GB & NI Team at this year's IAAF World Youth Championships - Georgia Peel (Aldershot, Farnham & District), James McMurray (St Albans) and Robbie Farnham-Rose (Tonbridge AC) who all finished in the top eight in their respective 1500m finals and Katie Snowden who was seventh in the 800m.

In a nine-hour day of educational practical and theoretical workshops for the FSWK athletes and their guests, 15 ‘On Camp with Kelly’ athletes were also on hand throughout the day to act as inspirational role models and offer advice and assistance. They were: Charlotte Best, Suzi Boast, Dani Christmas, Rowena Cole, Lucy Dowsett, Kerrie Harris, Leigh Lennon, Sam Petty, Carolyn Plateau, Zac Randall, Robbie Schofield, Louise Small, Stacey Smith, Linzi Snow and Laura Weightman.

The day began with a welcome introduction from Kelly who highlighted the principles of her OCWK initiative to set a target for the young athletes in front of her to aspire to.

She also outlined the intricate pathway to success from success at schools championships to that of a senior athlete and how the day ahead would increase the athletes’ knowledge through education as well as teaching various parent and coach support methods.

A motivational video montage of her winning displays over 800m and 1500m at the Athens Olympics followed before Kelly warned of the changes which occur in teenage life that can threaten their athletic career.

She then introduced the four athletes who this summer moved from FS to the OCWK scheme and highlighted which characteristics it takes to be successful.

All of the event staff and OCWK athletes introduced themselves and revealed their past English Schools’ achievements before Kelly congratulated the FSWK athletes who competed at the IAAF World Youth, European Junior, European Youth and Commonwealth Youth Championships in 2011.

Next up was a nutritional workshop for parents with performance nutritionist Mhairi Keil, who highlighted the importance and examples of healthy eating for energy and recovery. She then listed the requirements for a young athlete, negative impacts, key times for energy intake, recovery foods and helpful nutrition for injury prevention and assistance.

At the same time, the athletes were either participating in a grass fartlek session led by Kelly with boy’s supervisor Tony Whiteman and a handful of OCWK athletes nipping at their heels, whilst the injured athletes trained in the swimming pool or gym.

Mid-morning saw Kelly and sports physiotherapist Alison Rose take a drills session
in the sports hall for the more recent members of the FSWK scheme and their coaches.

They explained the importance of rehabilitation, dynamic and commonly-used drills whilst OCWK athlete Laura Weightman demonstrated the exercises to the group as Alison took them through each phase with technical advice.

The athletes then did a series of walk-through drills to practice with assistance from their OCWK counterparts, as Kelly helped the coaches themselves practice to further their knowledge and understanding, who then worked alongside their charges to provide feedback.

The more experienced athletes, coaches and parents, meanwhile, took part in a 100% me workshop with the UK Anti-Doping team, who tested them in a ‘Weakest Link’-type quiz on how to be responsible with what they digest, the values of competing clean and drug testing procedures, whilst the first-time parents to the FSWK scheme attended a parent’s workshop with Next Generation Coaching director Sonya Shellard, who emphasised the various demands on their children and how to use language, praise and distance to help them relax and grow.

In the early afternoon, the coaches attended a circuits discussion with Kelly and supervisor and level three endurance coach Stella Bandu to devise ideas for future sessions, whilst the male athletes, their parents and coaches enjoyed a healthy lunch and took part in an anti-doping quiz.

Before the female athletes and their guests could enjoy a well-earned break, they sat in an eye-opening lecture on the Female Athlete Triad, led by Dr Paul Goozee, a GP, cardiology hospital practioner and England team doctor with Mhairi Keil.

The audience learned about the risks of having low body fat, the importance of eating correctly, menstrual disturbances, causes and signs of disorded eating and diagnosis and treatments, as well as watching an emotional video case study from Australian distance runner and anorexia survivor Georgie Clarke.

In mid-afternoon, the female athletes and their coaches and parents took part in the anti-doping quiz, whilst the males athletes and their guests attended a Staying Fit and Healthy workshop with Dr Goozee.

Next up was another 100% me workshop for the newer attendees whilst Mhairi Keil took some parents through a practical cooking lesson, where they cooked up energy bars, frittata and lime chicken stir-fry to take away as their children participated in an injury-prevention session with Alison Rose, who guided them through a practical functional movement screen to test the strength and flexibility of their calves, hamstrings and glutes, for example.

