SARAH HOLT plans to be in London in 12 months’ time – via Birmingham, the USA and hopefully South Korea!
The 2012 Olympics, which get under way a year today, are the target for the 24-year hammer thrower from Cleckheaton.
But she’d love to be at this year’s World Championships in Daegu, which run from August 27 to September 4.
Holt, who competes for Sale Harriers, heads into this weekend’s UK Championships in Birmingham buoyed by winning the English hammer title then notching a new personal best of 66.46m and firmly believes she can achieve the qualifying mark for the worlds.
“I’m feeling in great nick,” said Holt, who schooled at West End in Cleckheaton and Whitcliffe Mount before gaining a degree in geography and sports at Loughborough, where she is still based when in Britain.
“My training has gone well, I’ve stayed injury free so far this year and my form is improving.
“It was great to get that PB and I also had some foul throws which were pretty long, which has given me even more confidence.”
There are two qualifying standards for the Olympics – 71.5m and 69m – and Holt has to achieve them by next June.
Before then she’ll be heading back to the States, where one of her coaches, Bob Weir, is based.
“I work with John Pearson, who has coached me for a while now, and Bob, and being out in America made me really focused,” she explained.
“The facilities out there (in Eugene, Oregon) are fantastic, and I was able to get in quite a few competitions, which gave me a great base for the season back in Britain.
“I’ve certainly felt the benefit, and I’ll be aiming to kick on even more when I go back there this Winter.”
Holt first got into athletics as a seven-year-old, when she took part in summer schools run by her local club Spenborough.
She competed in a variety of events before emerging as a talented thrower in her early teens, winning the English schools hammer title in 2004.
Within five years, she had set a new British Under 23 record when winning in the Universities Championships, and she also landed the England Under 23 title while taking bronze at the European Under 23 Championships in Lithuania.
Hip surgery at the end of that year didn’t prevent Holt making a full Great Britain debut in the European Team Championships in Norway 13 months ago.
But her bid for Commonwealth Games glory in Delhi last year was hit by illness and injury, with a virus and back problems contributing to her missing the cut for the final stages.
“It was a major disappointment, but I still took a lot from the experience of going there and being involved in a major event,” added Holt.
“I’ve been getting some effective treatment on my back, and I also have a rigorous stretching routine, which I follow closely and has been effective so far.
“Training has obviously become a serious business, and because I have to do quite a lot of it on my own, it’s important to remain motivated.
“But Loughborough, being such a sporting hotbed, is a great place to do that and as I said, I’m pleased with the way things are going.”
Historically the hammer, a women’s Olympic event since 2000, has been dominated by the Eastern Europeans, but Holt is quick to point out the old stereotypes no longer apply.
“People probably have a certain image of hammer throwers, shall we say, but it’s not really the case,” she laughed.
“Like most sports, it’s become more scientific and technical, so it’s not all about sheer strength.
“As well as the physical side, we also look at the psychological aspect, and I’ve had some real help from former athletes likes Steve Backley.”
As for the Olympics, Holt is driven by memories of watching the likes of Backley, Denise Lewis and Usain Bolt taking part.
“Bolt was phenomenal in Beijing back in 2008, while as a youngster, seeing Denise Lewis excel in so many disciplines was a real inspiration,” she explained.
“With Steve Backley being a specialist thrower, I’ve studied his approach to competition and training, and to get tips from him first hand has been fantastic.”
Now Holt could be taking part in the Games rather than watch them, and it’s not a chance she’ll be passing up lightly.
“Being involved in any Olympics is obviously something very special, but to do it in you own country is the pinnacle, because it’s so rare an opportunity.
“I’ve been dreaming of it pretty much since I knew the Games would be coming to London, and to be in this position with a year to go is amazing.
“I’ll be giving it everything to make sure I’m involved.”
SARAH HOLT is one of 344 British Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls currently backed by the Lloyds TSB Local Heroes initiative.
And she’s among the 80% of them who believe London 2012 will have a positive impact on future sport participation in this country.
Research carried out by Lloyds TSB in association with SportsAid also shows that 68% of the Local Heroes say the prospect of next year’s Games has had a noticeable impact on people living in their area.
Meanwhile 73% of them say competition has intensified as the event draws closer.
Holt said: “The 2012 Games have been a huge motivation for me ever since London was announced as the host city (in 2005).
“To have the Games in our country is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I think it’s having an effect on people across Britain.
“For me to be recognised by Lloyds TSB is fantastic and it has given me a real boost in pursuing my dream of competing for Team GB in London next year.”
As well as receiving a £1,000 annual award, Local Heroes benefit from practical advice given by former Olympic and Paralympic medalists.
By the start of London 2012 a year today, more than 1,000 will have been through the Local Heroes programme.