Laura lines up for Commonwealth challenge
Hampden Park, Glasgow, July 29, 2014. Smiling from ear to ear, a delighted Laura Weightman proudly holds the English flag high into the air during a glorious lap of honour, having just won the women's 1500m silver medal.
It was, arguably, the greatest moment of her career, and marked her first podium-place finish at a major championships.
Now, four years on from that memorable night in Scotland, the Lesbury athlete makes her return to the Commonwealth Games, this time on Australia’s Gold Coast.
But when the talented Morpeth Harrier lines up on the track inside the 35-000 capacity Carrara Stadium on Saturday, she will be stepping in to uncharted territory.
For the first time in a major championships, the middle-distance star will be competing in the 5,000m.
It is a fresh challenge from her usual 1500m and is a brave move – especially considering it will be only her second ever attempt at the distance.
But Weightman has never been afraid of a challenge and the 26-year-old is relishing this weekend’s race.
Speaking from Down Under in an exclusive interview with the Gazette, she said: “I am feeling a mixture of excitement and nerves ahead of the Games. The 5,000m is still a new event for me, so I don’t know what the outcome of the race will be, but I know I am ready to race. But it’s been an exciting process training for the 5,000m. I have had to train harder than ever.
“I have always done 1500m at major championships, ever since my junior debut in 2010, so this year felt like the time to try something new and I am loving it.”
A 1500m runner by trade, Weightman has competed in what is currently one of the most competitive distances in women’s athletics.
And Saturday’s 5,000m final will be no different, as she faces strong competition from 2017 World Champion Hellen Obiri and her Kenyan team-mate Margaret Chelimo Kipkemboi.
But Weightman’s build-up has been positive, with a strong end to last year’s track season and an encouraging winter period.
After coming sixth in the women’s 1500m at the World Championships in London in August, she recorded the fastest ever road mile by a British woman, clocking 4:17.62 in the New York 5th Avenue Road Mile in September, coming second in the process.
Since the turn of the year, she has smashed her road 5k PB, clocking 15.25 at the Podium 5k, won the Armagh 3k in 8.59, and secured a 1500m victory in Brisbane a fortnight ago.
Weightman, who is based in Leeds, said: “I have been training well over the winter so I am looking forward to getting out there and seeing what I am capable of. I have had some good results over a range of distances, giving me a good indication that my endurance is where I need it to be to be competitive over 5,000m.”
Weightman’s race is 6.20am (UK time), live on BBC. Visit the Gazette website on Saturday morning to see the result.