Nearing the end of the day, as the parents took part in a follow-up parent’s workshop on providing positive support, Kelly drilled all of the athletes in a vigorous circuit training session in the sports hall as their coaches looked on and gave advice. Kelly explained the benefits of such sessions as well as safety tips for participating in large groups, followed by demonstrations from OCWK athletes and impressive displays from Kelly herself. After a mass warm-up, and arduous session ensued with the athletes lined up in pairs to execute a tiring series of tricep dips, ab crunches, squat thrusts and sprinting.

To finish the day on a motivational note, World 1500m silver-medallist Hannah England and World 800m semi-finalist Emma Jackson – both OCWK athletes for a number of years – took part in a question and answer session. After watching inspirational video clips of their finest performances, the floor were given the chance to ask about their days as younger athletes, lives as full-time athletes and thoughts on their recent achievements – providing a fitting end to an action-packed day for all involved.

English Schools’ intermediate 800m bronze-medallist Dudley Mason gave his thoughts on the day:

“I mostly enjoyed doing the session with the athletes but in a more friendly environment where you can have a laugh.

“I learned the importance of drills and also getting nutritional help to make sure I’m eating right was helpful.

“It’s a great pleasure to be selected for Future Stars as I am amongst the top 70 in the country.

“My plans for the winter season are to train hard and do well in cross-country and indoor races.”

English Schools’ intermediate 3,000m champion, Natalia Hackett explained:

“I enjoyed meeting Kelly Holmes and learning lots from herself and her team.

“I’ve learned lots of new drills which will help my efficient and help with injury prevention and I enjoyed learning about the female athlete triad.

“It’s a real honour to be selected for the FSWK initiative and to be around other great athletes and Kelly herself.

“My biggest achievement of 2011 was winning the English Schools’ in a personal best and being selected to run for England and my plans for the winter are to have a good cross-country season.”

Meanwhile, David Paulson, father of Will, the English Schools’ intermediate 1500m champion said:

“The day was really well organised and Kelly is obviously a great role model for the athletes.

“We’ve learnt lots today and it’s a great opportunity for us and Will’s coach Chris to support him better and he’s learned a lot today as well so everybody wins.”

Trevor Muxlow, the coach to Robert Needham, the English Schools’ senior 800m champion revealed:

“I’ve found today very informative and I’ve been very impressed with seeing Kelly demonstrating the drills and circuits with great technical skill, it’s great to see she’s maintained such a great level of fitness.

“Being an old-fashioned coach, I found the drills session the most informative with the technical advice provided and we’ve really enjoyed the day.”

OCWK athlete and UK 1500m indoor champion Stacey Smith gave her opinion on the day:

“It’s nice to see these young one’s come through and learn so much here.

“I think today’s been a really good day and the atmosphere has showed that everyone was really up for it – they’ve taken a lot away from today.

“I started on OCWK four years ago and it’s really developed me as an athlete so much so I’ve got to thank them a lot for what they’ve done.”

The last word on the event was left for Kelly herself, who explained:

“The day was a great success – we had a great turnout of athletes, coaches and parents and I hope they’ve all learnt something from the day.

“All of the athletes really got stuck in and applied themselves well so as long as they can focus on what they’ve learned today, they can use the skills and tools from today to be great athletes later on.

“The OCWK athletes always make me proud and are getting better and better themselves – they’re now realising that being leaders was key today and it was good that they were on hand to answer the younger athletes’ questions today.”

Monday, 17 October 2011

Dai Hard Regime


After clinching a spectacular global 400m hurdles gold last month, Dai Greene intends to boost his training load this winter in his search for Olympic glory in London ten months from now, writes Nicola Bamford.

The 25-year-old Welshman has revealed that in a bid to increase his aerobic capacity and strength endurance for the gruelling one-lap barrier event next summer, he will spend the next few months supplementing his training with four mile runs and kilometre repetitions – a bold and unusual move for a sprint hurdler.

Based in Bath under the tutelage of coaching legend Malcolm Arnold, Greene explained:

“I’ve recently moved house to only five minutes away from the track so this winter, I’ll start to train twice a day and we’ve got a lot more medical support here now after the success of the group this summer.

