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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Laura Whaler interview on Runners Tribe

Laura Whaler interview on Runners Tribe

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1 Laura Whaler interview on Runners Tribe on Wed Oct 06, 2010 2:24 pm



The Future of Women's Sprinting in Australia: Laura Whaler
by Chris Wainwright
Runners tribe
October 1st 2010

When I watch the women's 4x100m final at this years Commonwealth Games I will be thinking to myself - why don't we have an Australian team running around? How can we have the likes of Sally Pearson, Melissa Breen and Laura Whaler (who have all run under 11.50sec in 2010) not competing?

Put simply the selectors didn't believe that a women's team would be competitive, especially considering the injury concerns around Charlotte Van Veenendaal (who missed the National Championships, after earlier in the year running a personal best over 100m of 11.59sec in Brisbane). Maybe then it's just bad timing and that if we had four healthy female sprinters we would have had a team in New Delhi.

Looking away from the disappointment of not having a relay team competing in India, are we looking any better in terms of our women's sprinting stocks in Australia? Well if we look back to 2005 we had three women finish the year with sub 11.50sec performances - Pearson 11.41sec, Hewitt 11.48sec and Kleeberg 11.49sec - so in fact 2010 has seen a similar situation, with Melissa Breen leading the way with a best of 11.34sec.

Going back even further to 2000, the depth of women's sprinting was clearly evident, with four athletes in Australia breaking 11.40sec throughout the year - lead by Australian record holder Melinda Gainsford-Taylor (11.24sec SB). So can we return to the heights reached in 2000? Well there are certainly signs that we can, with Breen, Whaler and Van Veenendaal leading the charge (not to mention our no.1 spring hurdler in Australia - Pearson - who owns a PB of 11.14sec, only 0.02sec away from Gainsford-Taylor's National record).

One of the athlete's mentioned above, Laura Whaler, has been a late bloomer to the top ranks of Australian sprinting, but has started to make some big improvements over the past 12 months. A new personal best of 11.46sec, a wind-assisted 11.41sec and a bronze medal at the National Championships (11.72sec) has all of a sudden thrust Whaler into the limelight, and it can only get better for the 23 year-old in 2011.

We were fortunate enough to catch up with Whaler to discuss in more detail just what she thought was the catalyst behind her rapid improvement in 2010 and what the future holds fo the talented sprinter.

Firstly, it must be a nice feeling to finish off the 2009/10 domestic season with a new PB in the 100m of 11.46sec and also in the 200m (23.45sec), especially considering that you commenced the season with PB’s of 11.70sec and 24.10sec? What do you feel was the main catalyst behind the rapid improvement?

Laura Whaler
Looking back on the 09/10 season, I had to go to the next level mentally and physically in order to succeed in my athletics. I learnt that every little bit counts and how important it is to consistently train hard and strong. I highlighted the weaknesses I needed to improve on and I trained like an animal. I believed in myself and my coach and finished off the season with 2 B qualifiers and 2 PB's. I can still see so much improvement and Im excited to head into 2010-11 season much stronger than my last.

I knew that in 09 I had better in me and I just didn’t perform at those nationals for various reasons, which I will keep to myself. I had also not had any luck with conditions that year when I raced well, so I knew the times weren’t really indicative of the shape I was in.

You have had some great success on the professional circuit, which has included making the Stawell Gift final on a record 3 occasions and a win at the Bay Sheffield Gift in South Australia. When did you start to think that representing Australia at a World Championships and/or Olympic Games was also a real possibility?

Laura Whaler
When I decided to make the move to Tony it was with the belief that I could represent Australia, so that was my goal even before I broke 12 seconds, about 4 years ago. I didn’t run any professional meets before going to Tony and we have done those as the format of racing is beneficial to helping an athlete stand up to the demands of rounds in meets. We have done a lot of work to get me to handle the training intensity and now we are starting to capitalize on that and build on it.

I have a lot of support around me from coach and squad, family and friends, and people within Athletics Australia community who encourage me and believe in me. Every athlete needs a solid support crew and I have that and am still building on it. I wouldn’t have made the sacrifices I have if I hadn’t believed it was a possibility.

I know I have the ability to compete with the worlds best if I put my mind to it.

In 2010 you not only lowered your personal bests in both the 100m and 200m you started to mix it with the likes of Melissa Breen and Sally Pearson. When did it really sink in that you could compete with the very best in Australia?

