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Louise Hazel 'can be taken seriously' - Denise Lewis

England's Louise Hazel

Golden girl Hazel wins heptathlon (UK only)

England's Louise Hazel followed in the footsteps of Denise Lewis when she won Commonwealth gold in the heptathlon on Saturday.

Lewis won the same title when she was a member of the Birchfield Harriers athletics club, as Hazel is now, at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in New Zealand.

She went on to defend her title in 1998 before taking Olympic gold at Sydney 2000, and here Lewis explains what the win means for Hazel and how she can improve for the London Olympics in 2012.

Denise Lewis
By Denise Lewis
Olympic heptathlon champion, Sydney 2000

Winning the Commonwealth heptathlon title feels great - and it means something.

I remember 1994, when I first burst onto the scene. Like Louise, people had heard of me but they didn't quite expect a gold medal.

When you cross that line and hear you are the Commonwealth champion for the first time, it gets to you.

Now, I hope Louise, at the age of 25, will go on to do what I did: build on that opportunity and realise she has a place.

Louise Hazel
Hazel cools off with an ice pack in the heat of the Delhi heptathlon

People expect things of her, she will expect things from herself, and I know she can go on to great performances.

Winning the Commonwealth title counts for a lot. It puts you out there, it is recognisable.

If Louise now wants to knock on someone's door and say, 'Please can you fund me?', they will ask her what she has achieved - and she can say she is the Commonwealth champion. They will take her seriously.

What you see is what you get with Louise. She loves to talk, she's bubbly, committed and confident, which is a good start as an athlete.

What she needs to do now is use that confidence and use the next couple of years, going into London, as building blocks.

There is a fight on to be in that Olympic stadium, competing for Great Britain.

Louise Hazel(l) and Grace Clement (r)

Hazel 'over the moon' with gold (UK only)

Let's leave Jess Ennis aside, because she is so far out there going for the gold medal, but if Louise can work on some of her weaker events she has to be looking at trying to get close to those medals.

That is not me being unrealistic. Heptathlon hasn't moved on that far - if you can get to 6,400 or 6,500 points, you're fighting for medals.

Heptathlon is a layering event: every year you pick one or two events to focus on while keeping the others going.

This year, Louise has worked on her speed. She has improved her hurdles and long jump, and it is a big plus that her javelin has improved, but her high jump needs some work and that's a lot of points.

You always find heptathletes that are good high jumpers can pop out 200 points ahead of everyone else. That's where Jess Ennis' strength lies. She commands an easy 200 points over everybody after the second event because her high jump is so good.

Denise Lewis in 1994
Lewis, now 38, won Commonwealth gold in 1994 aged 22

So Louise will come away from this and tick a couple of boxes, but now she has to switch her focus going into this next winter training phase and pick another couple of events to focus on.

If it were me, I would be focusing on high jump, together with the shot.

As for the other 2012 contenders, we have to wait and see what Kelly Sotherton is going to do.

I know she has unfinished business in heptathlon but, equally, she knows her body has been breaking down in the last two years, and she is not getting any younger.

I mean no disrespect by that, as I think she could still be in contention if she chose to be.

But there have been rumours that Kelly will move to the 400m, as maybe she can stay more injury-free doing that event.

I would put my money on both Louise and Kelly being in that stadium in 2012 - the question is, which event will Kelly be doing?

Denise Lewis was talking to BBC Sport's Ollie Williams.



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see also
Commonwealth Games photos
09 Oct 10 |  Commonwealth Games
Hazel powers to heptathlon gold
09 Oct 10 |  Commonwealth Games
Jackson powers to 20k walk gold
09 Oct 10 |  Commonwealth Games
Day six athletics round-up
09 Oct 10 |  Commonwealth Games


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