“Typically, I will do fartlek or hills in the morning then a 25-30min run or a running session and gym work in the afternoon – the strongest will survive next year and hopefully it will pay dividends for me.”

Dream Result

The decision to sacrifice more of his time and energy over the winter months of course extends from Green’s innate desire to build upon his recent World Championship victory to grab the prestigious Olympic crown, and judging from his form of late, he may well achieve his athletic dream next summer.

The British number-one for the past three seasons, Greene enjoyed a stellar 2011 campaign in which he not only captured an impressive gold medal in Daegu, South Korea in 48.26 but also took the IAAF Diamond League title on the international circuit, won the Aviva British Grand Prix in Birmingham in a season’s best of 48.20 and reduced his 400m flat best to 45.82 to rank eighth on the national rankings for the year – most of which were achieved whilst coping with a secret injury:

“I raced with a bad hip throughout the season but didn’t tell anyone and it managed to clear up before the World’s,” revealed Greene.

“It hindered and affected some of my earlier races and slowed me down. I was confident I’d get the British record and if it hadn’t have been for the injury, I would have nailed it – hopefully it will come but I’m not aiming for it.”

The illusive mark is 47.82 is owned by 1992 Olympic bronze-medallist Kriss Akabussi and is 19-years-old but Greene came close when clocking his lifetime best of 47.88 whilst taking the Continental Cup title in Croatia on the back of his European Championship victory and just before claiming Commonwealth gold a year ago – and despite not being as quick this summer, he is still very satisfied:

“I worked very hard so it was a dream result to get the gold and it was great to improve on the two golds from last year - I was overjoyed to deliver when it mattered most,” Greene explained.

“I believed I was one of three who could get the win but I was confident of winning throughout the rounds.

“I haven’t been on the world scene for long but I’ve been in the top three in every race since June 2010 and always believed I could do it – it made me very happy.”


Having only taken up the sport six years ago, the Swansea Harrier has indeed come a long way since taking the 2003 continental under23 crown.

A former promising footballer with the Swansea City FC youth team, Greene failed to make the 2008 squad for the Beijing Olympics and placed only seventh in the World Championships the following season, but it was in 2010 when he truly broke onto the world scene with two major championship titles and he has evidently since continued his taste for winning ways.

Training alongside the current European under23 champion, Jack Green and
Commonwealth 110m hurdles bronze-medallist Lawrence Clarke, Greene – after a months’ break and a holiday in Mauritius - is set to resume the hard graft this Sunday and heads for a four-week spell of warm-weather training in South Africa in December whilst keeping his rivals at the forefront of his mind for extra motivation:

“I’d say the Olympic gold is between the five of us (Javier Coulson, LJ Van Zyl, Bershawn Jackson, Kerron Clement and himself) and at least two of us will be vying for gold next year,” he revealed.

“Jack and I have a great laugh together – he’s a good person to have nipping at my heels and after it was just me and Rhys (Williams, the European silver-medallist) for a few years, the youngsters came through this year like Nathan (Woodward) and Jack so the standard’s picked up and it was great to have three athletes reach at least the semi-finals in Daegu – hopefully we’ll can have three in the final in 2012.

“I still have a hard test ahead next year but the expectations don’t bother me – I’ll just keep doing my best each day.

“I want to run consistently quicker next year and put myself in the running as the favourite before the Games then get the gold - I like people to worry about me on the start-line and it would be good to reinforce the season I had this year.”

Friday, 14 October 2011

Gemma Steels Victory from Pavey


Bupa Great Yorkshire Run, Sheffield, October 9th, 2011

Steel surprises marathon-bound Pavey, as Kogo dominates over Thompson, the runner-up again.

A month later than its usual date in the racing calendar, the annual 10km road race in the steel city of Sheffield enjoyed two dominating victories and thrilling finish-line battles in mild and breezy conditions, writes Nicola Bamford.


UK half-marathon champion Gemma Steel caused a stir when taking the notable scalp of 2012 Olympic marathon hopeful Jo Pavey in an impressive twenty second-winning margin with 32:52.

