Mandy Gault will kick-start her bid for Commonwealth Games selection at the Loughborough International this weekend.
The City of Portsmouth 400m hurdler has been invited to compete in the prestigious event after an impressive start to the 2013 season.
And the 29-year-old is hoping the presence of some of Team GB’s London Olympics side, including Perri Shakes-Drayton and Eilidh Child, will help her achieve her goal of being part of the 2014 Games in Glasgow.
Gault is already being monitored by selectors from home country Northern Ireland in the build-up to next year’s showpiece occasion.
Despite only taking up the event in 2011 after injury put an end to her long-jump hopes, the City ace has rapidly risen through the GB ranks in the discipline.
An invite to last summer’s Aviva Olympic Trials and UK Championships in Birmingham was just reward for the huge strides Gault has made in the event.
Meanwhile, a second-place finish at the Irish Indoor Championships in February over 400m further boosted her hopes of adding to her Northern Ireland under-23 appearance.
With only one hurdles event under her belt this season, the Loughborough International may not see the best that the University of Chichester lecturer has to offer.
But with the talented athlete picking up a new PB of 60.5secs in that outing for Portsmouth in the Southern Athletics League – a run that put her fourth in the UK rankings – she hopes even more new ground will be broken amongst a high-class field.
‘I’m really excited at the prospect of competing on Sunday,’ said Gault.
‘At the same time, I’m also nervous with the quality of some of the other athletes I will be racing against.
‘But this is the standard I am hoping to compete at more often and hopefully I will become more used to it.
‘The very first race I ran in this season, I finished seven seconds ahead of second place and set a new PB.
‘But the last 100m was quite a struggle running on my own.
‘I’m normally good at chasing down competitors in front of me over the home straight so those I’m racing against on Sunday will hopefully enable me to run a faster time.
‘The goal is to run sub-60sec on Sunday, which is still over a second faster than where I need to be to qualify for the Commonwealth Games. But as the season goes on, I think my coach is hoping I can peak around mid-July for the World Championship trials in Birmingham.
‘Hopefully that will give me an indication of where I am and where I need to be this time next summer.’
The current qualifying time for Northern Ireland 400m hurdles selection is 57.9secs – which is two seconds quicker than that set for Dehli in 2010.
That represents a huge leap for Gault, but with City coach Terry Price playing a key role in her development, she’s hoping of meeting her target.
‘It’s going to be tough and I’ll try my best,’ added Gault.
‘I always give 100 per cent in training and feel that having a proper coach in Terry has been a great help.
‘I hope both our hard work over the coming months will pay off and I achieve my goal.
‘At the moment, the training programme he has set out is working and I’m seeing consistent improvements.’