Great expectations but Twell has still to peak

New leading lady of distance running shows potential to surpass Paula Radcliffe

When you have competed in front of a global television audience and 80,000 spectators in the Beijing Bird's Nest, a new year cross-country race through the windswept wilds to the south of the Scottish Parliament could hardly be described as a pressure- cooker environment. Then again, Steph Twell was a junior athlete dipping a toe into the cauldron of the Olympic arena when she ran in the women's 1500m heats in the Chinese capital last August.

At Holyrood Park yesterday the 19-year-old from Farnborough in Hampshire bore the kind of great expectations on her shoulders that were thrust upon the young Charles Dickens when he turned up in the Scottish capital and was given his first civic reception and also the freedom of the city.

Since winning her third European junior cross-country title in Brussels a month ago, Twell has become a fully-fledged member of the senior ranks. Having emerged along similar lines to those of the young Paula Radcliffe, the highly gifted teenager has been identified as a major British prospect for 2012 and beyond. Hopes were high that she would make a significant impression in the 5.6km women's race in the Bupa Great Edinburgh International Cross Country meeting, and the army major's daughter did not disappoint.

Until the steep climb up Haggis Knowe, on the third of four laps, Twell was in contention with the leaders, battling against a clutch of world-class East Africans and winds that gusted up to 50mph. It was at that pivotal point that the Kenyan Linet Masai surged clear to a comfortable victory, in 19min 2sec.

Masai finished third in the senior race at the World Cross Country Championships on the same Holyrood course last March, fourth in the Olympic 10,000m last summer, and is the same age as Twell. The young Briton finished 14 seconds down on Masai but just three seconds shy of third place, behind Mestewat Tufa, of Ethiopia, silver medallist in the World Cross Country Championships last year, and another Kenyan, Viola Kibiwott. "I'm not totally satisfied with fourth," Twell said. "With 300 metres to go I need another injection of pace, like the other girls have at the moment. That's something I need to work on."

For all of the progress Twell has made under her astute coach of nine years, Mick Woods, she remains far from the finished article. She keeps a London 2012 badge pinned to her clothes, though if the careers of Radcliffe and the other leading British ladies of distance running down the years are anything to go by, she will not start to hit her peak until she reaches her mid-to-late 20s – in the Olympic year of 2016 and after.

Still, like Radcliffe before her, she has joined the senior ranks with a world junior title behind her, on the track at 1500m rather than at cross- country. She has also run 1500m and 5,000m quicker than Radcliffe managed at the same age. And, unlike the marathon world record holder, who missed selection for Barcelona in 1992, she has the invaluable experience of an Olympic appearance as a teenager,having narrowly missed the qualifying cut for the 1500m final in Beijing.

All of which has greatly raised those expectations. "It doesn't really faze me," Twell reflected. "I have high expectations of myself. I just embrace it rather than think of it negatively."

Suggested Topics
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas