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Athletics: Raising the bar

WHEN it comes to the opening meetings of the new season, many athletes prefer to ease themselves in gently.

An encouraging start to the season has given Allan Smith the confidence he needs to make the GB team   Photograph: Stewart Attwood
An encouraging start to the season has given Allan Smith the confidence he needs to make the GB team Photograph: Stewart Attwood

Not so Allan Smith, the Scottish high jumper who has already got 2013 off to a stellar start.

The Shaftesbury Barnet athlete cleared 2.23m to claim his second Scottish native record in a fortnight at the British Athletics International Match at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow last weekend. That neatly eclipsed the 2.22m he posted at the Scottish Universities and Colleges Championships at the same venue on January 12.

Smith, 20, now believes he is within a whisker of clearing 2.26m – and he will get his chance to attempt that height at the British Athletics European Trials and UK Championships in Sheffield next Sunday.

"It's been a good season opener," said Smith. "To jump 2.22m at the Scottish Universities and Colleges Championships, which I was pleased with, and then go 1cm better a week later is unbelievable. It has given me confidence going into the trials.

"I haven't tried to jump 2.26m in training, but having that huge crowd in Glasgow gave me a boost to clear that extra couple of centimetres. I think 2.26m is possible within the next two weeks."

The trials will decide who makes the British squad for the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Gothenburg in March. This will be Smith's first attempt to qualify at senior level, but he is up for the challenge. "I will need to jump 2.29m which is a big ask, but if I do jump the height before it, I will definitely try for it," he said.

Inevitably, there are comparisons to Olympic bronze medallist and high jump star Robbie Grabarz, who last August equalled Steve Smith's 20-year-old British outdoor record of 2.37 in Lausanne, Switzerland. On paper Smith – Allan, that is – appears to be jumping higher now than Grabarz, some five years his senior, was at the same age.

"It's pleasing to know that because I hope to have a long career," he said. "That is in the back of my mind, especially now I'm coming to the end of competing at U23 and looking towards senior level. I need to push for major championships."

Having rubbed shoulders with Grabarz and Russian high jump powerhouse Aleksey Dmitrik in Glasgow last weekend, Smith has got a taste for competing at elite international level. He is already looking towards the 2014 Commonwealth Games and beyond to the Olympics in Rio two years later.

"The Commonwealth Games is still 18 months away, but the qualif–ication opens up in April. I want to be in the Scotland team for 2014.

"In the next couple of years I will be pushing for the Scottish senior national record of 2.31m [set by Geoff Parsons in 1994]. For Rio, the 'A' standard will be 2.31m, so to realistically aim for the Olympics I have to jump that anyway. I will have gained another four years' exper-ience. By then, at 24, I should be at or reaching my peak, so there's no reason I shouldn't make the team."

Another Scot heading to Sheffield will be Perth hurdler Eilidh Child, whose 52.88sec for fourth place in the 400m flat at the Emirates Arena last Saturday was, in fact, a Scottish native indoor record, beating Melanie Neef's 52.91sec set in 1994. She will compete again over 400m flat with the aim of securing a top-two finish and qualifying for Gothenburg.

Lasswade athlete Guy Learmonth, meanwhile, clocked a European Indoor 800m qualifying time of 1:47.94 at the Vienna Indoor Classic last Tuesday. It now ranks him eighth indoor in Europe this year and puts him in a strong position going into the trials.

Also looking promising is Dundee's Laura Muir, who clocked a personal best of 4:12.39 to win the 1500m in Vienna, running some 12 seconds faster than she posted over the same distance at the British Athletics International match in Glasgow only three days earlier.

o Tickets are on sale for the British Athletics Series. Visit www.britishathletics.org.uk

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