Athletics: Hough prepares to hurdle the class barrier

Simon Turnbull meets the young athlete who has leapt on to the grand stage

Last Sunday morning Rob Hough was not sure whether he would get the chance to race on his adopted home track today in the Securicor Games. "My agent was still pushing to get me in," he recalled. The pushing stopped in Munich's Olympic Stadium on Sunday afternoon. When Hough left Alessandro Lambruschini a huffing and puffing also-ran off the final barrier in the European Cup 3,000m steeplechase he shoved himself into the in-crowd of British athletics. Britain's one grand prix meeting of the summer could hardly have gone ahead without the unheralded hero of the British men's continental conquest.

Thus, instead of training on the streets of the South Yorkshire capital that has been his home since he uprooted from Gillingham to study German at Sheffield University, Hough will take his place among the international cast at the Don Valley Stadium. Sadly, he will not have the opportunity to repeat the kind of splash he made in Munich, where he lined up as the sixth-fastest man and finished - after hurdling the water jump - with the scalp of Lambruschini, the European champion and Olympic bronze medallist. With no steeplechase on the programme this evening, Hough runs in the Emsley Carr Mile. "I want to get under four minutes," he said. " I ran 4min 00.42sec last year. It's a big barrier."

Not quite as big as the one he broke through in Bavaria, though. The scale of that could be measured by the expression on Lambruschini's face as the Briton swept past to become his first vanquisher in five European Cup races. The lingering look of astonishment betrayed the Italian's thoughts. "Who on earth is this ?" it clearly said. All save the aficionados of British track and field were asking the same question.

Hough is 25. He runs for Sheffield Athletics Club and works, on a casual basis, as a translator. Unlike Lambruschini, who finished third behind Joseph Keter and Moses Kiptanui in the Olympic final, he never made it to Atlanta last summer. He finished fifth in the British trial. He was Britain's fastest 3,000m steeplechaser in 1996 but 8min 26.33sec, which remains his personal best, ranked him a modest 46th at world level.

"No," he said, "I haven't been recognised on the streets this week. I've hardly stepped out of the house because the phone keeps ringing. I'm still getting used to it. One minute no one wants to know you; the next the phone never stops. It's been a big change.

"I'm still on cloud nine, to be honest, but I've got to get my feet on the ground. The World Championships are the aim now. I can't live off that one win forever. I'm trying to get into the steeplechase in Lausanne next Wednesday but the promoter says someone will have to drop out first. In world terms 8min 26min doesn't mean a lot."

"No, it doesn't," Mark Rowland agreed. "But when Rob gets into the grand prix races the quick times will come." Rowland is the quickest 3,000m steeplechaser Britain has ever had. His record has stood, at 8min 7.96sec, since he took the Olympic bronze medal behind Julius Kariuki and Peter Koech in Seoul nine years ago. Having claimed Britain's only Olympic medal in the event since 1964 with the kind of attacking verve Hough showed in Munich, the retired master probably saw something of his old self in the emerging apprentice last weekend. He was certainly impressed.

"I'm very jealous of him, in the nicest way," Rowland said. "I'd love to be in his position. He's come through at a good time. Hopefully, he's now in line for financial help. I never felt I fulfilled my potential because I was fighting to earn a living. I always looked upon that 8:07 as a stepping stone. I might not have broken the eight-minute barrier but I'm pretty sure I could have run faster. My time has been and gone and it's Rob's now. I think he'll break my record. I certainly hope he does."

At 34, Rowland is devoted to the athletic talent of the future. He coaches at Horsham Blue Star - the Sussex club made famous by the prolific record- breaker Alf Shrubb - and is setting up a charity foundation for young athletes, enabling them to combine their training and studies at Lewes Tertiary College. "I hope Rob gets all the help he needs," Rowland said. "But he's already got the most important thing: a coach with his head screwed on. Glen Grant knows what he's doing."

You need look no further than the prize for tonight's four-lap race for confirmation of that. The Emsley Carr Mile Trophy is a book bound in red Moroccan leather, listing the names and signatures of all those who have graced the event since its inception in 1953 (among them Rowland, who won in 1985). Grant's autograph appears with the class of '76, next to a teenager from Sheffield who broke four minutes for the first time in that year's race. Tonight the man who chased Sebastian Coe will be in the Don Valley stands, willing his Sheffield steeplechaser through a time- honoured barrier.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Key Account Manager, Medical

£35000 per annum, Benefits: Excellent commission structure + Car: Charter Sele...

Key Account Manager, Medical

£35000 per annum, Benefits: Excellent commission structure + Car: Charter Sele...

Medical Affairs Executive

competitive: Real Staffing: Medical Affairs Executive (contract) - EMEA Berk...

Medical Customer Interface Manager

competitive: Real Staffing: My client requires an experienced Medical Informat...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice