RW Interviews: Hannah England

We’ve got our eye on the 1,500m talent and World Championship silver medallist as London 2012 draws closer



hannah england silver

One of the most memorable moments of this summer's IAAF World Championships took place in the final straight of the women's 1,500m, when 24-year-old Hannah England rocketed through from seventh to grab a surprise silver medal. This impeccably tactical, gutsy performance marked out Hannah as one of Britain's brightest athletics medal hopes for London 2012. Kelly Holmes's protégé has spent the last few years consistently churning out some of the fastest 1,500m times in the country and now her talent is shining through on the world stage.

We stole Hannah away from a busy press conference to find out how she's coping with the increased media attention and pressure ahead of London 2012 - and how texts from Dame Kelly herself pushed her to medal glory. 

Have your expectations for London 2012 changed since winning a silver medal in Daegu?

Yes they have. After winning my silver at the World Championships, I'm a bit more excited about the Olympics. Before winning my medal, the thought of London 2012 made me really nervous and I just wanted to be a part of it, whereas now I feel like I deserve to be a part of it. I still need to qualify, that's still a requirement, but I'm much more excited about belonging there.

Are you starting to feel the pressure of bringing home an Olympic medal? If so, how are coping with that?

I'm coping well so far. I think as long as athletes are prepared for that pressure, then it shouldn't be too much of an issue. I'm trying to look at it in a positive way and consider that if I'm getting that pressure, it's only because I'm running well. I want to perform well and expectations come as part and parcel of that. At the end of the day, you don't get much more pressure than standing on the start line at a major race. Personally as an athlete my own expectations of my performances are so big, that I'm not sure that any outside influences can add much to that.

You've been a member of the On Camp with Kelly initiative since 2004. What have been the benefits of being mentored by double gold Olympic champion Kelly Holmes?

I think one of the best things about being mentored by Kelly is that it removes the trial and error aspect of growing up as an athlete. I imagine there are a lot of other athletes in different events and sports who make a lot of mistakes and learn from them as they go along. The great thing about working with Kelly is that she pre-empts those mistakes. Also whenever you have a conundrum and you're not sure what to do, you phone up Kelly or any other members of the team and they help you to figure it out. It has definitely helped me to improve at a faster rate than I would have otherwise.

What's the best piece of advice Kelly has given you?

She wrote me a wonderful ten-point plan on running the 1,500m last year. I lost my head a bit at the European Championships in 2010 and afterwards she sent me tactical advice on what to do the next time. Point nine was to enjoy myself and point ten was to smile - I like to look at that before I race.

How did she prepare you for the World Championships this year?

We had some good chats before I went out to the holding camp and she reminded me to stick to my plan and that all my training had gone well, so I just needed faith in everything I was doing. She sent me some really nice texts messages closer to the event telling me just to enjoy myself and reminding me that I was in great shape.

London 2012 will be your first Olympics if you qualify. What are you most looking forward to about the event?

The Olympics are what sport is all about. Just the fact that there is a home Olympics in my sporting lifetime is such an opportunity. That's why I'm hoping the pressure doesn't ruin it and I'm trying to soak up the whole experience.

Which was the first Olympic Games you remember watching? Do you remember which athletes inspired you?

I remember Linford Christie winning the 100m in the 1992 Olympics, even though I was only five at the time. I always chose to watch athletics on the television; my family isn't really an athletics family, but we always enjoyed watching the Olympics together. I really remember watching the Sydney and Athens Games, as by that point I had started running myself, and I remember how in awe of the female athletes I was.

What does your weekly training schedule look like at the moment?

I train about 12 times a week. I do a repetition session on a Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday which fluctuates throughout the winter in terms of intensity and length. I lift weights on a Wednesday and a Friday and then I do a little bit of strength and conditioning work every day and a long run on a Sunday.

How has your life changed since winning your silver medal?

It hasn't changed that much really - I still have to go training. I don't get a head start next year and I still have to train just as hard. It's weird having that extra media attention but it's great if it gets more people watching athletics and the 1,500m. Hopefully it will encourage more people to take up running as well.

Which other athletes are you looking forward to watching in London 2012?

I'm really looking forward to watching the gymnastics. I think what the gymnasts can do is just amazing and I love watching the team competition, that'll definitely be my favourite event.

Having a good race plan and a positive mental attitude seems to have been key to your silver medal success. What's the best tip you'd give to people keen to achieve their running potential in races?

Just keep calm and try to remember that you do want to do it, as much as it will be quite scary and it will be hard. Just focus on what you want to achieve and on getting the best out of yourself.

We met Hannah at a On Camp with Kelly press conference. 'On Camp with Kelly', supported by Aviva since 2004, is Dame Kelly Holmes's mentoring and education initiative for talented young middle distance athletes. For more info visit www.oncampwithkelly.co.uk


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