The 25-year-old Charnwood AC runner stepped up from placing third in the 2010 event to storm clear in the final two kilometres and capture her most impressive victory to date.

Guided by John Nuttall in Loughborough, Steel revealed afterwards:

“It was brilliant, I can’t believe I was running with Jo Pavey and beating her is a great achievement!”

After winning the Bristol half-marathon and finishing third in a below-par 33:47 in the Swansea Bay 10km recently, she continued:

“My legs were still tired in Swansea after doing the half-marathon so I’m really pleased with the time today, it’s only four seconds off my PB.”

Arguably one of the biggest breakthrough athletes on the female domestic distance-running circuit in recent seasons, Steel will next tackle the National road relay Championships in Sutton Coldfield next weekend before moving to the half-marathon at the Bupa Great Birmingham Run the following week.

“I want to do well there and I want to win the RunBritain Grand Prix road series,” explained Steel.

“I also want to do better than twenty-seventh from last year in the European cross (in Slovenia) this December.”

Pavey, meanwhile, was disappointed to clock only 33:12 in the runner-up position but cited the heavy mileage of marathon training as the understandable cause of her fatigue.

Focused on a strong performance in the New York marathon on November sixth, the 38-year-old Exeter Harrier managed to share the lead with Steel for much of the race but was left wanting for a turn of speed in the final mile.

“I didn’t feel very good as I’m in hard marathon training and I’m feeling it quite tough to race but that’s not taking anything away from Gemma as she ran really well and a good race,” the mother-of-one revealed.

Having already gained the Olympic marathon qualifying time from April’s London marathon, Pavey is keen to make up for the frustration of being forced to withdraw from Augusts’ World Championships in Daegu due to a foot injury.

Placing fourth in a solid 70:49 in the Bupa Great North Run last month will have gone some way to boosting her confidence and the former track star insists on looking at the bigger picture:

“It wasn’t a great run because I’m not easing down so I’m a bit disappointed but it’s a new scenario for me, not being able to prepare for races en route to the marathon.

“Hopefully today’s been a good blowout, though and training’s been going really well so I’m still positive for New York.”

Also joining the medals podium was Ireland’s 36-year-old Maria McCambridge. The 2004 Olympic 5,000m representative registered 34:39 for third place ahead of Kendal AC’s Rebecca Robinson.

The 28-year-old 2010 European Championship marathon runner clocked 35:08 on her return from a spell of injury as she juggles the sport with a busy life in medicine.


UK all-comer’s record-holder Micah Kogo ensured Aldershot’s Chris Thompson was reduced to the runner-up position for the second-consecutive year as the Kenyan sped to a fine 28:45 victory, with the European 10,000m silver-medallist eighteen-seconds adrift.

Replacing last years’ winner, Craig Mottram of Australia a fortnight before, the former 10km road world record-holder (with a scintillating 27:01) established a strong pace from the outset with 2:50 and 2:56 splits, as Thompson and fellow Brits Andrew Lemoncello and Stuart Stokes joined him for company.

At the 3km mark, Kogo and Thompson forged clear and enjoyed a 20m advantage before reaching half-way in 14:36.

By the 6km point, Kogo, the Olympic 10,000m bronze medallist, had broken clear on his own as the 30-year-old Thompson settled in 10m behind, 200m clear of Lemoncello and Stokes.

As Kogo reached 8km in 22:51 after a 2:42 split - the fastest of the race so far - the damage was complete as despite slowing in the final mile, Thompson was unable to catch the African in time for the finish-line.

A delighted Kogo said afterwards:

“I’m really happy especially as I watched Sheffield Wednesday win 3-1 yesterday (over Chesterfield).

“Today was a fantastic moment for me. I thought Chris Thompson would give me a tough challenge so I pushed on and he followed me until around 6km. The weather conditions and course made it a tough run.

“I’m going back to Kenya tomorrow to have a two-week break then do some cross-country and road and I hope to make the Kenyan Olympic team for 2012 – it’s very hard but my focus is to be the fastest.”

Thompson meanwhile, was annoyed to lose out on the top spot again but having not raced through injury since the Aviva London Grand Prix in early August, he was still philosophical about the rest of the winter season:

“I’ve got to win one of these things, geez!” he exclaimed.

“I was second last year, and fifth and sixth the years before so I’m disappointed to miss out on the win again.

“I’ve got a lot of crap in my legs and didn’t feel particularly great but tried to conserve as much energy as I could.”

Coached by John Nuttall and Mark Rowland, the latter whilst basing himself in the United States, Thompson continued:

“He (Kogo) broke away at exactly the same time as (Haile) Gebrselassie did in Manchester (in May) and I don’t have the fitness and oomph to go with it so I held back and tried to finish strongly, hoping he would tire.

“I started to come back at him with 2km to go but he looked at me then pushed again – he was the better runner on the day and I did everything I could with the fitness I had. It was really windy in our faces the whole way.”

He will next compete in the Bupa Great South Run in three weeks’ time before heading back to America to begin the hard graft of winter training with an eye on an Olympic berth in London next summer.

Clocking 29:57 each, Lemoncello and Stokes provided the most nail-biting finish of the morning with each dipping on the line after running the majority of the race together.

Getting the verdict for third place, Fife’s Lemoncello gave himself an early 29th birthday present and improved on fourth position last year to pip Stokes for the second consecutive week.

Placing seventh in the Bupa Great Edinburgh 10km the weekend before, Lemoncello was three seconds quicker here and was content with his run after returning from injury:

“It’s good as last week was my first race – it’s a good fitness test,” he explained.

“I’ve had a hamstring tendon injury since March which got worse just before the marathon in Daegu (which he withdrew from prior to the event).

“I tried to go with Chris but couldn’t match it but it was good to run with Stuart – I tried to put a burst in at 6km and we worked together from there.”

The Scot now turns his attentions to gaining the Olympic marathon qualifying time in the Fukuoka marathon two months from now, but will first use either a 15km road race in Oklahoma or the Bupa Great South Run to prepare.

Sale Harriers’ Stokes, meanwhile, improved from seventh position in 2010 and was four seconds quicker than in Edinburgh. The 34-year-old Commonwealth 3,000m steeplechase fifth-placer heads into the winter with the aim of making his Olympic debut nearing the end of a long athletic career.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Overall, Very Good


On his marathon debut in Berlin last month, Scott Overall caused a stir by running the fastest time by a British man in four years and now, the Londoner has his sights firmly set on Olympic glory next summer, writes Nicola Bamford.

The 28-year-old only switched his attentions to the 26.2 mile distance back in May but his startling progress when finishing fifth in a world-class field in the German capital was a pleasant surprise for men’s distance running in the UK.

A former training partner to world 5,000m champion Mo Farah in their teenage years, the Blackheath and Bromley AC runner stormed to a 2:10.55 clocking to begin his marathon career at a promising twenty-fourth on the national all-time list and now, quite understandably, has strong Olympic aspirations:

“Now my target’s the Olympic marathon and I hope to find out if I’m selected in the first wave of selections in early December so I can plan ahead,” he explained.

“I hope the Olympics will be my next marathon and my focus there will be on a place not a time.

“The Olympic marathon might not be fast as it’s a championship race but I hope to get into 2:07 shape and make it into the top ten - the position is the important thing – anything can happen and I hope to be in contention.”


Guided by Arizona-based Robert Chapman, where Overall trains for only one or two months of the year with the Team Arizona Elite squad, the Butler University,
Indianapolis graduate is a former 5,000m track runner and his frustrations with both the event and terrain led him to change his direction in the sport:

“I switched to marathon training after training well at altitude in Flagstaff and running quite well in the half-marathon (63:21 in May),” he revealed.

“I had a conversation with Dave Bedford – the former World 10,000m record-holder - at the London Marathon about an attempt to get the Olympic qualifying time and so decided on Berlin and they funded me to go out there.

“My coach believed that I could do the distance and get a positive experience from it – we thought I was in shape to run 2:12 but running 2:10 on my debut and racing the last half all on my own was a surprise.”

Unusually, admitting to racing without a watch, Overall continued:

“I went in a bit naive but that was quite helpful as I didn’t know what to expect and nothing really went wrong apart from missing my drink at the 30km mark.

“I felt good the whole way – I reached half-way in 65:17 in twelfth position feeling relaxed and waited until 30km to push on and I passed lots of runners in the second half - it was a slow build up of fatigue and I only felt tired in the last 5km.”

