AN athlete from Medmenham says she is excited to be representing England at the Commonwealth Games.
Pippa Woolven, 20, will compete in the 3,000m steeplechase at the Games in Glasgow, which begin on Wednesday. Her race will be on July 30.
This week she joined up with the England squad in Manchester for training and final preparations.
Earlier this month she collected her kit and attended a briefing for competitors.
Woolven said: “The reality of the situation hadn’t really sunk in until I got kitted out.
“When they showed us a video of the athletes’ village it suddenly felt very real and I was very excited.
“I’m not placing any expectations on myself because I know I probably won’t be in with a chance of winning a medal this time round.
“I’m just planning to learn from the experience, soak up the atmosphere and enjoy it, which is a really nice position to be in.
“I am hoping to reach Olympic standard one day. You’ve got to have a dream to aim for and it would be great to make Rio but a lot could happen between now and then.”
Woolven, who will turn 21 on Saturday, is currently ranked number one in England and second in the UK behind Scotland’s Lennie Waite.
She began running while a pupil at Danesfield Primary School in Marlow and took up cross-country after moving on to Sir William Borlase’s Grammar School.
She joined Wycombe Phoenix Harriers at 13 and took up steeplechase two years later.Woolven, who is now on a full athletics scholarship at Florida State University, said: “I loved doing both hurdles and cross-country so my coach said I should combine the two and have a go at it.
“I was sold on it immediately and that became my ‘thing’. I’ve never been the fastest track runner but steeplechase was just right for me. I’m very lucky to have found an event that’s a perfect fit for me and which I’ve been very successful at.”
Woolven took part in her first English schools national championships in 2009 and returned in 2010 and 2011, winning her event on both occasions. She then competed in the world junior championships in Barcelona in 2012, finishing fifth out of 18 competitors.
She began studying for a a sports science degree at Birmingham University in 2011 but put this on hold last year after being offered the scholarship in America.
She trains with the Florida team and represents the university at American athletics events. She runs about 80 miles every week and regularly practises hurdling.
She said: “When I went to Florida and my times started improving I realised this was something I wanted to commit all my time and energy to.
“The training in America is much more intense. We’re a very tight-knit group of girls who are all of a similar standard so I have people to push myself against.”
Sporting prowess runs in the family. Her father Nigel used to play hockey for England, her mother Sally plays golf, and siblings Jenna, 22, and Tom, 25, play hockey while her other sister Becky, 24, is an equestrian rider.
The athlete said: “My family don’t know much about running so they don’t get involved in my training or try to coach me.
“But they are very supportive — they come to watch me run locally and they’ve come to terms with the fact that I run every morning and evening. They do think I’m mad though!”
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