WRITTEN FOR SKYSPORTS
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.”