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Last Updated: Friday, 15 July, 2005, 10:56 GMT 11:56 UK
Pickering plots brilliant future
By Scarlett Elworthy

Craig Pickering shows his potential as he powers down the track
Name: Craig Pickering
DOB: 16 October 1986
Born: Crawley
Lives: Milton Keynes
Event: 100m
Club: Milton Keynes Athletics Club
Coaching team: Mike Leonard, Greg Bopf

Not surprisingly, the talk of athletics' town last month was Asafa Powell's 100m world record-breaking feat.

The Jamaican powered to the most prestigious of track and field marks in Athens on 14 June in a time of 9.77 seconds.

But while sport has been lauding its latest 'Fastest Man on the Planet', a new kid on the British block has been dreaming about how to one day claim that moniker for himself.

Meet Craig Pickering - a teenager who is determined to put a smile back on the face of UK athletics in the wake of last weekend's lacklustre World Championship trials and make it to very top of global sprinting.

The 18-year-old grabbed headlines of his own just prior to Powell's record run when he blitzed his way past Olympic relay gold medal winner Darren Campbell in windy conditions to win the 100m at the Bedford International Games in 10.36.

The Milton Keynes youngster had already set tongues wagging when he triumphed at the Loughborough International earlier this year in 10.22 - the fifth fastest time ever run by a Briton.

But taking time out from A-Level revision to claim Campbell's scalp really got people talking.

Pickering - who hopes to go to Loughborough University to study sports science - however, takes all the plaudits in his stride.

"There's no doubt that was a big win for me. But I don't want to get ahead of myself," he told BBC Sport.

Pickering's recent rich vein of form - the reward for stepping up his strength work and adopting a tidier arm action - has shot him to the top of the European junior standings and attracted a big-brand sponsor, Adidas.

And he is now a leading contender for the 100m title at next week's junior European Championships in Lithuania.

CRAIG PICKERING - KEY RESULTS
2001: AAA U-15 100m champion
2002: English Schools and British Schools U-17s 100m titles
2003: AAA Indoor 60m champion, Ana's and world youth 100m champion
2004: World junior U-20s 4x100m relay finalist
2005: Bedford International 100m title

But, Pickering - who was pointed in the direction of Milton Keynes Athletics Club by PE teacher Adam Izzard after he set a new 100m record of 11.60 in his first sports day at the town's Royal Latin School - is already brimming with senior ambitions.

First up he wants to be a part of the 4x100m relay team that defends the Athens Olympic title in Beijing in 2008.

"I was really inspired by what happened in Greece," he said.

"I was sitting there thinking 'wow', we are going to have to try to hold onto this in four years' time and I want to be part of the squad that does that."

Beyond Beijing, Pickering has his long-term sights set on individual 100m gold at the 2012 London Games ("that would be my dream") and then there is that world record.

It is a much-debated fact that no white man has ever run under 10 seconds but though many have put the point to Pickering, he basically could not care less.

"I've said it before, but I'm happy to say it again - I have only got to find another fraction of a second and I have got more than a decade to do it. Time is most definitely on my side," he said.

Pickering is so together that when you speak to him it is easy to forget that he has barely exited the school gates.

So does he feel that he is missing out on the teenage experience?

Ideally I would like to combine Jason Gardener's start technique (above), with the animal determination Lance Armstrong and the self-confidence of Michael Johnson
Craig Pickering

"No, not at all. I've won the national championships for the last four years and I have always known that I am going to be an athlete," he said.

"OK, it's difficult to go out during the week and I don't drink or smoke.

"But if you want to be a top athlete, then you have to be disciplined. You have to eat good food and train hard.

"My mum and dad were both county-level sprinters (for Yorkshire) in their school days and I think I've been lucky with my genes because neither my brother or sister can run very fast - so I really feel it's up to me to make the most of my talent.

"I know I have got a long way to go but I believe if I make the most of my abilities then I will get there."

Coach Mike Leonard is also confident his charge will make it.

"With young people it is not so much whether they have the ability, it is a question of how much they want it - and Craig does," Leonard said.

"There is already talk that he should be going to next month's world championships, not the junior Europeans.

"The same thing happened with Mark Lewis-Francis in 2000 when he went to the junior worlds instead of the Sydney Olympics.

"But Craig is only 18 and it is important to avoid those perennial pitfalls - injuries and burnout."

So when will Pickering make his debut at major championship level?

Pickering says "two years" but Leonard hints it could be as soon as the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in March.

"Maybe he would get a call for the 4x100m relay squad," said Leonard.

"Would that be a good move? Well, if you are good enough - as they say - then you are old enough."




SEE ALSO
Powell pledges to run even faster
14 Jun 05 |  Athletics
Powell breaks world 100m record
14 Jun 05 |  Athletics
Pickering claims Campbell scalp
12 Jun 05 |  Athletics


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