By Chris Lotsbom
(c) 2013 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
(10-Jul) — At this point in 2012, Great Britain’s Hannah England was in a sore situation. Recovering from a spike wound suffered to her Achilles at the Fanny Blankers-Koen Games in Hengelo, the now 26-year-old was forced to withdraw from the Aviva U.K. Olympic Trials. Her Olympic hopes were in limbo, teetering on whether her battered leg –which required hospitalization– would heal in time.
Now, twelve months later, the Florida State alum who won the NCAA 1500m title in 2008, is primed and ready to compete at this weekend’s Sainsbury’s British Championships in Birmingham. On Saturday she will toe the starting line, set on earning a birth in Sunday’s final. From there, Moscow and the IAAF World Championships are her goals.
“I’m really, really excited. I was absolutely gutted to miss out last year to injury,” said England in a conference call Wednesday morning with reporters. “The [World Championships] Trials is a very exciting event and it means a lot to me. I’m really sort of relieved that I’ve got here in good shape and can have a go at it this year.”
So far in 2013 England has had a good outdoor campaign, setting seasonal bests of 2:01.42 for 800m and4:03.38 for 1500m. The latter event is her specialty, having won a silver medal in the discipline at the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu.
With her Achilles injury behind her, England is focused on what lies ahead. The last time she raced in Birmingham, her hometown, was at the IAAF Diamond League meeting last month, finishing seventh in4:07.23. She says she’s in even better racing shape now.
“Things are going really well at the minute,” said England. “I’m definitely ready for this weekend and it’s looking good, so hopefully I can get on that World Championships team.”
Getting the chance to compete back on the world’s highest stage means a tremendous amount to England. At the London Olympics last year, she was knocked out in the semi-finals after finishing ninth in her section. That performance –ten weeks after her injury– left England edging for more.
“It definitely taught me not to take it for granted that you’re going to get a smooth summer,” she said. “You forget how hard it is actually to make championship after championship. It definitely taught me not to take it for granted last year. It was great to still go to the Olympics, but now I’m sat here in great shape and injury free. I’m trying to make the most of it.”
If she makes the IAAF World Championships in Moscow, England’s goals are simple: qualify for the final and run an excellent race. With that, she feels anything could happen.
“I don’t want to get too, too stressed and too focused on medals and stuff when at the end of the day the most important thing is running the best race I can. That will bring whatever result I deserve on the day,” she said.
Towards the end of today’s conference call, England was asked about the state of the current situation in athletics as it pertains to doping. Within the last week, numerous news outlets have reported allegations pertaining to Turkey and Russia’s use of performance enhancing drugs. England’s response was candid and surprising.
“I think it’s a real, real shame. As an athlete who trains incredibly hard, I think most athletes, to find out about someone who takes shortcuts like that raises a nasty taste in your mouth,” she said. “But I think in the women’s 1500m, I don’t necessarily think you can get that much of an advantage by taking drugs. I think the tactics involved, the rounds, everything like that, I think just if you took drugs wouldn’t mean you’d actually beat anyone. So I tend to not worry about it in my event. I think across the sport, I’d rather we all focus on the good things that happen, like Jess Judd running so ridiculously fast at her age and things like that. I tend to prefer to read and think about that.”
England’s viewpoint is interesting considering Olympic 1500m winner Asli Çakir Alptekin (who happened to win the qualifying heat which England was eliminated in) was provisionally suspended by the IAAF after abnormalities in her blood profile were found. According to The Telegraph newspaper, Çakir Alptekin will be stripped of her Olympic medal and banned for life if a disciplinary tribunal finds her guilty. She had already served a two-year ban from a positive test in 2004.
PHOTO: Hannah England after the 2012 Fifth Avenue Mile in New York (photo by David Monti for Race Results Weekly)