Andy Turner knows the potential loneliness of a track and field man. After only reaching the quarter-finals in the 110m hurdles at the 2008 Beijing Olympics his funding, the lifeblood of almost every hopeful individual athlete, was cut.
There was no opportunity for dwelling on his poor fortune, however. "I had to get out there and compete and do well to feed my children," he says now. With such a compelling motivation, his hurdling career could only resume its upward trend. And so it proved, as Turner triumphed with gold medals in the 110m hurdles at both the European Championships and Commonwealth Games last year. Now the 30-year-old "really can't wait" for next year's Olympics in London, and believes that the partisan crowd can provide him with a crucial "extra 10 per cent".
For all his success so far, Turner does not have a happy Olympic history. Despite medals at major tournaments in 2010 and in 2006 (bronze at the European Championships), he did not make as much impact at Athens in 2004 and at Beijing as he might have hoped, partially due to injuries at the worst possible times. But having twice recovered within two years to win medals, he has a mental strength forged in adversity. "I have had a lot of low points in my career," he admits. "I had problems in Athens and Beijing, throughout both seasons. But having gone to two Olympics, I have a feeling for what it's about, I have high expectations for myself, as do others, and I'm confident I can go and perform to my best and really challenge."
The nadir came after Beijing, when UK Athletics withdrew his grant. "The funding cut was quite frustrating," Turner says. "You lose the finance and medical sides of it, but it's also a loss of faith, that was what hurt the most. I did want to prove people wrong, I personally felt that I could still run well. It didn't give me a kick up the backside, I didn't need one: I had to get out there and compete and do well to feed my children."
After last year's glory Turner knows that he now needs to maintain this momentum with a view to the Olympics, while not ignoring the tournaments between now and then, including the World Championships in Daegu this year. "Obviously the Olympics will always be at the back of my mind, but you have to take each day as it comes," he says. "Daegu's going to be massive. We need to bridge the gap from where we are to where we need to be, to where David Oliver and Dayron Robles [the Beijing gold medallist] are."
His focus on cutting down "a couple of tenths [of a second]" to match his two main rivals will lead to technical changes this year. "The long term focus is definitely London, we're just working on things in training," he explains. "We keep trying different things, if I can close that gap I could be in with a shout for a medal." Turner is hopeful of a successful Olympics in what is now his home town. "London would make it extra special," he says, "the pinnacle of an athlete's career. It will be an amazing spectacle."
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