Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Baker Hoping to Follow in Hastings’ Footsteps


Ten years ago, American Natasha Hastings claimed the World youth 400m title in Sherbrooke, Canada and now the 26-year-old is tipped to win a medal at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow next month, having made quite an impression on her young pretender, Olivia Baker who is currently on track to replicate her role model’s success in winning the one-lap event in Donetsk, Ukraine this week.

The 17-year-old from New Jersey leads the world youth list with a 52.71 personal best set en route to claiming the national title in Illinois last month and cruised through the first round with a 54.41 winning heat today (10) at the
IAAF World Youth Championships.

Coached by Lisa Morgan and with her parents in the stadium for support, Baker will next contest the semi-final stage on Thursday (11) ahead of her quest for gold in Friday’s (12) final.

Although not previously aware of Hastings’ win a decade ago, Baker is a follower of her results and hopes to follow in her countrywoman’s footsteps into the junior and senior ranks – with Hastings having taken the World junior crown in 2004 and the World indoor title in 2012.

“I’ve seen several winners here go onto run well at the juniors and then do well as a senior so I do see this as a first step to getting there,” she explained.

“I met Natasha at the New Balance Games during the indoor season and she took a picture with me. I don’t think she knew how well I’d been running at the time but we talked a little bit.”

Having improved from 53.48 in 2012, Baker revealed her thoughts on her debut international championship:

“This has always been a dream of mine, just to be able to run here is so great - I’m living my dream.

“I’m enjoying the experience a lot. I’ve been looking towards this moment since freshman year and now I don’t want to waste this opportunity – I want to go out there and give my best, at least run a personal best.

“I’m hoping for the gold but anything can happen – I don’t take for granted that I’m number one right now because anyone could run a personal best on any given day and take my spot. I think it will take a personal best for me to win.”

Despite enduring a packed racing schedule in her 2013 campaign, Baker insisted she and coach Morgan have timed her peak to perfection:

“I still feel fresh and I feel like I’m peaking at the right time,” she explained, “I’m living the dream and say thanks to God for blessing me and helping me to be here.

“Winning the gold would be a dream come true and the perfect end to my season.”

Refusing to highlight her fiercest competitors for gold, Baker continued:

“Literally anyone could come up and beat me on any given day so I don’t focus on any specific people - I look at the field as a whole, look at myself and focus on executing my race to run the time.”

And when asked on whether she’d prefer to take victory or a lifetime best, the confident American simply replied “I rather have both.”

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