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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 June 2007, 06:39 GMT 07:39 UK
The new Paula?
By Phil Harlow

If there's one thing new bands hate, it's the poisoned chalice of being dubbed the new Sex Pistols/Smiths/Stones/whoever it is they sound vaguely like.

Stephanie Twell
Date of Birth: 17 August 1989
Main events: 1500m, 3000m, 5000m, cross country
Coach: Mick Woods
Club: Aldershot, Farnham & District
Career highlights: European Junior cross country champion 2006; number 1 in British Under-20 1500m rankings

The same is often true of athletes, with rising talents usually keen to avoid unwanted additional pressure by playing down comparisons with established names.

So when I put it to Stephanie Twell - a fan of The Killers and Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly, incidentally - that she was being talked up as the new Paula Radcliffe, I expected her to run a mile. Figuratively speaking.

But the 17-year-old took the comparison with the marathon world record holder in her stride.

"I don't perceive it as a burden at all. You just have to take the positives out of everything," Twell told BBC Sport.

"I feel honoured to be compared with Paula - she has been an inspiration to me over the years.

"I think Paula's success has been significant not just for myself but for a lot of young female endurance athletes.

"We've got great role models there and to have them is a huge incentive for us, coupled with the incentive of running at the 2012 Olympics in London."


Twell has made an impressive start to life in athletics, with victory in last year's European Junior Cross Country Championships the highlight of her short career.

"It gave me a taste of what athletics at a world-class level is like," she said.

"That's my best memory so far. It was very rewarding, not only for me but also for my coach as well.

Paula Radcliffe
Radcliffe has already been in touch with Twell by e-mail

"Last year I went to the World Juniors in Beijing and that was another huge stepping stone."

Radcliffe announced her talent by winning the World Junior Cross Country title as an 18-year-old in 1992, but the link extends beyond their achievements in an athletics vest.

Twell, currently studying for A-Levels in English, Psychology and PE, shares Radcliffe's well-spoken, girl-next-door appeal off the track.

And Radcliffe has not been slow to spot Twell's potential, sending her a good luck email before the European Cross Country event in Italy.

With PB times of four minutes 10.71 seconds for the 1500m and 9:07.41 for the 3000m, Twell has marked herself out as one of Britain's most promising young athletes.

"I'm an endurance athlete and in the long-term I'm probably looking at the 5000m," she said.

"I'm running quick times over 1500m and 3000m, and with the longevity of my career, I think I'm definitely a potential 2012 athlete.

"I'm in the development stage at the moment."

After her A-Levels, Twell hopes to attend St Mary's University College in Twickenham - where her coach Mick Woods is performance coach at UK Athletics' endurance performance centre - to study Strength and Conditioning Science.

It's going to be a long road, but I'm prepared for the rough and the smooth

Stephanie Twell

She started running with her father as a nine-year-old, and soon discovered a real appetite for distance events.

"My dad was in the army, so I've lived in Germany, Northern Ireland, Colchester and Canterbury," said Twell.

"But every school I went to had a cross country club. I first started to think about the sport seriously and set performance goals when I was about 14."

Twell's performances have earned her a place on - and funding from - UKA's World Class Development programme, alongside the likes of sprinter Harry Aikines-Aryeety and high jumper Martyn Bernard.

"Initially it was just about participation in the sport for me, but now I'm on the development programme there are a lot more resources around me - physio, nutrition, strength and conditioning - so it's all coming together nicely," she added.

Despite her tender years, Twell has ambitions to run at next year's Olympics in Beijing if she can force her way into the Great Britain squad.

But making the transition from the junior to senior ranks will not be easy, with the likes of Jo Pavey, Lisa Dobriskey and Emily Pidgeon all in good form in the middle distance and distance events.

"It's going to be a long road, but I'm prepared for the rough and the smooth," said Twell.

"It's not all going to be easy, but the great incentive is competing in more Under-23 championships to help make that transition more smoothly.

"Now I'm doing well for my age, but once age doesn't come into the equation I think I'll be fine. I'm up for the challenge."


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