Guy Learmonth feels ready to mix with athletics’ A-List when the European Indoor Championships start in Prague tonight but the Scots hope insists he is on a mission to tap into the secrets of the very best to put his Olympic dream into a higher gear.
The 22-year-old Borderer launches his bid to mark his Great Britain debut with a surprise medal in tomorrow’s heats of the 800 metres in a field weakened by the late pull-out of Polish star Adam Kszczot.
It’s all step by step to the top claims Learmonth, who is ranked fifth in the continent.
And with a forthcoming trip to South Africa to join Botswana’s Commonwealth champion Nijel Amos for a month of hard graft, he has no intention of sitting back and taking it easy.
“It’s more than a training camp,” he said. “I’ll see how they take care of their bodies on and off the track, what they eat and don’t eat, how they recover and rest. And what the set-up is with how they approach their weekly blocks.
“It will be a big learning experience. But I’m always up for adapting my training to make myself even better and so to get some fresh ideas is a plus, especially when you can see what the best athletes in the world are going. Amos is one of the best ever. He’ll beat David Rudisha’s world record soon so I must be able to pick something up from that.”
The recently-crowned UK champion reckons Prague offers the chance to take another major step forward and believes the experience gained from reaching the final at Glasgow 2014 will pay dividends.
“It’s set me up nicely for how I approach these Europeans,” he said. “I know it’s my first GB vest but now I know how to go though the rounds and make sure I’m in the final.”
Meanwhile, golden girl Katarina Johnson-Thompson admits she is out to make up for lost time in her bid to claim pentathlon gold tomorrow.
The Liverpudlian, 22, will start as clear favourite for a first major title in the wake of claiming the UK indoor high and long jump records in recent weeks but insists she won’t be running scared, despite the foot injury that wrecked her plans of a European and Commonwealth double last summer.
“At the time it didn’t feel nice to sit out and watch two major championships,” she said. “But nothing’s changed. This year I haven’t felt nervous to compete or worried. I’ve just gone out and competed.”
GB’S GOLD CONTENDERS
Katarina Johnson-Thompson (pentathlon)
The 22-year-old, billed as Jessica Ennis-Hill’s heir apparent in multi-eventing, is fired up to land her first major championship title. She finished last year ranked number one in the world in the heptathlon and has enjoyed a storming start to 2015.
Jenny Meadows (800m)
The 33-year-old was European indoor champion over 800m in 2011, but was only awarded the title 18 months after the event when Russian winner Yevgeniya Zinurova was exposed as a drug cheat. Back from injury, she has run the two fastest times in the world this year.
Chijindu Ujah (60m)
Ujah burst on to the scene by running 9.96 seconds over 100m last June, becoming the third fastest Briton of all time. The Londoner, who is 21 today, struggled to back up that run, but has found consistency this year and will be the fastest man of 2015 in the Czech Republic.
Dina Asher-Smith (60m)
The 19-year-old is one of Britain’s new generation of exciting women sprinters and is already the world junior champion over 100m. The history student heads to the championships placed second in the European rankings.
Seren Bundy-Davies (400m)
The 20-year-old from Wales, who will make her major championship debut in Prague, was a virtual unknown a year ago but has taken almost 0.8 seconds off her personal best this year. She is ranked third in the world and number one in Europe.