WORTHING Harriers Athletics Club’s Emma Perkins is gunning for London 2012 high jump qualification after a stunning performance at the Aviva UK trials last month.
The 26-year-old finished runner-up to Jessica Ennis after posting a personal best of 1.89m and admits that her performance was the result of hours of winter-time training.
She said: “I was delighted with my performance at the trials.
“It’s always nice to compete well at a big competition and I think I surprised a few people. I had put in a lot of work through the winter and my training had indicated that a personal best was perhaps on the cards.
“I got back into the sport last year after taking several years off because of academic commitments and I’ve been able to develop my training to a much higher intensity than before, and the result in Sheffield was evidence of that.
“The European Team Championships in Sweden last year was also really important because it gave me some great exposure. It was incredibly inspiring to compete alongside some of the best jumpers in Europe and, hopefully, I can continue to improve and go on to challenge them in the near future.”
As well as battling to qualify for London 2012, Perkins is currently studying for a PhD in history of science at the University of Cambridge and admits that finding a balance between training and study is an ongoing challenge: “I find it’s just a case of being motivated and willing to be flexible with my time.
“I find myself doing most of my reading on the train on my way to training, for example. But I’m fortunate that the course is research-based so I have the flexibility to work according to my own schedule and that gives me the opportunity to train more easily than when I was an undergraduate and subject to the rigid structure of lectures and other supervisions.
“I’ve also been fortunate to have an incredibly supportive mentor, who is very interested in my athletics and wholeheartedly endorses my involvement. But it is, of course, a challenge to apply myself sufficiently to both athletic and academic work.”
It is a challenge that Perkins has greeted with both skill and decorum. The relentless routine of crippling training schedules and endless media exercises has proved too much of a burden for many Olympic hopefuls, yet it is something that Perkins not only tolerates, but relishes.
Plenty of training will, of course, be required if Perkins is to make the grade for the first high jump event of the tournament on August 3, but she is quietly confident of success on the back of her current form.
She said: “Qualifying for the Olympics is obviously going to be tough.
“But after jumping just 3cm short of the Olympic B qualifying standard earlier in the year, it’s certainly not out of the realms of possibility.
“My prime focus for the summer is now achieving that qualifying standard. My training won’t alter too much in its content but I will be expected to travel to see my coach in Birmingham more often than I currently do, and that will ensure my training is as of high a quality as possible.
“It’s a case of trying to stay focused and making sure every training session and every competition is executed with precision and maximum commitment.”
For Perkins, there would be nothing more rewarding than representing her country on what is, arguably, sport’s biggest stage – something she admits she has dreamed about since watching Sally Gunnell secure Olympic glory at Barcelona in 1992.
She said: “For an athlete, there is no greater honour than to represent your country.
“To do so on the biggest stage in the world, in front of a home crowd, is something I couldn’t even put into words. Nothing could compare to competing at the Olympic Games because it really is the stuff of dreams.
“Whenever I travel past the Olympic Stadium, I feel a rush of adrenaline and feel privileged to be involved in sport in the year that London is hosting the Games.”
Unremittingly loyal, Perkins insists that, regardless of whether she makes it to London 2012, her future lies with Worthing Harriers.
She said: “I am very proud to be a member of the Harriers and fully intend to wear the vest well into the future.
“Though bigger clubs often attract the best athletes because of the high level of competition and financial rewards they offer, the support and generosity the Harriers have shown me over the years has made me determined to remain loyal to the club.
“I always do my best to compete for the team when I can and I’m always proud to represent them at national championships.
“I also hope that, by remaining with the Worthing Harriers, I can give back something to the club that got me started and encourage other budding athletes to take up the sport.”