Great Britain debutant Amy Harris believes she will have nothing to lose when she competes in her first senior international championships in her home town this Friday.
The Birchfield Harrier was yesterday selected as the country’s only female entrant in the long jump for the European Indoor Championships at the National Indoor Arena.
Her inclusion in a squad that also contains fellow Stags Kelly Sotherton, Dale Garland and Helen Karagounis, completes a remarkable few weeks for the Selly Oak teenager who has gone from virtual unknown to national champion and now international starlet.
And even though she doesn’t expect to beat some of the best jumpers in the world, such as Ukraine’s Viktoriya Rybalko and Portugal’s Naide Gomes, the 19-year-old is confident she can give the British crowd something to cheer.
"I have got nothing to lose and everything to gain," Harris said. "I can just go out there and do my best, whatever happens as long as I learn it will be a wonderful experience.
"If things go well, fingers crossed, I could make it to the final but if I don’t, but perform well with a personal best, that would be good too."
Harris had not been expected to qualify for these games but her startling form, less than four months after deferring her university degree to train full time, has given her an early opportunity.
After a difficult 2006 in which she struggled with injury and illness, she changed her coach and enjoyed a clean bill of health, two personal bests and the AAA title in Sheffield a fortnight ago. That has earned her an earlier break than she might have expected and so she is hoping to use the European Indoors to acclimatise herself ahead of her challenge to make the World Championships in Osaka in August and next year’s Olympic Games in Beijing.
"The thing I am most looking forward to is just being part of the team," she said. "I’ll stay at the team hotel, even though it’s only 15 minutes from home, and will train with the rest of the squad and just try and get used to the atmosphere.
"I don’t think I’ll get star struck or anything like that. If my coach didn’t think I could cope with competing against big names he wouldn’t have let me do it."
Harris’ recent form has been outstanding. She came into the season with an indoor best of 6.20 metres and an outdoor mark of 6.38m. She broke her indoor record in her second competition and her lifetime best at the AAA with 6.47m.
However, she will have to improve considerably if she is to worry any of the 14 Europeans who have gone over 6.50m this season.
Similarly Garland’s challenge is an outside one. Although he is delighted to have made the team for the 400m, the 26-year-old has become a specialist one-lap hurdler having converted from the decathlon in the winter. But he has done well to get this far after pulling his hamstring twice in training and missing out on the European Trials earlier this month.
That left Garland with just one opportunity to impress which he did at the Grand Prix at the NIA ten days ago where he finished second in a time of 46.94 seconds.
That run has put him just outside the top ten in Europe this season which means he will be aiming to make Sunday’s final.
"In my first proper session back from the pull I was running at 90 per cent and I did it again, just below the first one. I thought then the Europeans might not happen at all for me which was upsetting because the standard at the AAA was not that great."
Garland is part of the three man effort in the 400m, which also includes potential medallist Robert Tobin, and is also part of the 4x400m relay squad.
Karagounis has also made the women’s relay team, even though she could only finish fifth in the AAA final, where she will join forces with Europe’s No 1 Nicola Sanders.