Laura Whaler
I think deep down I always knew I had the potential, but you need a lot more than just potential. There is a lot of hard work that goes into it all, all the pieces of the pie have to be in place and we are getting there. You have to really have the desire (I have), the belief and the work to get there. It all takes time and as I didn’t really start training properly until I was a bit older it just means I am younger in training age. Australia Cup this year, being my first domestic series meet was a good confidence boost and I took away a lot of positives from that race.

Before last season, I was hanging outside the barrier that I couldn't break. I worked so hard to finally break that and then started to challenge the best female sprinters in Australia.

You have now consistently running the 100m in the range of 11.50-11.70sec, but in order to make the World Championships next year you will need to at least break 11.40sec. You have actually been quoted as saying that “"I want to go to the world championships next year and run in the 100m and 4 x 100m relays for my country." "It's a goal that I don't think is out of my reach. I just need to do the hard work required to get me there." Therefore what have you started to work on in training to make this dream a reality? You have actually said that training has never been better; does this mean that we should expect some fireworks on the track in the coming months?

Laura Whaler

I have been putting together many great sessions in training so far, which are all a good sign of improvement. Tony and I have been working on my technique and strength work to enable me to hold myself in the positon I need to run as fast and as strong as i can. I know that I need to be consistently be running 11.40 or better so its now we need to fine tune all the loose ends. I will probably have to better 11.30 as the A qualifier and although it is going to need a solid improvement to do that, I have set my goals for that and Im going after it.

This offseason has been fantastic for me. I have trained like a machine and have put my heart and soul into my sessions each day.

What was it like mentally to miss a spot for this year’s Commonwealth Games, especially in the 4x100m? Is it hard for the likes of Melissa Breen, Sally Pearson and yourself to know that you’re only one quality sprinter away from making up a solid 4x100m team for Australia?

Laura Whaler
Missing Commonwealth Games this year which would have been my first Australian team was devastating. To know you've achieved so much and marked off so many goals on your list and to then get nothing in return was very upsetting. I know everything happens for a reason and I just think it musnt have been my year to go. Ive been able to train without any interuptions and its given me the opportunity to work on areas of weakness that I may not have had the time to do if I were to go to India. So it is a blessing in disguise to be able to concentrate on myself for this season. I know female sprinting will be so much stronger this season and I know we will have a great team for World Champs.

I know that Mel and Sally are supportive of a relay team so even though I can’t speak for them, I am sure they are as disappointed as I am that the team was overlooked. We do have some other sprinters there capable of making a solid team and we really need to be given some opportunities to gel as a team. So hopefully next season we will get the chance.

Over the 2010/11 domestic season will you be more focused on the 100m, or will the season be about making improvements in both sprint events? Can you see yourself being an international athlete in both events?

Laura Whaler
My coach has always encouraged me to run both events and last season my first B qualifier actually came in the 200m. I have made some good improvements in my speed endurance already so I definately will try to qualify in both events. As a junior my strongest part of my race was always the first part so the 200m are about making me stronger over the distance and to be honest, I would love to race 200m internationally.


You have really only been competing at the highest level over the past 3-4 years, do you feel like this will keep you in the sport for longer (considering you’re still only 23 years old)? Do you believe that the lack of experience (not competing on the international stage in either a World Youth or World Junior Championships), will be one of your biggest challengers going forward?

Laura Whaler
I still haven’t even started on my international career so I believe I still have plenty of competition left in me. I look at people like Merlene Ottey and that shows that if you have the desire and your body lets you, you can keep competing for many years. I haven’t put a time limit on myself yet! I don’t think that not having competed in a junior championships, is a challenge at all.

My coach took Josh Ross from the start to international teams and he didn’t follow the usual progression channels. If you are good enough you will be selected and I hope to get more international experience next season leading up to World Championships in either Asia or Europe. The only thing I think it could affect is that it can be harder to get SIS support but up until this year I had been lucky to have support from Jump Start to London.


Well if spots on Australian teams were given out to an individual’s determination to succeed then we should see you on the team for next year’s World Championships in South Korea. If for some reason this was not to be the end result, would London 2012 still be on the radar for you?

Laura Whaler
London 2012 is definitely on my radar. And then I am still young enough to target many more major meets after that. I know it is going to be tough to get the qualifiers but I don’t give up easily!!

Well thanks for taking the time to speak with RT. We wish you all the very best for the upcoming competitions and will wait in anticipation for another big domestic season in 2010/11

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