Such an outstanding performance on his first attempt at the distance has led many to question why the athlete did not tackle the event before now but Overall insists:

“Maybe I could have done well in the marathon a year or two ago but then I would have been wondering about what I could have done on the track.

“And I may go back to the 5,000m on occasion as marathon running makes you stronger,” continued the 2009 UK champion, who has a best time of 13:28.33 from the 2008 season.

“I’ve got a good endurance base from years of training which is helping me - I’ve always ran 90-100miles a week so I haven’t changed much in training – my highest recently was 120miles, which isn’t as high as the best in the world.”


Next racing over only 6km in the National road relay championships in Birmingham this weekend, followed by the Bupa Great South Run ten-mile event in Portsmouth at the end of the month, Overall now has more time on his hands after giving up his part-time job in a running shop:

“I’ve given up my job as the London Marathon is now kindly supporting me up until the Olympics,” he explained.

“This will mean I will hopefully get away to Kenya and Font Romeu for more altitude training around March - it’s a great help as it will also give me more time for training and recovery.”

With the Olympic marathon on the streets of London only ten months away, Overall is planning a unique way to experience the course beforehand:

“It’s possible I may do some pace-making in the London marathon in April at around 2:08/9 pace to get the feel for it before the Games, as I’d really like to get my half-marathon time down next year,” he revealed.

“Longer term, I’d also like to have a bash at the British record – of 2:07.13 set by Steve Jones 25-years ago - in a big city marathon but hopefully by then Mo hasn’t taken it up by then!

“But first I have my club record – of 2:09.17 set by Mark Steinle nine years ago - to target.

“How many Olympic Games will I ever have on my doorstep? It will be really special for me and an amazing experience so I hope to get to the start-line healthy and ready.”

Olympic Run Motivates England


Having enjoyed the privilege of becoming the first elite athlete to sample the new 2012 Olympic track, 1500m star Hannah England is now more inspired than ever to capture her second major medal next summer, writes Nicola Bamford.

The 24-year-old Oxford runner joined Games chairman and former double Olympic metric mile champion Lord Sebastian Coe on a lap inside the recently-opened stadium last week and the experience has left England with a strong taste for further global success:

“Getting to run on the Olympic track made me want to get back into training early,” the Birmingham-based athlete revealed.

“It’s an awesome stadium and it’s really motivated me. I really want to make the final next year and I should be capable of getting a medal if training goes well.”


Guided by Bud Baldaro, the UK number-one for the past two seasons has a realistic shot at that aim, too, after sensationally clinching a surprise silver medal at the World Championships in Daegu back in August.

After finishing only sixth in the semi-final stage in Korea, England stormed past several runners in the finishing straight to clock 4:05.68 and collect her first major championship medal.

The eye-catching performance was all the more impressive, too, considering an early-season Achilles injury had threatened her participation in the event, but after registering a glittering 4:01.89 lifetime best in Barcelona in July, England knew something special could have been on the cards:

“The final felt so relaxed and I enjoyed it, which showed in my running,” she explained.

“It was just another race in my mind and was really satisfying to know that after all the planning and hard cross-training throughout the injury – with five weeks of no running - we got it right so it gave me great confidence.

“I didn’t realise my perfect race could be that good - I didn’t lose my cool on the finishing straight and I did everything right in terms of my position and conserving my energy well throughout the rounds.”


A graduate of Birmingham and Florida State University, England’s smart tactics paid off again when enjoying a trio of promising post-Daegu performances.

After recording her second-fastest ever time of 4:02.03 in the Brussels Diamond League in September, the 2008 NCAA indoor mile and outdoor 1500m champion returned to UK shores to win her third-consecutive Bupa Great North CityGames road mile for Team GB the following day, before speeding to second on the British all-time list in the Fifth Avenue Mile in New York with 4:22.6.

Having had two weeks off training recently, England will target a 3,000m indoor lifetime best in the New Year – a year before she is set to marry 3,000m steeplechase UK number-one Luke Gunn in January 2013:

“We’ll plan it all mostly after the Olympics so we’ll be very stressed this time next year!” England admits.

