THE BIGGEST year of Hucknall athlete Andy Turner’s career has started badly — thanks to injury and a barrage of abuse on Twitter.
Sprint hurdler Turner (31) is one of Britain’s main hopes for a medal at the Olympic Games in London this summer.
But he is currently fighting to shrug off the recurrence of a long-standing injury to his right achilles tendon.
And he has been sent reeling by a flurry of messages on Twitter suggesting he was faking the knock because he finished last in his first race of the new year.
Turner, the current 110m hurdles European and Commonwealth champion and world bronze medallist, limped off the track after his 60m hurdles race at the Aviva Indoor International in Glasgow.
He was slow out of the blocks and looked a forlorn figure amid all the excitement of the opening event of Olympic year. But little could prepare him for the hurtful tweets that followed.
Said one: “Just seen you run in Glasgow. You should be ashamed of yourself after that performance.”
Another asked: “A genuine limp or just cos you lost?” While a third said: “I think getting your Lottery funding back has made you a bit too comfortable.”
An enraged Turner retorted: “When people send you Twitter abuse, why do they still follow after? Fools.
“I’d like to think people know me better than to fake an injury. I’m first to admit if I just ran badly, so please keep your opinions to yourself.
“Thanks to all my genuine supporters for their messages. They are much appreciated. I always try to do my best and do not fake injuries.”
Turner, whose mum and dad live on Nottingham Road, Hucknall, is now based in Sutton, Surrey with his family. He has had problems, on and off, with his achilles for many years.
It was fixed last year by a cortisone injection. Another before the Glasgow race failed to do the trick. But after a scan, he has now been given a third injection to try and ease the pain.
“It’s been killing me every time I run and when I land off a hurdle, I can really feel it,” he added.
“If having these injections messes up my foot next year or the year after, then so be it. I have just got to get through this year and I am prepared to take the risk.
“The injections affect the soft tissue so much, it can almost disintegrate it. So the more you do, the more you risk in the long term.”
Turner seems to be recovering well. But he is to miss the World Indoor Championships in Istanbul, Turkey next month to concentrate on getting back to full fitness for the start of the outdoor season.
He might even bypass the European Championships in Helsinki, Finland in June to make sure he is right for the London Olympics.
After spending the winter training in Florida, USA, Turner insists he’s in good shape, apart from his foot injury.
“I’ll run a few minor races over the next few weeks to test where I am,” he said.
Concerns over Turner’s fitness have been played down by Britain’s head athletics coach, Charles van Commenee.
“Andy has had achilles problems since 2004,” said van Commenee. “It’s nothing new.
“He’s in pain 60-to-70% of the time throughout the year. It’s a case of managing the problem. It’s not the end of the world.
“There’s time for him to come back from this. He’s 31, and 31-year-old hurdlers don’t have great achilleses.”
ON A brighter note, Turner was honoured to be invited to the prestigious Laureus World Sports Awards gala, held in London.
The annual gala celebrates the world’s most outstanding sportspeople and sports achievements of the previous year.