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Is learmonth the guy to watch?

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Guy Learmonth

6 February 2014

Guy Learmonth ran 1:47.80 in Vienna at the end of last month to give him a short-lived spell at the head of the 800m world rankings. The 21 year old Scot will now head to Sheffield for this weekend’s Sainsbury’s British Athletics Indoor Championships in confident mood after a successful spell of winter training and racing.

“Training has gone incredibly well over the whole winter,” he said. “I went to Tenerife with my coaches and my Dad in early January and the sessions I was doing were far better than last year. So I guess it was expected in a way that a breakthrough was coming.”

“Maybe I’ve surprised myself with how quickly I’ve got up to speed in my first few races, but I’ve worked hard and there’s definitely more to come and I feel like I’m just going through the motions right now. I’m taking each race as it comes and building momentum, but it’s a great start to the season.”

Learmonth was one of the star performers at last month’s Sainsbury’s Glasgow International Match, beating a strong field to take victory over 600m in a time of 1:16.48 and insists that he thrives under the pressure of competing at big events and in front of passionate crowds.

“I always thrive off big races. I get really excited for them and relatively speaking, always tend to run well at the bigger championships and races. I have fun racing and feed off the whole atmosphere and the crowd.

“I think over the last few years, I’ve been seeing my potential when running with some world-class athletes but I’ve kind of had enough of running behind them now. I just have to go for it and be confident when racing these boys, and thankfully that has worked. It’s a big confidence boost.”

This weekend Learmonth will line up against both Olympic finalist Andrew Osagie and European indoor medallist Mukhtar Mohammed but he explained why he is looking forward to facing the best that Britain has to offer.

“I think I just need to build on my recent races and I’ll go in with confidence. The main aim is to win – that’s my intention in every race. Obviously there’s going to be a certain amount of expectation so I hope I can just stay illness and injury free and deliver on the day.

“You can sometimes get caught out in the heats if you aren’t on your game; at these champs it’s normally just the top finisher that goes through by right. You have to take it seriously from the start – there’s no messing about. I always get way more nervous for the heats because it’s a different ball game and anything can happen.”

As well as the honour of being crowned British champion, places on the GB & NI team for the World Indoor Championships in Sopot will be up for grabs in Sheffield and Learmonth admits that competing in Poland has only recently entered his plans.

He explained: “Originally I didn’t want to do too much early on in the season, purely to make sure I focus and peak in July and August for the Commonwealths. So competing indoors was never a huge goal; I just wanted to come out, do well and see where I was at.

“Things have now changed a bit, especially after the 600m in Glasgow. If I run the qualifying time, perform well at the trials and I get selected for Sopot I’ll 100% go - but not unless I hit all that criteria.

“I won’t be too disappointed if I don’t, but it has changed my approach to indoors a little. I’ll have to chat to my coaches if and when I get the time and see where we go from there - I may have to even delay my outdoor season a bit.”

With the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow on the horizon, Scottish athletes can look forward to competing in a championship on home turf and Learmonth believes the electric atmosphere at the Sainsbury’s Glasgow International Match has provided a taste of what they can expect in the summer.

“The atmosphere and energy in the Emirates Arena a couple of weeks ago was deafening. I got such a buzz during my warm up when I saw Laura Muir win and then again in the call room when I saw Chris O’Hare finish first too.

“I thought ‘I’ve got to keep this going and keep this crowd energised.’ Thankfully I did that and I think it was a small taste of what Scotland has to offer and what us athletes have to deliver. If we can all up our game on the day then hopefully it’ll be a successful and memorable Games.”

Live streaming of the Sainsbury’s British Athletics Indoor Championships will be available at www.youtube.com/britishathleticsTV, from 15:30–19:00 on Saturday 8 February and 12:00–16:30 on Sunday 9 February.