SOPHIE Hitchon broke her own British hammer record on Saturday as she climbed to joint fourth in the world rankings.
In the first event held at UK Athletics’ new indoor throws centre at Loughborough, Hitchon threw 70.40m - passing 70m for the first time - adding 81cm to her previous record.
Starting her season, which she hopes will take in London 2012, in style, the 20-year-old became the first British woman to break the 70m barrier.
Last year she twice set UK records, throwing 69.43m, before adding 16cm to win the bronze medal at the European Under 23 Championships.
But, competing in the unofficial trials for the European Winter Throws Cup in Montenegro, Hitchon hit a new best with her second attempt - just short of 70m - before, in the penultimate round, she sent the hammer out to 70.40m, almost a metre farther than.
Looking to attack the Olympic A standard of 71.50m, Hitchon has achieved the B standard of 69m three times, but has to achieve that twice further from April 1st, when the qualification period begins.
For Hitchon to guarantee a place with Team GB for the Games, she needs to hit the A standard twice.
But, as she has become accustomed, she has started the season with a bang, and the World junior champion is hot on the heels of the very best.
Her new personal best puts her in touching distance of world record holder Betty Heidler’s 72.29m, and world champion Tatyana Lysenko’s 71.25m.
Speaking to Athletics Weekly, Hitchon said: “I’ve been throwing well in training and I knew that I was in shape to throw okay.
“Getting over 70 metres was a little surprising, but a great barrier to break.”
In Friday’s Burnley Express she had expressed her goals: “It’s been a case of working hard through the winner getting ready for this year, and I just want to come out, bounce right into it and throw well.
“I usually start the season well, so hopefully I will be able to do the same again.
“The aim is to get that 71.50m, so hopefully I can do that in the first few weeks and concentrate on competitions and planning. If it doesn’t happen, I’ll keep trying, not worry about it, just focus on making it happen.
“You’re unsure if you will be on the teamsheet, so it would be nice to go out and throw the A standard and then focus on the rest of the year.”
Hitchon now faces the Winter Throwing Cup in Montenegro on March 17th and 18th, and then a first-ever visit to America for warm-weather training in San Diego, California.