Before then, the duo will have the important matter of ensuring qualification and top fitness for the Games next summer and England has an intricate training plan set out already:

“We’re off to Kenya for a month in November then I’ll be in Florida for a month in March, Font Romeu at Easter for a month then Loughborough for the Team GB training camp,” she explained.

With eight months spent either high-altitude or warm-weather training, England will be sure to escape the pressure of expectation in the countdown to her Olympic debut and after agonisingly missing the 2008 Beijing Olympics, she is determined more than most to make her appearance count.


Mentored by 2004 double Olympic champion Dame Kelly Holmes, England is evidently a much-improved athlete to the runner who finished only tenth at European level last summer, fourth and fifth in the Commonwealth Games this time last year and only fifth in the heats at the European indoors back in the spring.

Yet, quite gracefully, she still insists that such experiences were still useful to her longer-term development:

“Having the chance to do two championships last year was good as living and breathing the training camp and competition experience, made Daegu feel normal,” England revealed.

Fresh from the glamorous British Olympic Ball last week, England continues:

“It was really nice and really fun to be part of - It was a nice thing to do before the start of my winter training and it got us both excited about the Olympics.

“Now the 2011 season and champs are out of the way, the last month has really made 2012 seem more real but the 1500m’s such a strong event and there are hundreds of steps to take before then.”

Friday, 7 October 2011

Perri Shakes it Up


After missing out on the World Championship final by an agonising 0.01 margin back in August, 400m hurdler Perri Shakes-Drayton is more determined than ever to make an Olympian impact at the London Games next summer, writes Nicola Bamford.

The 22-year-old hails from the capital, too, making her an ideal poster girl for the biggest sporting event of 2012 and Shakes-Drayton has no intention on missing out on the one lap hurdles final again.

Coached by Chris Zah at Brunel University, the UK champion enjoyed a sublime 2011 campaign in which she registered a 2:08.35 800m personal best after loading the over-distance work in the winter and spring before speeding to an impressive 51.47 400m flat lifetime best in the Rome Diamond League in the early season.

A dominant flat and hurdles double victory at the UK Championships and World trials followed, before a 54.62 season’s best at the Aviva London Grand Prix and a 55.07 clocking for third in the semi-final stage at the global championships in Daegu - where she missed out on a place in the final by just one position.

Although understandably disappointed, Shakes-Drayton consoled herself with the fact that she had consolidated her ninth-place ranking prior to the competition and she picked herself up to lead off the Team GB 4x400m relay team in a strong position before they finished fourth.

“As with every season, 2011 was another progression and I’m just driven and determined to keep improving year on year,” she revealed.

“My training went really well leading up to the World’s - I remained injury-free for the entire season which meant I was in great shape on arrival at the pre-World’s training camp and got some solid work done - despite it pouring down with rain every day!

“My aim was obviously to make the final so to miss out by such a small margin was gutting, however, I used this disappointment and summoned all my competitive spirit for the relay which I thoroughly enjoyed even though we missed out on a medal.”


Despite the business end of her season being lined with frustration, the Victoria Park and Tower Hamlets athlete has evidently made a significant shift up in performance since the summer of 2010.

Then, the former 100m hurdler built on her European under23 title from the previous year to capture a surprise European senior bronze in Barcelona in a breakthrough season in the senior ranks.

Speeding to third on the British all-time lists (behind 1992 Olympic champion Sally Gunnell and 2008 Olympic bronze-medallist Tasha Danvers) with an eye-catching 54.18 lifetime best, Shakes-Drayton then anchored the Team GB relay squad to bronze with a scintillating 49.60 split, which is also the third-fastest ever by a British woman.

Evidently riding on the crest of a wave, the three-time national champion had high hopes for potentially medalling again in South Korea, yet her performance was still a significant improvement on placing seventh in the semi-final in Berlin at the 2009 edition of the event.


Having just returned from a well-deserved holiday in Dubai, Shakes-Drayton is only a few months in to being a full-time athlete after finishing her degree at Brunel University in May, and she intends to use the extra free time to ensure 2012 goes fully to plan.

After narrowly missing out on selection for the 2008 Games in Beijing despite winning the UK Olympic trials, she is eager to toe the line on home turf next summer and make a big impact, to boot:

“The obvious goal is to firstly make the team for selection and once in the team, I need to focus on all aspects of my training, listen to what my coach is telling me and make sure I make that final – once there, anything can happen,” explained Shakes-Drayton.

