Up-coming talent Louise Hazel, the 24-year-old Birmingham-based heptathlete, had the best seat in the house to witness Jess Ennis win gold at this summer’s IAAF World Championships in Berlin, competing alongside the world number one in her first ever World Championships. She took time out recently to talk to UKA Trackside on all things athletics, Dutch men and Berlino.
It’s been a great year for athletics in the UK, highlighted by the AVIVA Great Britain and Northern Ireland team bringing back six medals from Berlin. What was it like competing in your first World Championships?
It was just an amazing experience - bigger and better than I had ever imagined it would be. It was obviously a big thing for me to get picked to compete on the World stage for the first time and I wanted to enjoy every bit of it but also put in the best possible performances I could for myself and the team. I was able to witness some great individual performances from our team and to be competing alongside Jess as she won our first gold medal of the Championships was unbelievable, the whole experience was phenomenal and one I‘ll always remember.
What have you learnt from Jess’ performance?
Last year was a bad year for both of us really and we talked about coming back stronger in 2009. But Jess’ attitude has just been spot on the moment since she started competing again she was brilliant – I don’t think she thought she would have it so easy on the last day but if anything it showed how much she knuckled down after the setbacks of 2008 to come back like that. Those of us who know her realise she loves a challenge, she is a get-up-and-go girl and did herself justice on that Sunday and helped lift the whole team. She is an inspiration to me, to come back after the disappointment of missing out in Beijing (through injury) and take that event by storm was great and something I can always aspire to.
It looked like your competitors were celebrating with Jess as they all joined her on her lap of honour, is that something unique to the heptathlon?
Yes, we are completely individual to all the other events – the camaraderie amongst the group is very special we are all very supportive of one another. I think it is because we compete against each other maybe only 3 or 4 times a year but we all know it’s a hard event to do so we all pull ourselves along, there’s no animosity with us at all. You don’t get that in any other events and that spirit makes it very special. We are all on our journey together – in a single event it may be over in seconds, minutes or 3 jumps - but ours take time and the best athlete normally always wins.
And then the men’s 100m interrupted that lap so you had one of the best views of Bolt breaking his own World record?
Yes, the officials stopped us so Jess and I sat down to watch Bolt alongside the straight. It was one of those moments that I will look back on for the rest of my life – sitting with Jess with her having won gold and watching Bolt set a new world record. The atmosphere in the stadium was electric after that.
What was the atmosphere like behind the scenes in Berlin?
Coming from our training camp in Portugal to the hotel in Berlin was just incredible. It brought it all home why I was there and that this was by far the biggest step of my career so far.
When you see the other teams, the Americans and the Chinese, it really brought it home that this was a major Championships - the scale of it all was massive.
People tended to keep themselves to themselves as tensions were quite high, some would socialise, play table tennis and the Wii, but there was an edge of anticipation to everyone because of the competition that lay ahead.
Did you meet Berlino?
I didn’t have a run in with Berlino but from what I saw he was amazing fun and I think everyone felt he was the best mascot to appear at any event. He helped bring the Championships alive for the spectators and for us athletes.
Have you managed to have some time off away from athletics this autumn?
I have had about 4-5 weeks off, I went to Holland to see my boyfriend for a week and back home to Cambridgeshire to see my family, I didn’t go abroad which I am slightly regretting now the cold weather has arrived! I have changed coach as well so needed to arrange my schedule going forward for 2010 so have been doing some active recovery in the last few weeks as I prepare for the new season.
How have you enjoyed working with UKA Head Coach Charles van Commenee?
I actually have a Dutch boyfriend so I know how to handle Dutchmen! No seriously, from what I have experienced he has been great for the team. I had a little high jump session in Portugal with him as my coach couldn’t be there and he gave me good advice, he just told me to keep things simple and don’t try to overcomplicate things. He comes across as a great guy and from what I have seen he will do a great job for us all between now and 2012.
What advice do you have for any young athletes out there?
For people starting out in athletics I would say keep trying as many sports as you can, I practically did a different sport each day at school then you can select your best or become a heptathlete!
Never take things for granted, celebrate a good performance and always keep persevering if things don’t go your way. In the heptathlon you have to be resilient, but as long as you are enjoying things keep at it.