Parker sets her sights high for Olympics

Norfolk's Barbara Parker is hoping for a breakthrough in the steeplechase this season as she chases a second Olympics appearance.

The 28-year-old has picked up three lifetime bests on the track this season, but has yet to compete in her specialist 3,000m steeplechase event.

Parker, who is based in Atlanta, US, has jumped to the top of the UK rankings for the mile and 5,000m, with times of 4:30.51 in Tennessee in early June and 15:27.03 in Spain a fortnight ago, respectively. She also improved her 800m best to 2:07.18 in Florida in May to kick-start her 2011 attack.

And with London 2012 a little over a year away, the City of Norwich AC athlete is well aware that performances this year are vital in order to state her case for inclusion in the GB team.

'It has been my dream since I was 10 years old to complete in the Olympics,' said Parker, from King's Lynn. 'I hope to use everything I learned from the Beijing Olympics (in 2004) to make London 2012 a successful competition.

'I spent April in Font Romeu (in southern France) with the UK Athletics camp and it was my first time at altitude so I was excited to see how I would respond.

'Training there was great as I love running trails so the miles and miles of trails to explore was the perfect environment for me. Since then, training has been going fantastic so I am excited to get into a competitive (steeplechase) race soon.'

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Parker, guided by husband and coach Sean Burris, is keen to improve on a mixed 2010 – she failed to the reach the steeplechase finals at the world indoor championships in Doha and the European outdoor championships in Barcelona.

The saving grace was her third UK title and a 9:35.17 lifetime best in the Diamond League in Eugene last July, which moved her to third on the British all-time list.

'2010 was very solid – it was the first time I have been consistent in the 9:30s and that is the key,' Parker said. 'Running fast is great, but you need to be consistent if you want to be a contender. I really focused on the steeple last year in the hope to get back on lottery funding and set myself up for 2012.'

The former British record-holder is targeting the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea late next month where she hopes to make her global outdoor debut.

'My coach and I have decided to open up in the steeple later in the season this year, as we are really focusing on worlds, which is a long way away from now,' she explained. 'I hope to race in some competitive flat races in Europe before heading back to Font Romeu for a three-week training period.'