ANDY Turner is plotting a major upset at this weekend’s World Athletics Championships — by relaxing and treating his Far East adventure as nothing more than a run-of-the-mill meeting.
The golden boy of Hucknall athletics is gunning for a gold medal hat-trick after his memorable success in the 110m hurdles at the European Championships and Commonwealth Games last year.
But he is going head-to-head with the likes of the world’s best, Dayron Robles, David Oliver and Xiang Liu, at the championships in Daegu, South Korea.
So Turner, who has been struggling with a hip injury in recent weeks, is refusing to view Daegu as a must-medal-at event. Instead the 30-year-old, who admits he can’t help but keep one eye on next year’s London 2012 Olympic Games, is staving off the pressure by treating the championships just like any other Diamond League meet.
The championships gets underway tomorrow (Saturday). The 110m hurdles heats are staged on Sunday, with the semi-finals and final on Bank Holiday Monday. The action can be followed on Channel 4.
Robles, Oliver and Liu have already had World Championship medals hung around their necks ahead of Daegu. But after a memorable last 12 months, Turner is hell-bent on causing an upset.
“The Worlds are a stepping stone for 2012 because if you run well, that will set you up for London,” said Turner, speaking from a training camp in Ulsan, South Korea, funded by Aviva, supporters of British athletes since 1999.
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“But also, if you don’t run well, it’s not a marker for how you’re going to run next year at all. To me, reaching a World Championship final will feel like a Diamond League race, which I have been doing all year.
“I’ve been holding my own in those and I train with David Oliver on the circuit, so I have just got to treat it as another Diamond League race rather than getting the extra nerves of thinking I have got to make the semi-final or the final.
“The hardest race will be the semi-final and that’s where I think the fastest races will be produced because everyone wants to make the final. Once you are in the final, the nerves kind of go a little bit.”
The likes of Liu perennially raise their game in major championship finals. But after landing double gold in 2010, Turner feels he now has the psychological steel to perform when it matters most.
“The first hurdle is to make the final but then the final is a place where even the best athletes can buckle under pressure — Asafa Powell for example,” added Turner.
“But once you’re in that final, it can be anyone’s game. I think I proved to myself last year that I can handle myself in a final and produce my best — and that’s what I’m hoping happens in Daegu.
“Liu Xiang is the master of that. Put him in a final and he will pretty much run a personal best or a season’s best every time. I think he is the one to watch.
“Anyone can make a mistake. No-one is talking about me. People are saying if he makes the final, that’ll be good. But I have expectations of myself and I’ve set myself a target.”
n ANDY Turner is at an Aviva-funded preparation camp. Aviva’s support, both at home and abroad, is helping the team prepare to compete at their best. To find out more, go to aviva.co.uk/athletics or follow us on Twitter @AvivaAthletics