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.