One final hurdle to go for Jo


Track star’s Olympic dream will be decided on Saturday following her performance in Birmingham yesterday evening.

Jo Ankier said she was in the best shape of her life as she prepared for the Great Britain Olympic trials in Birmingham on Sunday.

The 25-year-old was just seven laps away from finding out whether or not she would make the plane for the Beijing Games in August, when she took on her rivals at the Aviva National Championships at the Birmingham Alexander Stadium.

Competing in the 3,000 metres steeplechase, Ankier achieved the British Olympics qualifying standard at the end of May when she finished in 9:43:88.

Her preparations gathered momentum in Turkey a fortnight ago when she put in another solid display. She was due tobattle it out with Barbara Parker, Hattie Dean and Helen Clitheroe in the last event of the trials at 7.10pm, knowing that only three out of four will make the squad.

“I’ve prepared the best I can,” said Ankier. “I know I’m in the best shape of my life and feel a combination of nervousness and excitement that I have the
opportunity to go out and do something special.”

While her rivals have all run faster times than her, Ankier takes confidence from the fact that she beat Clitheroe last time out, and Dean and Parker have only finished inside the qualifying time once.

“Anything can happen on the day,” she said. “I have had the highest number of consistent times. Going into the race I would’ve liked to have run a little faster but I’m very much getting the vibes that the selectors want to take me. The bottom line is that it’s a tough call but they will probably take the first three finishers.”

Given the unseasonal rain and wind, Ankier feared that it could be a “slow and tactical race”. She said: “Every time I’ve run in Birmingham it’s been very windy. It affects the pattern of the race but it’s the same for everyone. It’s still a scary prospect as it can affect your momentum when jumping. If it’s windy on the day I will stay in the pack for protection.

“Ideally, I want to be running in second place, on the shoulder of the leader, for the majority of the race before kicking on for home. Sometimes, you have to be aggressive to get into the position you want. I’m not an aggressive person and prefer to focus on jumping the hurdles efficiently. I will try to focus on my race. I believe it’s a waste of energy jostling for position so may decide to sit behind the pack if things get rough.”

Her preparations in London this week have also been hampered by the weather. She was forced to postpone hurdling sessions on Sunday and Monday due to the rain and instead ran on a treadmill.

“I’ve done all the hard stuff training-wise,” she said. “I ran 20 minutes at threshold in the gym and came away feeling really good. I felt comfortable with the pace. I go into the race feeling really positive.”

Off the track, she plans to get “plenty of sleep between now and the race and maintain a healthy low-fat diet. “On the day of the race I will have porridge or another cereal and get to the stadium two and a half hours before the start.”

She said: “There’s going to be plenty of tension as the Olympics only comes around once every four years. A lot of it will be about holding my nerve. I can’t see it being pally, pally before the race. I know I’m capable of winning.”

l Israeli swimmer Max Jaben, who had been expected to represent Israel in the 200 metres freestyle in Beijing, has failed a drugs test.

A sample taken from the American-Jewish swimmer in April contained traces of a performance-enhancing steroid. If a second sample proves positive he will be dropped from the Israeli squad.

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