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Last Updated: Saturday, 20 August 2005, 09:46 GMT 10:46 UK
Star of the future
By Sarah Holt

ROONEY FACTFILE
Martyn Rooney in action
Born: 3rd April 1987
Event: 400m
Personal best 46.44 seconds
Coach: Mike Fleet
Honours: European Junior 400m (silver), European junior 4x400m relay (gold), Under-20s AAAs 400m champion
If you are looking for a reason to be cheerful after Great Britain's performance at the World Championships - then step forward Martyn Rooney.

The 18-year-old 400m runner emerged from the gloom surrounding British athletics in Helsinki as one of the sport's brightest prospects.

Rooney impressed on his senior debut for Team GB as part of the 4x400m relay team.

He ran 44.9 seconds in the heats to hold onto his berth for the final, edging out the more experienced Graham Hedman.

Rooney got faster in the final (44.8) and, along with Tim Benjamin, Robert Tobin and Malachi Davis, helped Britain finish a creditable fourth.

But the Croydon teenager, who also found time to sit his A-levels this summer, is taking it all in his stride.

"Last year was my breakthrough season but this season is about making a name for myself," Rooney told BBC Sport.

"When I got selected for the Worlds squad it was a big surprise. But I thought, 'OK, I've got to do well for myself now and have a good run out there'.

"I was nervous meeting a lot of the athletes that I'd seen running on the TV like Jeremy Wariner and Paula Radcliffe but they all made me feel welcome.

"Then it was another shock when I was picked for the final.

Rooney has the ability to run 44.80 seconds
BBC pundit Steve Cram

"I was anxious in the call-up room but when I got out on the track and started running I felt at home and relaxed.

"Everyone was gutted to come fourth but looking back we ran two minutes, 58.82 seconds, we're all really young and we have a lot to build on.

"Racing in Helsinki has made me hungry to continue competing at that level and it has set me on my way."

The next step in Rooney's fledgling career will be a move up to Loughborough University, where he will combine sport and leisure studies with his 400m training.

The 18-year-old will come under the tutelage of Nick Dakin, whose group includes Iwan Thomas, Kim Wall and 400m hurdler Chris Rawlinson.

Rooney, who is ranked as Britain's number six, only began concentrating on the 400m two years ago after a junior career primarily focused on cross country.

And with that endurance background, it is perhaps no surprise that Rooney's long-term goal is to step up to the rigours of the 800m.

"The 800m seems a natural way forward for me," says the European junior 400m silver medallist.

Martyn Rooney in the men's 4x400m relay final where Britain finished fourth
Rooney delivered two outstanding relay runs on his senior debut

"I'm not very muscly, I'm 6ft 5in, and you don't see many 400m runners of my build - but the 800m is perfect.

"I've only ran it once this season in 1:52.30 but I think I could break 1:50.00 if I did it again.

"I'll focus on the 400m for the next couple of years because it's tough to step up to the 800m.

"But I'm looking forward to it because there are more tactics involved."

Rooney's rise to the world stage may have been prolific but he does not intend to follow the example of his namesake Wayne Rooney and become a household name just yet.

The 18-year-old's composure and maturity is striking - and reassuring too.

It seems unlikely that he will allow himself to fall foul of the expectations that have hindered many of the sport's potential stars in the past.

Rather than making rash claims and setting ambitious targets, Rooney has set his sights on a place in England's relay squad for next March's Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.

I'm not worried about the pressure that could be put on my shoulders
Martyn Rooney

And in the summer he plans to contest the 400m at the World Junior Championships in Beijing.

"My career is going to be gradual," said Rooney. "It's not going to be plotted on a chart.

"No-one has sat down with me yet and talked things through but I know I've got the help and support of UK Athletics if I ask for it.

"I'm still learning my event but I know if I can stay healthy I will keep improving.

"I'm not worried about the pressure that could be put on my shoulders.

"Every athlete aspires to be up there with Roger Black, Seb Coe and Steve Cram and hopefully that will happen at some stage for me - but there's no rush.

"People say the future of British athletes is not looking great but I think the future will be bright."


SEE ALSO
Rooney ready for Grand Prix debut
19 Aug 05 |  Athletics


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