Otago's Andrea Miller qualified for the world championships in the 100m hurdles as a 'development' athlete after recently lowering her national record from 13.2s to 13.1s at a meeting in Geneva.
She followed that performance with a win at the Golden Spike meeting in Leiden in 13.19s and a victory in 13.29s at the Arcobaleno Atletica Europa meeting in Italy.
Congratulations on your world championship selection. Was that a goal of yours at the start of the European summer?
Thanks. Since the start of my build-up during the New Zealand summer, my focus has always been on qualification for Berlin. In my last race of 2008, I was 0.01s off the B standard so I was determined not to miss out.What do you put your recent win-streak down to?
It's all down to my training years (the work I have put in as a junior, etc) and a better understanding of what training methods work best for me. I am a power athlete who is naturally strong but I do not naturally have a fast turnover or speed endurance, so working on those weaknesses and maintaining my strengths has improved my overall performance - it's the law of averages.
Who is coaching you and why did you choose Belgium as your training base?
Brent Ward is currently coaching me. I chose Belgium as it is an easy set-up - the track, gym, supermarket and town are all 2-5 minutes away. You can hire a bicycle to get around - bikes rule the road - so your costs are kept down.
Belgium is also a good base as it holds a number a track events, so you are guaranteed a solid race build-up. The transport routes make it easy to get to events in other countries. The main negative is that the climate can be a little temperamental.
What is a typical week for you over there in terms of training and racing?
I do about 10 sessions of training per week - two circuits or weights and seven track sessions made up of hurdles, sprint repetitions and start training.
Most sessions are two hours and the rest of the time is for physiotherapy, treatment, rest and recovery, reading and, of course, races. I tend to race every seven to 10 days. It is tempting to take on some more meetings but the focus is to peak for the worlds in August so I am keeping the training load high for the time being before tapering for Berlin.
What do you miss most about NZ when you are away?
My family. Athletics can be a pretty lonely sport at times. Often you are away for two or three months with no coach or training partners, in non-English speaking countries.
You have to enjoy your own company or you would go crazy. The other thing is NZ food. It can be hard at times to find replacements for your favourite meals. For example, porridge... Belgian porridge is like sawdust. It's funny what you miss.
What is your background in athletics and who were your early influences?
I began athletics as a three-year-old who followed her older brother, Craig, to the local club, Pakuranga. At 14, I moved to Papakura/Counties Manukau until I was 22. After moving to Dunedin to study physiotherapy, I changed to Taieri to support the local athletics club.
I was a natural sprinter, although through my early athletics years, I dabbled in any event. As a 12-year-old at the Auckland champs, I won the 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 1500m, high jump and long jump.
I tried hurdles for the first time as a 12-year-old at an interprovincial competition because I needed a fourth event for the points system. I started to train properly for hurdles when I was 14 and became a specialist when I was 18.
My first coach was Yvonne O'Brien - the NZ national 400m hurdles champion - and I credit her for my continued improvement and development. The training Yvonne and her husband Graham developed for me as a 14-20 year old formed my base as an athlete.
I was fit, strong and in a position to begin developing my speed. Yvonne always coached within smart and appropriate levels for a developing body - this is very hard to do when young athletes are so keen and tend to over-train.
What was the nature of your recent injury and what sort of rehab did you have?
I had medial tibial plateau and medial femoral condyle bone bruising from a compression and rotation injury coming off a hurdle. It did not settle in the predicted 6-8 weeks and needed four months' rest.
I had planned to race the nationals, but I had an incident in the gym - 25kg dumbbell versus my right foot - so was on crutches for a few weeks and required six weeks off. Who are your athletic heroes? Australian long jumper Bronwyn Thompson for her tenacity in returning to No 2 in the world after rupturing her knee, for her grace and composure at major championships and for being such a beautiful person who is willing to chat and give advice to up and coming athletes.
Are you an iPod girl? If so, what do you listen to to psyche yourself up or calm yourself down?
I might listen to an iPod in the team bus but rarely warm up with one. I am an ex-gymnast and I like the quiet. My must-have at the track is my sunnies. It gives me that extra bit of focus and my competitors can't see my eyes.
What's the last thing you think about as you wait for the gun to go off?
Honestly, nothing. I am on autopilot. During training I am constantly thinking and concentrating on my technical changes but on race day, my mind is clear - the training will take care of the technique.
Any Lolo Jones-type disasters? (She was the American athlete cruising to gold in Beijing who clipped the ninth hurdle and recovered too late to finish in the medals.)
My first time racing over the full height and distance, I crashed on the eighth hurdle and hit the deck. I was only 14 and it was the first time I had run in a televised meeting.
Any quirks or superstitions that protect you over the hurdles?
Pre-race I always shake my left leg before placing it into the blocks but not my right ... go figure.
What are your goals?
Short term: A top three finish at the world university games in Serbia this month; a top 16 finish at world champs in August; and a sub-13s 100m hurdles.
Medium Term: Qualify for the world indoor champs (March 2010); medal at the Delhi Commonwealth Games.
Long term: A top 10 finish at the 2011 world champs; and to make the final at the 2012 London Olympics.By Dylan Cleaver Email Dylan