Mandy Gault is targeting a place among Britain’s elite after her Aviva 2012 Trials experience.
The City of Portsmouth ace marked a dramatic year in the 400m hurdles when she was invited to compete for a place in the Great Britain team for this summer’s Olympic Games.
Saturday’s race – in front of a massive crowd at the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham – was only her 10th over the distance, having only taken up the event last summer.
And while the 28-year-old failed to progress to the final – finishing sixth in her heat in a time of 63secs – Gault believes the experience will stand her in good stead for the future.
A place at the Commonwealth Games in 2014 tops the agenda – and the former Northern Ireland long jump champion believes that is within her reach.
‘I feel I can compete with the top athletes,’ admitted Gault, who has a personal best time in the 400m hurdles of 61.99.
‘The target this year is 60 seconds and then next year sub 60, which would take me to the Commonwealths.
‘I was pleased enough with how I performed on Saturday – although my start sort of let me down and affected me slightly for the rest of the race.
‘I wasn’t prepared for the first hurdle as much as I was hoping to be and that put me off my stride.
‘But I came through well over the last 150m, got my stride pattern again and hit the last four hurdles pretty much on stride.
‘I ran within the time that you had to to qualify for Birmingham and that was pretty pleasing.
‘I really wanted to come and run a personal best and get into the 60-second market but that didn’t happen.
‘I’m disappointed with that but just being here is an achievement for me.
‘To know that I have got the strength there – even though I haven’t been training right for the past couple of weeks – is pleasing.
‘My consistency has been there since the start of the season, compared to last year, so that’s a good basis to start from.’
Gault insisted competing in front of thousands of spectators did not get the better of her on the day.
Instead, it was warming up with the likes of British golden girl Jessica Ennis – the country’s heptathlon hope going into London 2012 – which had really got the nerves going.
‘I wasn’t really overawed by the crowd,’ she admitted.
‘I sort of tried to block that out when I got out on the track, trying to keep myself in my own little bubble.
‘I didn’t notice the crowd.
‘It was more in the warm-up area, warming up alongside the likes of Jessica Ennis and Perri Shakes-Drayton that was more intimidating.
‘Photographers were constantly trying to take pictures of them and kids were standing at the door looking for autographs.
‘That was pretty intimidating but a good experience.’
The former Amercian collegiate athlete added: ‘I had one race out in the States – the Texas Relays – which were held in front of crowds of about 20,000.
‘Then, I was running a 4x400m relay so it was more of a team effort than an individual effort, so on Saturday the pressure was on a little bit more.
‘This was also my first time competing on the track at an event such as this, so I can only get better at them.
‘The more experience I get the more confident I will become.’