Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Parker's Back-Up Plan


After a disappointing display in the first-round heats of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, 3,000m steeplechaser Barbara Parker is attacking London 2012 will a back-up plan, writes Nicola Bamford.
The 29-year-old from Norfolk – who is yet to compete in her specialist event this season – is quite unusually, targeting a spot on Team GB for this summer’s Olympics in both her usual discipline as well as the 5,000m event.

Guided by her husband and coach, Sean Burris at their base in Atlanta, Parker has enjoyed promising early-season form which has seen her reduce her twelve-and-a-half lap best by thirteen-seconds to an impressive 15:14.26 in California last month – thus prompting the two-tier assault for her second Olympic appearance.
A member of City of Norwich AC, Parker revealed:

“I will be focusing on the steeplechase this year but if something goes wrong in the chase, I have the 5000m as a back-up.

“I knew 15:20 (the Olympic ‘A’ standard) was well inside my capability and on a perfect day, I could get close to fifteen-flat so I am really excited to do another one and push myself through the first part of the race at a faster pace, as I have a lot of strength in the second part of my races.”


Currently leading the British outdoor rankings, Parker’s 5,000m mark is almost half a minute quicker than the time she ran in the countdown to Beijing, where she finished twelfth in her heat, so it is little wonder she is in confident mood.

The former British record-holder over the barriers and with a best of 9:35.17 to currently rank her third on the British all-time list, Parker explained:

Winter training went extremely well – I got a consistent rotation of high mileage in and really focused on longer strength workouts.

“We live at the trail-head of the Chattahoochee River, which is an amazing place to run - it is so nice walking out of your front door and the trail is right there.”

Having enjoyed a stint in March training alongside World 1500m silver-medallist Hannah England in Tallahassee, Florida - where she attended university - Parker ignited her 2012 campaign with two solid races in mid-April, registering 2:08.04 for 800m and 4:13.31 for 1500m.

The UK number-one in 2011, she is eager to improve upon her 9:35.46 best of last summer:

I am running the steeple at the Shanghai Diamond League next week and then we will plan my next races after that,” revealed Parker.  

“I’ll possibly do the Prefontaine Classic on June 2nd and then I will be coming back to the UK.

“This year is all about the Olympics obviously, however, I am really focusing on competing and not watching the clock - times will come if I put myself in the mix from the beginning of the race.

“I also hope to regain my British record - going sub-9:30 is well over-due for me and I know Helen Clitheroe (the British record-holder with 9:29.14 from the 2008 season) wants to see it go - she is a great support and someone I really admire.”


In an intriguing twist, although retired from the steeplechase, Clitheroe now focuses purely on the 5,000m event so Parker will still have to face her long-time rival for a berth on the Olympic squad.

Having placed fourteenth in the World Championship final in Daegu, South Korea last August, Parker is also strongly aware of the task ahead in order to qualify for usual discipline at the UK Championships and Olympic trials in Birmingham next month:

“When it is an Olympic year, the competition is always very strong - people train out of their skin to make the Olympic team so I expect this year will be very competitive to get one of the three spots,” she explained.

“Making the final in Daegu was really important going into this year but in the final, I got a stitch and it wasn't pretty.

“I have been seeing a psychologist since last October and I have a whole new mentality in training and competition - it frustrates me to think I didn't benefit from this in previous seasons so with a more competitive edge and a solid winters training, I am hoping for a special year.

“I truly believe I have the ability to medal in London - my psychologist has really allowed me to believe my true potential and strong beliefs from an athlete can be a powerful thing.

“Now that the season has started, I am less nervous and anxious about London - each competition will give me the tools I need to execute the perfect race in London so I am actually looking forward to that day.”

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