Sophie sets British hammer best as she closes on 70m

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BURNLEY’S own World Junior hammer champion Sophie Hitchon started her domestic season in the best possible fashion - with a personal best to set a new British record of 69.43m at the BUCS Championships in Bedford on Sunday.

On the first day of the Olympic qualifying period, the 19-year-old reached the B standard for the London 2012 Games, as well as the B qualifying mark for the World Championships.

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

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 for each standard.

Qualification closes on July 8th next year - and at the rate former Ivy Bank pupil Sophie is improving her PB, the A standard of 71.5 is well within her reach, having already broken 11 British junior records and three British Under 23 records in her burgeoning career.

Hitchon competed as a guest in the women’s hammer in the British Universitites and Colleges event at Bedford, and the Loughborough University student added over three metres to her PB, and break the British best set in 2003 by Lorraine Shaw.

In fact, she twice beat the UK record, throwing 68.97m, before stretching her mark to 69.43m.

And her effort placed her as the world’s top Under 23 hammer thrower, and 18th in the senior world rankings.

The former Pendle AC athlete has already started her season, taking part in the European Cup Winter Throws competition in late March in Sofia, Bulgaria, where she was second Under 23 behind Romanian Biance Perle with a throw of 64.16m, on her first outing after warm-weather training in Portugal.

At Bedford, as regards the athletes competing in the scoring section of the hammer, Myra Perkins won with a Scottish junior record of 61.94m - placing her second behind Sophie in the UK all-time junior list - with her record standing at 66.01m.

Sophie now continues to prepare for events in 2011 - with London always looming large in the background.

She is looking towards the European Under 23 Championships in Ostrava in the Czech Republic in July, as well as the World Chanmpionships in Daegu, South Korea in late August and early September.