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world youth championships preview

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Georgia Peel
Georgia Peel - one of the more experienced members of the Aviva GB & NI World Youths team

05 July 2011

The Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland team have arrived in Lille, France, to participate in the 2011 World Youth Championships 6 -10 June. The 24-strong team includes several athletes currently topping the UK rankings in their age groups, such as U20 shot put leader Sophie McKinna (coach: George Capes), 800m runner Jessica Judd (Jeremy Freeman) and U17 top discus thrower Nicholas Percy (William Bushnell).

McKinna, who finished fifth at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games and has been throwing consistently over 15.50m this season, and Judd, who triumphed in the English Schools Championships last weekend, together with steeplechaser Zak Seddon (Jeff Seddon), represent some of the team's best medal hopes, ranked third, second and fifth respectively in the World.

While for many athletes of the team, by virtue of their young age, the World Youth Championships represent their first major international competition, five members of the squad can boast previous experience that will undoubtedly prove crucial in Lille. 1500m runner Georgia Peel (Mick Woods), 800m runner Katie Snowden (James McDonald), hammer thrower Louisa James (Ron James), in addition to McKinna and Seddon, have all competed in major championships before and have been using their knowledge of competition on the global stage to perfect their approach to the World Youth Championships.

Peel, who competed at the Youth Olympics in Singapore and the European Youth Olympic Trials in Moscow in 2010, will be facing a tough competition in the shape of the strong Kenyan and Ethiopian athletes, but feels her mental strength will be an advantage. 

"I want to get through to the final and come home with a medal, but I will take everything as it comes," she said. "I have a heat to think about first before I can start concentrating on anything else.

"Last year's experience taught me what to expect and how to prepare for the race, knowing what the other competitors would be like. It also helps you feel more comfortable competing far from home and adjusting to being away from your coach."

For Zak Seddon, who took part in the same competitions as Peel during a busy 2010 season, experience is mainly a way to cope with the pressure a major event inevitably puts on the competitors.

"You learn to relax in the face of high pressure, especially here where everyone is so focused: competition starts right away, while at the Youth Olympics we had a week to prepare, so it's important to be ready," he said.

As for his chances, the steeplechaser is confident his recent form can propel him to success:

"My expectations are quite high; my fastest time, 5:42, puts me fifth in the rankings and I ran it in a race where I was alone. I want to be up there in the final and I am feeling better than I thought I'd be after yesterday's journey."

Sophie McKinna, who is currently the World's third best shot putter in the U18 rankings and a strong candidate for a medal in Lille, also thinks her experience will help her towards her goal:

"Experience definitely helps you pick up lessons," she admitted. "At my first international event I found everything daunting - but then you learn it's all about giving everything on the day and rankings go out of the window, the only thing that matters is how you throw there and then. It's a clean slate for everyone, some people crumble under pressure while others thrive."

"I feel I am the fittest and strongest I have ever been, I manage to relax much more in a competition environment and that's where the big performances are. It helps that the team environment is brilliant; everyone is in the same situation and wants to perform at their best. The atmosphere within the team is fantastic and really helps you to focus."

AVIVA GB & NI TEAM

BOYS

100m:

Chijindu Ujah (Edwin Stephens) - Enfield & Haringey

200m:

Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake - Ilford

400m:

Alex Boyce (Stan Roberts) - Liverpool Harriers

800m:

Elliot Slade (Arwyn Davies) - Cardiff AAC; William Gurton (Nick Taylor) - Vale of Aylesbury

1500m:

Robbie Farnham-Rose (Mark Hookway) - Tonbridge; James McMurray (Deborah Steer) - St.Albans

2000m S/C:

Zak Seddon (Jeff Seddon) - Bracknell AC

Pole Vault:

Rowan May (Peter Hill) - Birchfield Harriers; Daniel Gardner (Beth Harris) - Stevenage & North Herts

Discus:

Nick Percy (William Bushnell) - Isle of Wight

Hammer:

Callum Brown (Lorraine Brown) - City of Norwich

GIRLS

200m:

Desiree Henry (Mike McFarlane) - Enfield & Haringey

800m:

Jessica Judd (Jeremy Freeman) - Chelmsford; Katie Snowden (James McDonald) - Herne Hill

1500m:

Georgia Peel (Mick Woods) - Aldershot, Farnham & District

2000m S/C:

Amy-Eloise Neale (Frank Dauncey) - Unattached

100mH:

Yasmin Miller (Jared Deacon) - Derby

400mH:

Hayley McLean (Steve Mitchell) - Chelmsford

Pole Vault:

Lucy Bryan (Neil Winter) - Bristol & West

Shot Put:

Sophie McKinna (Geoff Capes) - Great Yarmouth

Hammer:

Louisa James (Ron James) - Hastings AC; Kimberley Reed (Alan Bertram) - Edinburgh

Heptathlon:

Jazmin Sawyers (Tony Williams) - City of Stoke