MX23RW : Tuesday, March 26 11:08:31

Interview: Team GB athlete Tom Lancashire

Team GB 3,000m runner Tom Lancashire looks ahead to the upcoming European Indoor Championships in Prague.

Having once been dubbed a genuine "world-class" athlete by Lord Sebastian Coe, at one stage the sky seemed to be limit for Tom Lancashire.

However, having represented Great Britain at the Olympics in Beijing, as well as competing at World Championships and Commonwealth Games, injury and illness struck, sidelining the middle-distance runner for around two years.

He has battled back, though, and will compete over 3,000m at the European Indoor Championships in Prague this coming weekend.

Sports Mole caught up with the 29-year-old to discuss the upcoming event, as well as what the future has in store.

The European Indoor Championships are the first big athletics event of 2015 - how exciting is it to be involved?

"It's very exciting. The indoors have been on mind and it is a goal, but obviously the main focus is the summer. I'd planned this in as a bit of stepping stone towards that. I still feel that I'm a bit on the comeback trail, so getting back on the international competition trail for Team GB is really exciting.

"It was a bit of a surprise to get selected because Tom Farrell beat me in Birmingham, so it's a pleasant surprise. I'm really looking forward to it."

For all the training that you've done over the winter, it doesn't compare to returning to competitive action, does it?

"Any time you can put yourself up against other top athletes is really useful for your development. When I went to the Olympics in 2008, I wasn't going to win. Instead I was there as a learning curve.

"With me looking to move up to the 5k this summer, racing these track championships over longer distances will be valuable for me. Hopefully I can get a lot of it. I've never raced a championship 5k before, but running the 3k in Prague in hopefully the heats and the final will be good preparation."

Athlete Tom Lancashire of the British Olympic Team poses for a photograph during the Team GB Kitting Out at the NEC on July 15, 2008© Getty Images

You mention the final there - what are your hopes for Prague? Is winning a medal a possibility?

"I'm aiming to get a medal. As I said, I still see myself as being on an upward curve and coming back to the top level. It can be tough, particularly indoors where anything can happen. It won't be easy to make the final, but looking at the rankings, I'm planning on getting there.

"There are no real outstanding guys out there that are miles ahead. In previous years you've had the likes of Mo Farah. If I can put myself in the right places and do make the final, a medal is a real possibility."

Does the fact that there isn't a big name involved give you more confidence?

"It does, but it also adds some uncertainty. Probably around 75% of the runners there will believe that they have a legitimate chance of winning, which makes it unpredictable. It's great that it's so open. I think I'm ranked around 15th in Europe right now, but I'm only five or six seconds off the fastest time, which makes it really interesting."

You've suffered with illness and injuries over the last two years, but how is the form and fitness heading into Prague?

"Good. I was away in Kenya for a month and I've come straight back into the trials. In Sheffield and Birmingham, I didn't feel quite right. I was fit, but it was all about trying to adjust to being back at sea level.

"It was a bit strange, but I'm glad I did that because Kenya is quite high altitude. I felt sluggish for 10 days after I got back, but now I'm much more bouncy. The fitness is there and it's just a case of feeling right on the day and putting it into practice during the race."

Tom Lancashire of Great Britain trains during the Aviva funded GB & NI Team Preparation Camp on July 21, 2010© Getty Images

Have you prepared differently for this event compared to how you would for an outdoor meeting?

"It's a tough balance because myself and my coach have purposely aimed not to peak indoors. It's a nice bonus to make the team. I'm sure some of the other guys on the team have aimed for this event, but the goal for me has always been outdoors and running fast over 5k.

"We've kept the training very much base work that I'd want to be doing anyway for the summer. Being selected for the team, there's not much I can do in two weeks, but there are bits I can change, like some speed work. I didn't want to change things too much, though, because I want to remain strong for the summer."

How do you rate the British team going to Prague? It's got experience from the likes of yourself and Jenny Meadows, but there's plenty of youth in there as well

"Looking at my previous event the 1,500m, it's quite interesting. There's some good young guys - Charlie Grice and Chris O'Hare are going and are both really talented. There is a lot of talent coming through and the European Championships, particularly indoors, is a big opportunity for me, but also the youngsters. It's not the Olympics, but it's a big event and a valuable experience to get under your belt.

"I think I'm right in saying that Jenny Meadows won one of her first major medals indoors and that turned the corner for her. She has gone on to win more medals outdoors and I'm hoping that it can be similar for me. I'm sure it's the same for most of the Brits going to Prague."

How vital could winning in Prague prove to be for the season ahead? Surely it will provide a confidence boost if nothing else?

"It gives you the confidence that you can mix it with those guys. Going into a race as a European medallist in the future will give you a bit more of a spring in your step."

Tom Lancashire of Great Britain poses for a portrait during the Aviva funded GB & NI Team Preparation Camp on July 21, 2010© Getty Images

After this competition, it's a big 18 months coming up isn't it? There's the World Championships and of course the Olympics in Rio

"The Olympics next year is in the background of everything that I do. When I sat down last year and looked at my long-term plans, everything I'm doing now is about making the 5K for the Olympics and making the final.

"It's really important this year because I've never raced a championship 5K before, so I'd love to qualify for the World Championships [in Beijing] this year for some experience. There is a lot of work to do between now and then. This Europeans coming up is a big stepping stone on the way to that and something that I'm looking to be competitive in."

Of course, you have previous Olympic experience from Beijing in 2008. Does that experience help in any way for the big events that are coming up?

"I don't think you ever really get 100% used to competing at those sorts of events in front of so many people. Even at Birmingham [for the Sainsbury's Indoor Grand Prix last month] it was a great atmosphere. I've ran in front of similar crowds before, but you still have to adjust to it. Beijing helps when it comes to dealing with the scale of the event and not getting overawed.

"You need to try to treat it like any other race. Maybe if I was going into my first major race in Prague, that might be difficult to do and preparations might change. But, I've taken a lot from Beijing, as well as running at World Championships and Commonwealth Games. You can't let the occasion force you to do things differently."

How is your training environment now? You made a change in the winter, didn't you?

"I made a change at the start of this winter season switching coaches from Norman Poole to Steve Vernon. It wasn't just about the coaching, it was more about the overall set-up and the environment that I was training in. We've got a good group with Ross Millington as well.

"The support of me balancing with Steve and his knowledgeable approach full time is working well. That's nothing against Norman because he was a fantastic coach for me, but at this stage of my career where I know what works and what doesn't, a change felt right."

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Tom Lancashire of England competes in the men's 1500 metres first round at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on October 11, 2010
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