Athletics: Thorp aims to build on Atlanta form

Angela Thorp, the British record holder, believes she is being held back by having to work full-time rather than devoting all her energies to improving her 100m hurdles times.

Thorp, who ran an impressive 12.80sec in Atlanta to beat Sally Gunnell's long standing record at the shorter distance, is typical of a number of British athletes who find themselves in a frustrating situation.

Speaking before tomorrow's McDonald's Games in Sheffield, the Yorkshire runner conceded she cannot afford to be a full-time athlete, but may need to if she is to reach the top.

"I would like to push for the year 2000 in Sydney and get an Olympic medal but anything can happen before then," she said. "At the moment, I work nine to five, sometimes as late as eight, which means I have to miss training sessions. The building society I work for have been absolutely brilliant to me, but I would like to work part-time.

"Given a chance if I could concentrate on my athletics more, then I think the British record would go down even further."

Her plight is made worse by being without a sponsor since her last deal was not renewed earlier this year when she had to have an operation to remove a nerve in her left knee.

The promising British runner revealed that Gunnell, who herself had to battle against a lack of financial support in the early part of her career, had always been an inspiration to her and now the two of them were genuinely close having roomed together in Atlanta.

Indeed, Thorp explained when her own celebrations at breaking the British record after her fifth place in the Olympic semi-final were tinged with a touch of guilt for Gunnell, whose record time she had beaten.

"I came back on a high and as soon as I got to my room there were posters and stickers but at the top was the sign saying 'The old and the new British record holders live here' and I thought 'that's awful' and just simmered myself down and went 'Hi' and she was fine about it. She was just as happy as I was."

When asked whether she feels Gunnell will carry on running, Thorp urged her to continue: "She is still an inspiration to us all because she is flying still."

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