Amber Anning will be the youngest member of the British Athletics squad preparing to face the continent’s finest at the Glasgow 2019 European Athletics Indoor Championships in March. The 18-year-old secured her spot after winning silver in the 400m at the British Athletics Indoor Championships earlier this month. Her time of 53.00 seconds doubled up as a national junior indoor record as well as the European Indoor qualifying mark.
Amber, who is currently supported by the Backing The Best programme, delivered by SportsAid on behalf of Sport England, will run in the 400m and 4x400m relay as she pulls on her first senior Great Britain vest. The Brighton and Hove City Athletics Club runner has big ambitions - with the Olympic Games in Tokyo and Paris both firmly in her sights - as she strives to reach the top of her sport.
Here, Amber reflects on her recent achievements, looks ahead to what 2019 has in store, and emphasises the importance of her family’s support....
How excited are you to get your first senior vest and represent Great Britain at next month's European Indoor Championships?
“I am so excited. It was very unexpected so to have this opportunity to represent my country at senior level is awesome. It is such an honour and something I have always wanted to achieve - so to do it at 18 is really special for me. Glasgow is going to be amazing and I am looking forward to competing against the best athletes in Europe.”
Did you always feel that a place on the podium was within reach at the British Indoor Championships?
“I thought it was achievable for me to medal. I knew I had good flat speed over 200m so if I got myself in the right position, I knew I had it in me. I was surprised to be up there around the 250m mark. It was very tight and I was boxed in so thought my chance of a medal was gone. I was so lucky to have a gap open up for me, and I used the last bit of energy I had to surge through it.”
Did you immediately realise you had set a new UK indoor Under-20s record? How happy were you to achieve this?
“I had no idea what position I was in when I crossed the line. It was so tight but once I saw the score board I was so happy. To get a British record along with an unexpected silver medal was so exciting. All the hard work from this winter has paid off.”
What are your key aims for the year ahead?
“I hope to be in the GB team for the European Athletics Under-20s Championships in Sweden and would like to qualify for the 100m, 200m and 400m before deciding what event to do. It’s my A-Levels year so I’m working hard. In August, I’ll be heading to America as I have a scholarship to Louisiana State University (LSU). It’s a powerhouse of college track and field. I‘m really excited to go there to combine athletics with my education. I’ll either be studying psychology or journalism.”
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome in your career so far? And what is your main long-term ambition?
“Last year I had a great indoor season and then suffered an injury on my GB junior debut at the Loughborough International. My goal had been the World Juniors and I was devastated when I realised I wouldn’t be going. It was really tough but I had to focus on rehab and set new goals. My main ambition is an Olympic gold medal. I’m inspired by Christine Ohuruogu who had an amazing career and has been so kind to me. I have the same coach as Chrissie - Lloyd Cowan. I‘d love to go to the Worlds and make the Olympic teams for Tokyo and Paris. The Commonwealth Games in Birmingham is also a goal.”
Which experiences have you learnt the most from up to now? How much did you take away from competing at the Commonwealth Youth Games in the Bahamas?
“I have learned a lot from being injured. Plans come undone, but you have to pick up and keep going. It is hard at the time but you can come through and come back. The Commonwealth Youth Games was amazing. Being part of a team of such talented athletes and representing my nation was brilliant. I was overjoyed to come home with two medals - an individual 400m bronze and a relay silver. I made some great friends both from the England team and from other countries. We still chat on a WhatsApp group.”
What difference has the support from SportsAid and the Backing The Best programme made to you?
“The support from SportsAid and Backing The Best has been invaluable. My costs are approximately £10k annually. I travel more than 300 miles a week to train and pay coaching fees as well as having regular physio. It helped me afford to go warm weather training last year too. Receiving Backing The Best support in 2018 was an honour and made me realise that people believe in me. It motivates me to get better.”
How much have you taken away from the personal development opportunities you've had through SportsAid? Did you find the Backing The Best workshop informative?
“I loved meeting and mixing with athletes from other sports and also learned so much in the workshops in terms of sports psychology, nutrition and the pros and cons of social media – that was really interesting! I have always been quite disciplined about my diet, but over the past year what I’ve learned has meant I’ve stopped eating some of the treats I used to love, but not all of them!”
What was it like to meet TRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with SportsAid at the Copper Box Arena last year?
“I was really nervous and excited to meet them and they were absolutely lovely and really easy to talk to. I don’t know what I expected but they were down to earth, encouraging and seemed genuinely interested. I was buzzing afterwards.”
Lastly, how important has the support of your family been to you in pursuing your sporting ambitions?
“My family have been great. I had the opportunity to do lots of activities when I was little – swimming, netball, tennis, tap, ballet and jazz. Sometimes I didn’t have a day off! I started athletics when I was really young and living in Australia. My parents always said it didn’t matter what happened as long as I put in 100% in training and knew that I did my best on competition day. My little sisters have been dragged to lots of events over the years. Ruby is a really good sprinter – a county champion and national finalist and Sophia plays netball. I really thank my family for all the support and love. I’d also like to thank my amazing coach Lloyd. He’s been inspiring. I’ll miss him and my training group when I’m in America but will be with them whenever I’m over.”
What will you do to #SupportTheNext generation of British sporting heroes? SportsAid needs your help to ensure talented athletes like Amber can continue receiving the backing they rely on. You can make a regular donation to the charity and have a significant impact on the country’s sporting future.