After Ryan Giggs reached the ripe old age of 40, Alex Kronenberg looks at sports's more experienced heroes.Written by Tom Kelly on 6th December 2013
Hannah England and Louise Hazel profiles
From this year's Lion, profiles of two of the University's most promising athletes ahead of the Olympics...
Hannah England profile - by Frankie Conway
Ex-University of Birmingham university student Hannah England will be meticulously fine-tuning her preparation ahead of London 2012 as it draws closer. After her spectacular outing at the 2011 World Championships last summer, where England picked up a hard-earned silver medal in the 1500m, the spotlight will be on the Oxford-born athlete to deliver another stellar performance at the Olympic Games.
Her plan to this point has been executed with calculated precision. England has attended two UK Athletics training camps in Kenya and seems to be in fine physical shape. The Briton demonstrated the benefits she gained from these camps when claiming the 3000m UK indoor title in February, giving her an ideal endurance base from which to work from. Along with her highly regarded coach, Bud Baldaro, England will now be carefully tailoring her programme according to the specific demands of the 1500m event. It is of paramount importance for a middle distance runner to possess the ability to shift through the gears in the final stages of a race. England has this weapon in her locker, as demonstrated in Daegu last August, and will be looking to implement more speed-orientated sessions into her programme in the coming weeks.
One of the biggest obstacles the defending UK 1500m champion must overcome between now and the Games is the expectation levels she carries on her shoulders since her world championship exploits last year. But England is well equipped to deal with this pressure. The experience she gained from Daegu last summer; dealing with the rounds, staying even tempered, as well as remaining utterly focused on her own performances, will have given her valuable experience that she will no doubt apply in London. Also, the Biochemistry graduate is under no illusions as to the strength of her competition and the enormity of the challenge ahead. This will allow her to implement the same ‘under the radar’ mind-set that she adopted so successfully in Daegu and will ease some of the pressure she places on herself. With a world medal already to her name, England will arrive in London with a spring in her step and seems well poised to deliver another strong performance in the biggest tournament of her career.
Louise Hazel profile - by James Phillips
Louise Hazel has certainly come a long way since she finished seventeenth in the Heptathlon as a fresh-faced 20-year-old at the 2006 European Championships. The French Studies alumnus rocketed onto the world scene when she claimed the gold medal for England in the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi. In an interview with Redbrick Sport shortly after her success, she described it as a dream coming true and a ‘surreal experience’, but if she is to land an Olympic medal this summer then it will surely surpass all previous achievements.
Hazel cited the University of Birmingham’s academics as a major reason for studying here and after graduating she continued to work in the Munrow sports centre as a sports scholarship assistant and mentor. The mental strength she has displayed in balancing her studies, sport and social life is certainly a major plus for somebody competing in one of the most difficult Olympic sports, consisting of seven individual events; 100m hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200m, long jump, javelin and 800m. Hazel has gone on the record saying ‘us British girls mean business’ and she won’t be one to shirk the challenge when the Heptathlon finally gets underway at the Olympic Stadium on Friday 3rd and Saturday 4th August.
Now 26, Hazel is arguably entering her prime as an athlete, and is only a year younger than her inspiration Denise Lewis was when she claimed gold at the Sydney Olympics back in 2000. The Southwark-born athlete will be looking to surpass the favourite, her rival Jessica Ennis, who is the current European and former World champion, as well as being the poster girl for 2012 Games. That will take some doing, but Hazel remains focused as she enters the crux of her preparation. She tweeted: 'I feel in great shape. Will be off to a training camp in May to add the final touches'. If she goes into the Olympics on top form then she may well achieve that coveted place on the podium and make the University of Birmingham an extremely proud institution.