WRITTEN FOR SKYSPORTS
Bouncing back from an injury-hit summer, long-distance man Chris Thompson is hitting fine form at just the right time, as he enters the all-important Olympic qualification period on the track, writes Nicola Bamford.
Having reluctantly stayed away from the UK for the past five months – even during Christmas week – in order to remain focused on his biggest goal for 2012, Thompson is confident of finally being able to make his Olympic debut this August.
The 30-year-old US-based Brit clocked an impressive 61:23 in the New York half-marathon last month to leap to eighth on the British all-time list, showing encouraging signs of a full recovery from his 2011 injury woes as well as a potential return to the form which led him to the European 10,000m silver medal behind compatriot and reigning World 5,000m champion Mo Farah two years ago, in a glorious comeback from a seven-year injury nightmare.
Based in Eugene, Oregon as part of the Nike-sponsored Oregon Track Club Elite, Thompson explained:
“The New York half was a great marker for me - after last summer, I was left with a lot to work on to get my body ready and able to handle the workloads I needed to do.
“The race showed me I was aerobically strong and I was over the moon to feel so good - the final three weeks into the race, I started to finally feel much stronger in training so when the race came and it went so well, it all came at such a great time for my confidence and fitness to press on from here.”
Guided by John Nuttall and Mark Rowland, the Aldershot-born runner is presently training at high-altitude in Flagstaff, Arizona and will remain in the States until early June after competing in the 5,000m at the Prefontaine Classic down the road from where he regularly trains.
After opening his outdoor campaign, Thompson will then head to altitude again in
Font Romeu in the French Pyrenees before flying into Britain for the UK Championships and Olympic trials in Birmingham in late June, where he hopes to seal his selection for the 10,000m event in London at the end of the summer.
It is a plan which may have seemed impossible at times over the past few months, for after he recorded a superb 27:27.36 for the twenty-five lap distance in California eleven months ago to reach fourth-place on the British all-time list, Thompson was forced to miss the World Championships in South Korea following an untimely hernia and heel problem:
“2011 was a frustrating year as I finished 2010 with a huge amount of eagerness to press on and make the next year and beyond even better,” he revealed.
“My injuries unfortunately were waiting to happen as I spent the whole year running with a hernia I had no idea I had, which was presenting like normal aches and pains that every athlete has to deal with.
“Part of my talent but also my downfall is my ability to ignore pain and I was pushing so hard and I was slowly being crippled from within.
“In the end, after running the ‘A’ qualifying time for the Olympics, I limped away from the race and spent an agonizing summer trying to put something together which was a massive uphill battle.”
Thompson also developed a heel problem during his 10,000m run in Stanford due to core instability, yet battled throughout the season until the hernia was discovered and he found himself on the operating table.
“Trying to get going again was not easy and I spent the whole winter trying to rehab and manage my way back, he continued.”
“I don’t feel bad about how the year turned out as I did manage a personal best and a qualifying mark for the Olympics.”
Having raced well in New York and in two indoor competitions around the turn of the year in Seattle – with 7:49.14 and 13:29.94 for 3,000m and 5,000m – the 2003 European under23 5,000m champion is now confident of putting his painful troubles behind him:
“In the last month, I have turned a huge corner which at one point, I was starting to feel would never come as I felt so restricted in training,” he explained.
“I have the plan for the summer and I’m as excited as I could be - I felt last year I never showed how much I progressed from the year before so if I can finish this slice of training off going into the summer, I can’t wait to see where it will take me.”
The partner of Olympic 800m hopeful Jemma Simpson from Cornwall, Thompson is philosophical about his mixed fortunes in the past and is determined to look ahead in a positive mood.
Eager to join Farah again on the British squad in the British capital four months from now, he is grateful to be running at all:
“As I have spent so long getting to this point in my career, I feel like I still learned a lot of lessons in one year around my problems which I needed to as I have not reached this level of performance before,” Thompson revealed.
“In 2010, I reached that point of vulnerability because I was running faster than I had ever before and to go to the next level was never and isn’t going to be easy.
“Even though I missed out on some goals last year I feel I still progressed overall and 2012 was not compromised at all - I am getting stronger all the time and have a lot of running left in me so to still be here and looking as far forward as I am is still and will always be a pleasure.”
On his goals for the season and Olympic ambitions in London, Thompson continued:
“My plans are very simple and like every other athlete - I want to run big personal bests, I need to be in the best 10,000m shape I can be for the Olympics and if I do that, all my other races will fall into place around it and I am very confident I’ll run very fast throughout the summer.
“If I can reach these goals, who knows where that will take me at the Olympics? I can’t control anyone else, I can only control my own fitness - ‘control the controllable’ as my coach would say.
“Olympic results are always hard to predict so there is no point worrying about it - if I am in the best place I can be on the day, then that’s all I can ask for and then it’s all about the execution and being extremely brave and strong on the day.
“I can’t win a medal or achieve a top-eight performance before the race - I can only prepare and be ready to achieve it on the day.”