“I love the competition (in the UK) so as long as we keep producing quality 400m and 400m hurdlers then it keeps us all on our toes!

“To be the best you need to compete against the best, week in, week out.”

Turn-er of Speed


Having sampled the sweet taste of global success this year, sprint hurdler Andy Turner admits to enjoying a constant reminder of his ultimate career goal when often driving past the Olympic stadium on his way to training in and around London ahead of the 2012 Games next summer, writes Nicola Bamford.

The 31-year-old from Nottingham captured a surprise bronze medal in the 110m hurdles at the World Championships in Daegu back in August, swiftly establishing himself as an athlete to watch at the sporting spectacular next season, where – in his third Olympic appearance - he will attempt to sprint into the medals once more.

Guided by Lloyd Cowan at the Lee Valley high-performance centre, Turner offered an overview of his promising 2011 campaign:

“I ticked off everything I needed to do - I ran a PB and I won a World Championship medal so I have to look at it as a successful season,” he revealed.

Having originally placed fourth in the final with 13.44 in South Korea, the Sale Harriers Manchester athlete was upgraded to third after world record-holder Dayron Robles of Cuba was disqualified for a lane infringement – a belated decision which Turner has mixed emotions on:

“I was obviously happy to get the bronze but because I didn’t cross the line in third I didn’t get that emotion of knowing I’d got the medal so I was just satisfied with finishing fourth at the time but being upgraded was a huge bonus,” he explained.

“Daegu itself was a great experience as it’s always interesting to experience such different cultures - despite the food! - and the people were really nice.

“The championships themselves obviously had all sorts of controversy, but all in all, there was a good vibe in the village and I had fun. There was a good team spirit amongst the GB team which bodes really well for next year.”


A European and Commonwealth champion from the 2010 season, Turner endured an injury-plagued summer and so was relieved to register a fine 13.22 life-time best in June to go to third on the British all-time lists before taking his first ever global medal - which significantly improved on fifth place in the heats of the 2009 event in Berlin.

The father of two revealed:

“I had my Achilles problem early season which was a hindrance but I had injections to fix that although, with all the end of season racing I’ve done, it came back a bit.

“The injury didn’t prevent me starting well - I felt on point and I was running well and obviously was delighted with my PB.”

The seven-time national champion continued:

“The Achilles was a referral problem – the actual problem was the tendons underneath my feet which caused the Achilles to be tight. As a result I was running in pain all the time but had a subtalar cortisone injection which knocked out problem.

“I also tore my groin just before the UK Champs and World trials which left me with three or four weeks before the World Champs to recover - that meant ten days of no hurdling at a crucial time so preparation wasn’t ideal but I didn’t feel I lost anything which was the best thing, other than a bit of confidence over the hurdles.”


The World and British record-holder for the 200m hurdles, Turner has just returned to training after an end-of-season break and has jetted off to Florida with his family to continue an unusual set-up with one of his fiercest rivals.

Having created an unlikely friendship with reigning Olympic bronze-medalist David Oliver of the USA, Turner will be working with his squad for a three-month spell before tackling a few indoor races in the New Year.

“I probably won’t run at the World Indoor Championships, though,” the former Notts County FC youth player explained - “what with the focus naturally being on the outdoor season next year.”

After finishing last in his heat in Athens in 2004 and fifth at the quarter-final stage in Beijing four years ago, Turner is understandably determined to build on his recent success to finally clinch an Olympic medal.

“My aim for 2012 is to medal at the London Olympics,” he stated quite simply.

“It’s my third Olympics and I have to look at it as another Olympic Games as opposed to focusing too much on the fact they’re in London - I know what to expect and need to not get over-hyped with it and just keep focused. It’s obviously great to have it so close to home and the support will be unreal.

“We’ve got a few boys, four or five who can challenge for a spot in the team. The 110m hurdles itself is not one of the GB team’s strongest events but I really hope that my success can drive others on to achieve the same and more, in the same way that we’re beginning to see with Dai (Greene – world champion) in the 400m hurdles,” revealed Turner, who despite fighting away the pressure, must be visualizing himself atop of the podium on that daily commute to training.