From The Times
January 25, 2008
Testing time as Craig Pickering puts fitness on the line in Glasgow
Rick Broadbent, Athletics Correspondent
Craig Pickering is an anxious man for someone who has been hailed as the saviour of British running, a great white hope and a future Olympic star.
It is not his looming finals exam in biomechanics at the University of Bath that is bothering him, either.
“I worry a lot,” he said. “I fret about things and get uptight. But I want the doubts in my head. I want to be nervous. I’m just a worrier. Only about athletics though.”
Biomechanics be damned, the future looks bright for a 21-year-old who burst into public consciousness when he beat Jason Gardener, his erstwhile training partner, a year ago in Glasgow.
He returns there tomorrow for the 60 metres at the Norwich Union International with his cover as promising junior blown.
Big things are expected of the new Bath Bullet, via Milton Keynes, but the bad news is that he is worried about his back.
“It is constantly tight and it is a worry,” he said. “Last summer I could feel it every time I sat down. I’m not the most flexible and have associated structural problems with my spine. Most sprinters have something and this is mine. To have it at 21 is a concern but I’m just going to have to manage it over the next ten years.”
The greatest fear of all, however, is not fulfilling his potential.
British athletics is littered with those who have not built on fledgeling achievements and Pickering has questioned whether attitude had played a part in Mark Lewis-Francis not using his World Junior Championships gold medal in 2000 as a launch pad.
Pickering, though, has a professionalism that should serve him well and he seems almost incredulous that the likes of Lewis-Francis and Simeon Williamson, another sprint prodigy, are sitting nervously on two missed drug tests.
Pickering keeps his fast feet on the ground
“I want to retire and say I achieved everything I could have,” he said.
“I moved [to Bath] to work with Malcolm [Arnold, his coach] because I knew I only have one shot. If my best is good enough to win the Olympics then fine, if it’s good enough to make an Olympic final then that’s also fine. I just don’t want to let myself down.”
(EDIT topic off limits here)
… He is bored by the talk of becoming the first white man to dip below the magical ten seconds, because he judges himself merely as a colour-blind contender.
He also knows that his best time is 10.14sec and some 40 men, including a trio of Britons, Marlon Devonish, Williamson and Tyrone Edgar, went faster last year. When Williamson beat him at the European Under23 Championships in July, he admits he was “gutted” until he noted that had run a personal best.
He is optimistic as he enters Olympic year. His aims include a medal at the World Indoor Championships in March and another in the Olympic 4 x 100 metres relay. “I feel stronger and my times for the 60 metres and 100 metres are better than last year,” he said. “Last year my aim was to beat Jason in everything I did, but he’s retired now and I’m a lot more relaxed. It’s a year since I ran 6.55sec [in Glasgow] and you can’t lose that. It doesn’t disappear.”
Pickering was disappointed at not reaching the 100 metres final at the World Championships in August, in what he termed “a weak year for sprinting”, although his back was a problem in Osaka, Japan.
“I’m getting more and more worried about it because I’m competing again,” he said. And the biomechanics exam? “Oh, I’m not worried about that.”
Ticket to ride
—Tickets for the Norwich Union International at Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall available on 0800 0586056 or via the website at ukathletics.net