Olympics boost for Burnley’s Sophie Hitchon!

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SETTING a new British senior hammer record is good enough.

But being told at the same time you have reached the Olympic B standard on the opening day of qualifying for London 2012 is a massive bonus!

Burnley’s Sophie Hitchon, in her first domestic meetng of the new season, wasn’t even aware qualifying had begun for the Greatest Show on Earth next summer.

But now she has laid down the gauntlet, settled a few nerves, and has the A standard in her sights.

Athletes hoping to reach next summer’s games have to meet one of two qualifying standards set by the IAAF.

Each nation can enter three athletes per event who hit the A standard in the 18-months prior to the Olympics, and one additional athlete who has made the B standard - with one reserve who has reached each standard.

Qualification closes on July 8th next year, but the former Ivy Bank pupil has set an early marker down with a new personal best to set a new British record of 69.43m at the BUCS Championships in Bedford on Sunday.

And the 19-year-old laughed: “I didn’t realise it was the first day of qualifying for the Olympics!

“But that settles you down, you are a bit nervous about making the standard, and I would love to hit the A standard before next year.

“I’ll just carry on and hopefully keep throwing further and further.

“It would be hard to go to 71.5m (the A standard) this year, but hopefully, after another full winter’s training, I will be able to get there.”

She has returned from this winter’s hard graft in superb form, and she is delighted the work is paying off: “It was really good on Sunday, conditions were pretty much perfect, which obviously helps.

“But training has been going really well, and I was expecting to throw in that region, but maybe not as far as I did!

“It was a bit of a surprise, but I was delighted.

“Obviously you train through the winter and you can have some big gains in six months - you can make a big improvement, and with the first meeting back, it can be a bit scary and get the adrenalin going as well!

“To break the record at first with 68.97m, and then for it to happen again was amazing.

“But I seem to cope really well in competition, it brings the best out of me.

“I don’t know how that it, it’s just in-built, but it’s good to be able to respond within competitions.”

Never was that truer than during her World Junior title win in Moncton last year, when she produced a winning throw with her final attempt.

And she now has eyes on the European Under 23 Championships in

Ostrava in the Czech Republic - going in as it stands as the top Under 23 in the world - and the World Senior Championships in South Korea: “A few girls are still to come out this season and throw, and hopefully that (the new record) will push them on a bit.

“But at the moment I’m just looking at the Europeans in July, and the World Championships in South Korea in September. I need to hit the B standard again to qualify for that, so that’s one of my targets.”

Before then, Sophie will compete in Gothenburg next weekend, while a meet in Halle, Germany is also pencilled in, and she added: “The UK find championships for us to go to outside Britain and compete against people we are likely to be up against from around Europe and the World.

“There are a few coming up - in Sweden next weekend, and then in Germany, and it’s great to get the experience.”