09 May 2012
Former World champion and current British 400m record holder, Iwan Thomas, is backing British number one over 400m, Martyn Rooney (Nick Dakin), to win gold at the Aviva 2012 Trials, after Rooney set a world-leading time of 44.92 seconds in America two weeks ago – the first Brit to run a sub-45 second race since 2010.
Rooney, 25, is the only Brit to hold a current A standard and on current form, could be in line to challenge Thomas’ British record of 44.36 seconds as well as improve on his sixth-place finish in Beijing in 2008. For Thomas, Rooney cannot be complacent however.
“Martyn Rooney has to be the guy to beat at the moment, but the beauty of sport is that there will be someone out there – like a young Chris Clarke, who is raw talent - who will come out at Trials and step up.
“It’s all very well for people like Martyn to make the individual 400m – that’s first and foremost – but in the back of Martyn’s mind will also be that he needs three good teammates for that 4x400m relay. That’s what sport is all about.”
For Rooney, he’s determined to succeed at the Aviva 2012 Trials and pull on a British vest this summer but, like Thomas, knows training partner and former European Junior Champion Chris Clarke (Nick Dakin) could push him all the way.
“I want the victory at the Trials as that will guarantee me an Olympic spot. My overall goal is to go to the Olympics and do well there.
“My biggest threat is Chris Clarke. Last year neither of us had great winters but we still came first and second at the Trials. He has raised his game this winter and he’s going to be very hard to beat. He’s someone that I’m always worried about.
“Having said that, I’m very lucky to train with Chris. We’ve got a very, very strong group of athletes that we train with and he is one of the most entertaining people on the team. It’s great that we train together, we push each other.”
But for Croydon-born Rooney, his close friendship with 22 year old Clarke doesn’t affect his desire to beat his training partner on the track.
“When it comes to racing each other, it’s something that we just get on with. When we turn up to race, we don’t care who we’re racing. Trials is just another race that we’ve both got to go out and try to win.
“It’s exciting. He’s one of those guys who could come out of the woodwork and surprise a few people this year. Hopefully we can push each other to run really fast.”
Despite Rooney having won all five 400m races involving the two, Clarke is confident that after an injury-free run of training he can run world-class times that would challenge Rooney’s dominance. A significant personal best of 20.65 seconds over 200m in California recently suggests that the Marshall Milton Keynes athlete has the necessary speed to do so.
“Training is going well and I am running personal bests in sessions. My body is in great shape for the first time in years. Hopefully a 44-second 400m will reflect the training I have been doing.”
Despite so much being at stake at Trials, both men maintain that they thrive on the pressure of taking on the country’s best and competing in front of a vibrant Birmingham crowd.
“Birmingham with a busy crowd is amazing,” said Rooney. “It’s a great stadium now with the back straight stand. It’s one of those places where you can expect fast times. A big crowd will definitely raise our performance.”
Clarke said: “I thrive under championship conditions and I am really looking forward to Trials. I wish the best for both of us this season and hopefully having the 'rivalry' will really push us and other 400m runners to do well.”
Joining Rooney and Clarke in the 400m at the Aviva 2012 Trials will be Great Britain’s silver medal-winning squad from this year’s World Indoor Championships in Istanbul - Nigel Levine (Linford Christie), Richard Buck (Steve Fudge), Conrad Williams (Linford Christie), Michael Bingham (Scott Hall) and Luke Lennon-Ford (Linford Christie), who will all be keen to carry solid indoor form into the outdoor season.
Also chasing selection will be Andrew Steele (Stephen Ball) and Robert Tobin (Dan Pfaff) who narrowly missed out on a bronze medal in Beijing as part of the 4x400m squad.
The men’s 400m heats and final are scheduled for Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 June. To qualify for individual 400m selection, athletes must finish in the top two in each event and hold a current A standard. The British team for the London 2012 Games will be announced on 3 July.
Back the team and watch over 750 of Britain’s best athletes in action at the Aviva 2012 Trials at the Birmingham Alexander Stadium from 22nd-24th June. For tickets visit www.uka.org.uk/aviva-series or call 08000 55 60 56.
Watch Iwan Thomas’ exclusive insight into the battle for men’s 400m supremacy at the Aviva 2012 Trials at http://youtu.be/DE1lthZeheA