A lot of water has gone under the bridge since Steph Twell’s heart was broken when injury denied her a chance to run at the 2012 London Olympics.
She has fought back from a horrific ankle break suffered in a cross-country race in Belgium in February 2011, restored herself to a mainstay of the British team and made it to the Rio Olympics last summer, where she finished eighth in her 5,000m heat and didn’t make the final.
Every athlete in a British vest will be bursting with excitement at the prospect of next month’s world championships at London’s Olympic Stadium but for 27-year-old Twell the pain of five years ago will make taking to that iconic track all the more poignant.
The Scot wore a London 2012 badge pin every day from the moment the city was awarded the Games in 2005 as a source of inspiration for what she envisaged would be the highlight of her career.
The Aldershot runner, who is a proud Scot due to her Paisley mother, won 1,500m bronze in the blue vest at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, placing fourth in the 5,000m, and seemed to be building nicely for London when that dreadful injury struck. She battled to recover but a further foot injury months before the Games ended the dream.
“It will be super special,” said Twell as she looked forward to London after outsprinting fellow Scot Eilish McColgan to win last weekend’s British 5,000m trial in Birmingham. She will get a taste of what awaits in August when she runs in the women’s mile at the Anniversary Games in the same stadium tomorrow.
Twell’s story formed the centrepiece of British track and field captain Dai Greene’s inspirational pre-Games speech to the team back in 2012 as the Welsh 400m hurdler urged the home athletes to embrace how fortunate they were to be there and think how much the Scot would give to be in their place.
Twell exudes positivity and is one of the most popular athletes in the team. When she entered the interview area in Birmingham last Sunday after her triumph the former world 800m bronze medallist Jenny Meadows, who was doing media work, bounded over to give the new British 5k champion a bear hug.
As you would expect, there is steel at her core too and Twell revealed that she had given the UK athletics’powers-that-be a piece of her mind after a perceived slight last weekend.
“I entered the 1,500 kind of on principle because I was upset I didn’t get invited, because I had got the time,” said Twell.
In the end she didn’t run the shorter distance, focusing on the 5,000m but continued: “To be honest I didn’t get an e-mail and I had to go and ask them, because they had forgotten about me.
“I was like ‘how can you forget when at the time I had only run 1,500 so might need to contemplate it?’ The 1,500m has never left me and one day I might go back to it. I wanted that opportunity and I think it’s only fair I get that opportunity. Because if they start forgetting athletes then it [the trial] becomes a selected race. And I thought that’s not fair.
“I just pointed out the facts and, yes, they did apologise.”
Twell returns to middle distance tomorrow for some “sharpening up”. She will need to be on her toes as she will be up against compatriot Laura Muir, pictured, who proved she is in great shape after an injury niggle with a personal best 800m in the Lausanne Diamond League on Thursday, and is now targeting Zola Budd’s 32-year-old mile record.
Twell’s initial goals may not be so lofty but she is looking forward to building towards London after proving in that trial victory that she is in a good place despite some significant off-track distractions.
“I’ve always had a sprint, from my 1,500 metre ability, it’s just about biding my time and knowing when to use it,” said Twell of that superb surge past McColgan last weekend.
“I’m in the middle of my PGCE [post-graduate certificate in education] so I’m not in full-time training. Well I am but training to be a teacher.
“I was just using that race to get fit. I’ve had limited training because of the PGCE so I’ve been using races as my main session of the week. I think it shows I can race and that once I get into my full-time training and rest schedule hopefully I’ll get into the bigger picture.
“My training miles are the lowest they have been for about four years. Post-Olympics it’s probably the right time to have a little down time. I’ve been able to do what I’ve needed to do but I’d probably say 40-50 miles a week, average. So I’m looking forward to, after this season, really moving myself on as a 5k runner.”