05 MAY 2006 General News

Inspired by Radcliffe's presence, British focus on progress at La Coruña and beyond

Nick Ball (GBR) (Tim Watt)Nick Ball (GBR) (Tim Watt) © Copyright

With an eye to the future, particularly the London 2012 Olympic Games as well as the EAA European Cup of Race Walking to be hosted in the central England town of Leamington Spa in 2007, a very young team has been selected to represent Great Britain & Northern Ireland at the IAAF World Race Walking Cup in La Coruña, Spain, on 13-14 May.

British walkers dominated the early editions of this event but with a gradual decline in standards relative to the rest of the World since the early 1990s (despite a recent increase in competitor numbers and of regular participants) the national team is currently in a period of rebuilding.

Under 23s Johanna Jackson and Katie Stones will contest the senior women's 20km. National 10km Junior Champions Nicholas Ball and Rebecca Mersh will be joined in the Junior 10km races by National Under-17yrs 5km champion Ben Wears and National Junior women's silver medallist Sarah Foster. All are considered to have the potential to develop to world-class level.

The athletes will have plenty of inspiration on hand as World Marathon champion and record holder Paula Radcliffe is also due to travel to La Coruña, where she is the IAAF Athletes' Commission’s Representative at this IAAF World Athletics Series event.

Any suggestion of the team selectors loading too much pressure too early on young athletes doesn't worry Nick Ball, perhaps Great Britain's best prospect at La Coruña, who will be competing for the second occasion in the World Race Walking Cup Junior 10km.

"I think it's good that the selections have given more young walkers a chance as it shows support and encouragement for more of us to continue aiming for success."

Nick is only just 18 so will still qualify in two years time but is hopeful for a top 20 placing next Saturday. "Many of the top Russians and Italians that I raced against last year will now be too old. I'm hoping for a personal best which may give me a top 15 place, as well as a IAAF World Junior Championship qualifying time."

The young team were given further encouragement at a three-day training camp a fortnight prior to the World Cup by another athletics great, UK Athletics Chief Executive David Moorcroft, who spoke of the opportunities ahead and wished them well in Spain.

Tim Watt for the IAAF