Barnstaple athlete Phil Norman has high hopes for a place at the 2021 Olympics after taking gold at the British Athletics Championships.
Norman set a stadium record as he won the men’s 3000m steeplechase during day two of the championships at Manchester Regional Arena on Saturday.
Norman finished with a time of 8:32.52 – just over a second ahead of Shaftesbury’s Mark Pearce, who ran a personal best 8:33.61. Daniel Jarvis (Bedford) finished third with a time of 8:39.51.
Speaking to the Gazette, Norman said: “It’s amazing to get my first British title. It’s been a long time coming as I’ve got back into the sport and training. To get the title is part of the process to get to where I want to be.
“I’m happy just get the win and I’m happy to be able to race in the championships with everything that has gone on this year.”
The Barnstaple runner was the heavy favourite going into the race, but he didn’t take any chances against some opponents he knew might be able to spring a few surprises.
“I knew I had to be on my game and I thought because [Pearce] was in good shape he would be wanting to run a fast race,” said Norman.
“I was counting on the fact he might take it on and I could just shadow him until it was time to make a move, and that was exactly what I did. I was able to tuck in behind him and picked up the pace with about 500 metres to go.
“I wasn’t expecting him to be as close as he was in the last lap but I was able to move up a gear and make sure he wasn’t going to trouble me.”
The race was the last of a stunted season for Norman, and he will go into winter training with his sights firmly set on securing a place at the Olympics in Tokyo in 2021.
After seeing his invite to last year’s IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha declined by British Athletics, the 30-year-old will be keen to make sure he meets all the criteria for a place in the Team GB squad.
That will mean hitting the Olympic qualifying standard in 2021 and securing a top two finish at next year’s British Athletics Championships.
Norman had been preparing to take a work sabbatical in order to train full time for the games before the coronavirus pandemic meant they were postponed.
After training for what was left of the 2020 season around his work, Norman clocked 8:23.6 in Finland last month, and is confident he can find the time he needs to meet the Olympic standard in 2021.
“I’m sure next year I can take that time off, have some quick races and get that qualifying time, and hopefully I can stay injury free.
“This time last year I was gutted after working so hard through the season. I got so close to the qualifying time on so many occasions and to get my invite to the championships rejected by British Athletics felt like a kick in the teeth.
“I wanted to prove to people this year that they made the wrong decision, and have used that disappointment to fuel the way forward to get to Tokyo.”