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UK Athletics

Aqua-Pura backing picks up the Women’s Steeplechase pace

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Aqua Pura

Aqua-Pura’s sponsorship of women’s athletics will enable UK Athletics to intensify its search for more female steeplechasers this winter.


Endurance squad programmes in all nine English regions and the three Celtic nations are to benefit.


The main target group will be regional-standard endurance and/or steeplechase athletes, aged 16-23, though workshops will also be opened up to athletes who wish to attend the ‘taster sessions’ and experience the event for the first time.


Inviting and involving key female national and international standard athletes and coaches will be an integral part of the overall programme.


Contributions to travel expenses will be an added incentive to encourage athletes and coaches to attend. And endurance coaches will be encouraged to attend, giving them the opportunity to develop their skills and knowledge for the event.


The details are currently being worked out by Aqua-Pura steeplechase coordinators Stella Bandu and Geoff Watkin, in consultation with coaches in the regions, while former Olympic ‘chaser Spencer Duval, now the UK Event Coach for Steeplechase, will oversee all activity for a national perspective.


Along with Spencer Barden, the UKA Senior Coordinator – Endurance, the trio have agreed that following on from the regional activity, there will be a squad get-together during the spring, providing an opportunity to link in with the National Squad scheduled to meet on 3 March.


The natural progression will be an Aqua Pura competition series for Senior and Junior athletes through next summer, using existing events – included within the UK Challenge.


Bandu, who has carried out detailed research among teenage athletes and their coaches, said: “Women's steeplechase is fast developing on a world scene, is now part of all major championships and will be in the 2008 Olympics. The longer we fail to encourage participation and develop the event, the further we will be behind and will be playing catch up with other nations, both in Europe and globally.


“There has been steady progress in developing the event in UK since 2002 but the UK is still under-achieving in world terms. Given the strength in depth in all ages of women’s endurance runners in the UK, there is a lot of potential to achieve on a world level at steeplechase. This needs to be achieved by preparing an event development plan and implementing a healthy delivery system for women’s steeplechase.


“The inclusion of a 1500m steeplechase for Senior Girls at English Schools would be a logical progression for the event. It follows the pattern of adding new events contested by women –pole vault, triple jump and hammer. The addition of steeplechase would bring about male/female equality.


“It would also be a key element of the event development pathway and a good incentive for athletes to consider the event. Indeed, it is essential if the UK does not want to fall further behind in women’s steeplechase.


“For example, last year’s Australian School Championships in Sydney had 2000m steeplechase events for both Under 18 and Under 17 females. The winning times were 6:44.58 and 7:15.41.”


Throughout the Aqua Pura Women’s Steeplechase series, there will be a prize structure for UK athletes as an added incentive. The final will be incorporated into the UK Challenge Final on 25 August.