Forgotten woman Mersh ready to hit the high notes again

There were no fanfares when Jo Mersh packed her bags and left her Birmingham home on Wednesday to spend three weeks in Switzerland preparing for her summer challenge for Olympic selection. "People have sort of written me off," she said. "I'm sort of forgotten."

It has been four years since Mersh last pulled on a Great Britain vest. She was Jo Fenn back in 2004, the year she took the 800m bronze medal behind Maria Mutola and Jolanda Ceplak at the World Indoor Championships in Budapest and narrowly missed the qualifying cut for a place in the Olympic 800m final in Athens. Now, at the age of 33 and having reverted to her maiden name, the north London woman of many talents is looking to re-emerge from a prolonged period on the ill-and-injured list and get herself back on track, in one respect at least.

Since moving to Birmingham to work for the Youth Sport Trust, Mersh has placed her promising part-time singer-songwritingcareer on hold as she concentrates on pursuing her Olympic dream. "With not being on Lottery funding any more, I needed to find a job," she said. "I couldn't make a living out of singing and songwriting." Which is a great pity. As lead singer and songwriter with the London-based band The Business, Mersh had songs at Nos 13 and 23 in the European country chart.

Before uprooting from Barnet she also collaborated with Judie Tzuke, whose classic 'Stay With Me Till Dawn' spent 16 weeks in the charts in 1979. "We were working on some songs for an album but it never got finished," she said. "I enjoyed working with Judie. She's a lovely woman. I still keep in touch."

It is with the intention of getting in touch with theBritish 800m runners who have emerged in her absence that Mersh has travelled to Lausanne for three weeks of training with her coach, Trent Stellingwerff, and his wife, Hilary, the Canadian 1500m champion. When Mersh last raced at her specialistdistance, in the end-of-season World Athletics Final in Monacoin September 2004, she was poised to take over from the soon-to-retire Olympic champion Kelly Holmes as thestandard-bearer for British women's 800m running. She had broken through the two-minute barrier outdoors in 2002, clocking 1min 59.86sec, and improved to 1:59.50 indoors in 2004.

Four years on, she will have to duck under two minutes again just to achieve the qualifying standard for Beijing, and also race her way into the top three on the domestic scene, which has acquired new members of the "sub-two club" in the past two years in Becky Lyne, Marilyn Okoro, Jenny Meadows and Amanda Pritchard.

"I still have the same mindset I had in 2004," Mersh said. "I just need some luck. I've got three weeks in Lausanne and then I want to get into a couple of low-key 1500m races. I've done a couple indoors but I need to get the feel of racing on the track again outdoors. I need to race every week to get myself fit, and I'll just have to swallow my pride a bit and see the bigger picture. Mentally, it's probably going to be the hardest year of my career because I've missed four years.

"I just want to keep my head down, start plugging away, ticking off races and getting fitter each week. By July, when the trials come round, I intend to be in contention for the team. People don't think I'm around any more but I still consider I'm a real prospect to make the team.

"In my job with the Youth Sport Trust I go into schools and talk to disengaged kids. When I was injured and on Lottery funding I had access to a psychologist, and I used to pour out my fears and worries. Now the kids are my therapy. They're the best therapy you could get. They're so honest.

"I tell them my story and about trying to get back for the Olympics and they say, 'But Miss, you're 33, you're too old'. I say, 'Yeah, but Kelly Holmes was 34 when she won two gold medals.'

"I've always taken inspiration from Kelly because we've both had pretty similar journeys. The road has had a lot of downs for me in the last few years but I'm very positive. I just want to give 100 per cent and make sure my journey takes me to Beijing."

Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
A polar bear’s diet is rich in seal blubber and half of its own body weight is composed of fat
i100
News
London is the most expensive city in Europe for cultural activities such as ballet
arts
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
tv
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Application Support - Enterprise Java, SQL, Oracle, SQL Server

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A well-established financial soft...

Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape