Weightman determined to kick on ahead of Commonwealth 1,500m opener

READY TO GO: North-Easterner Laura Weightman competes in the heats of the 1,500m at the Commonwealth Games this lunchtime

READY TO GO: North-Easterner Laura Weightman competes in the heats of the 1,500m at the Commonwealth Games this lunchtime

First published in Sport The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by

IT has already been a good year for North-East middle-distance runner Laura Weightman – now she wants to make it a great one by winning a medal at the Commonwealth Games.

As well as reclaiming her British 1,500m title when she beat the best of the domestic opposition in Birmingham last month, Weightman also shattered her personal best when she finished eighth at a hugely-competitive Paris Diamond League meeting three weeks ago.

She opens her Commonwealth campaign in the 1,500m heats this lunchtime, and will be looking to book a place in tomorrow night’s final with the minimum of fuss.

With Kenyan duo Helen Obire and Faith Kipyegon, fellow Englishwoman Hannah England and improving Scottish youngster Laura Muir also in the field, the women’s 1,500m is one of the strongest events on the track programme in Glasgow.

But after taking a series of major steps forward already this season, Weightman is keen to claim her first senior medal over the course of the next two days.

“It’s been a really solid year, and I’ve done a lot of good things in terms of my progression,” said the Morpeth Harrier. “There have been some big improvements this year, but I have to take them into a major championship now.

“I feel like I’m getting stronger with every race, and this was always going to be a really important month or so with the Europeans following on quite quickly after the Commonwealths.

“I’ll be competing in both, and it would be nice to put in some really strong performances to set me up for the next two-year cycle, which will encompass a World Championships and then the Olympics.

“I qualified for the final in London, and that was great. Obviously, that’s the first target in Glasgow, but I won’t be happy just by making the final. This time, I want to be in there competing for a medal.”

British women’s middle-distance running is going through something of a purple patch at the moment, with Weightman, England and Muir all regularly threatening the four-minute barrier in the 1,500m that was once seen as something of an impenetrable barrier in the discipline.

Weightman’s new personal best of 4:00.17 suggests it will not be long before she is posting a sub-four-minute time, but the strength of the domestic opposition means she might have to go even quicker in the next two years to realise her long-term ambition of competing at Rio 2016.

“It’s such a strong event at the moment,” she said. “Domestically, Laura and Hannah are running really well, and then at the Diamond League the other week, you could never have imagined you could basically run four minutes flat and still only finish eighth.

“It’s tough, but it’s also exciting. It gets you out of bed in the morning if you know you’ve got to work as hard as you possibly can to try to close the gap on some of the girls who are out in front at the moment.

“It’s a challenge just to make British squads now, but that’s how it should be and it can only improve you as a runner.”

Born in Alnwick, and a regular on the training track at Hexham, Weightman will not be lacking for support when she lines up in today’s opening round.

Muir, who is a veterinary student at Glasgow University, will be guaranteed plenty of home backing, but Weightman is also expecting to see plenty of friendly faces in the crowd.

“There’s a fair few people going to be crossing the border,” she said. “It’s not that far to go, so it’s nice for some of my family and friends to be able to watch me compete because I’m normally too far away.

“I’m sure there’ll be a lot of cheering for Laura, but hopefully the crowd will get behind all the other British athletes too. I’m really excited to experience what it’s going to be like. London was an amazing experience, and although this isn’t quite a home Games, it’s definitely the next best thing.”

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