Mandy Gault savoured her first-ever Sainsbury’s British Championships final and admitted: I’ll learn from the experience.
The City of Portsmouth ace was pitted against Britain’s finest in the women’s 400m hurdles showpiece at the Alexander Stadium, Birmingham, on Sunday.
Commonwealth Games favourite Elidh Child and World Championship semi-finalist Meghan Beesley both lined up on Gault’s inside.
And while both Great Britain internationals lived up to their ever-growing reputations by claiming the top two spots – Child (55.58sec) and Beesley (56.12), with Hayley McLean third (56.43) – the University of Chichester lecturer was unable to build on hers as she finished seventh in a time of 61.2
Gault’s final result was well short of her personal best of 58.86 and below the standards she has set herself.
But the Northern Ireland international admitted the experience, which was broadcast live on the BBC, will prove beneficial in the long run as she continues to strive towards her goal of mixing it on a regular basis with the world’s best.
‘Qualifying for the final was a huge boost. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make the most of the opportunity and show people – in the stadium and at home watching – what I can really do,’ said Gault.
‘My time wasn’t what I was anticipating for such a major event and I’m disappointed I wasn’t able to at least PB with such a high-calibre field around me.
‘All season I have been looking for top-quality athletes to compete against and help me push on but I wasn’t able to take advantage of it.
‘I didn’t take the first hurdle clean enough at the start and that just upset my whole rhythm right the way round.
‘My blocks just didn’t seem right, either – and with thousands of people watching in the stadium and on TV, perhaps I let the whole experience get to me slightly.
‘It should stand me in good stead, however.
‘I at least now know the pressures of competing at one of the highest levels of my sport and hopefully I’ll learn from it.’
Gault booked her place in the final by finishing second in her heat (59.67) behind Beesley (56.81), on Saturday.
That provided a welcome boost to her confidence after being surprisingly overlooked by Northern Ireland for this month’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Victory at the South of England Championships at Crystal Palace has also followed that announcement.
But the 30-year-old still admits she’s hurting from the setback.
‘I had my heart set on going to Glasgow but it wasn’t meant to be,’ said Gault.
‘I have been learning to deal with the disappointment but it still hurts – particularly when I put so much effort into it.
‘Getting to the final in Birmingham, however, shows I am capable of getting to where I want to be.
‘I feel I still have plenty more to learn and give to the hurdles – and I’m determined to prove some people wrong.’
Also competing in Birmingham at the weekend was Gault’s former City team-mate Katy Watts.
The Emsworth thrower finished sixth in the javelin (49.92) after coming runner-up at the Alexander Stadium in 2013.