Pozzi backed to become one of the greats

Pozzi backed to become one of the greats
Getty Images

It was a very close 60m hurdles final with Andy Pozzi winning gold (7.51) ahead of Pascal Martinot-Lagarde (7.52) and Petr Svoboda (7.53) in Belgrade on Friday 3 March.

In the aftermath of winning the first major gold medal of your career, there can be no greater endorsement than the one Andy Pozzi received from Colin Jackson here at the Kombank Arena.

“I keep telling him and he keeps laughing,” said Jackson. “He has more than I had.”

It was some tribute as the pair stood together moments after the final race of the first day at these European Athletics Indoor Championships in Belgrade.

Pozzi had just completed a brilliant winter season by winning the 60m hurdles in 7.51, with a dip so reminiscent of Jackson in his pomp that the Welshman would have a case if it went to the monopolies commission.

But Jackson, the multiple world and European hurdles champion who is working here as a commentator for the BBC, believes this is just the start for 24-year-old Pozzi because he thinks he can even break his world indoor record (7.30) and European outdoor record (12.91).

Pozzi has finally managed a winter free of injury, a few months where he has run superbly, entering the championships with the fastest time in the world (7.43) and converting that into gold with victory from France's defending champion Pascal Martinot-Lagarde (7.52) and the Czech Republic's 2011 champion Petr Svoboda (7.53).

Not since Vienna in 2002, when Jackson triumphed in 7.40, has a British athlete won this title and now Pozzi is being backed to take this triumph into a greater stratosphere.

Jackson said: “Every time I watch him run, I think if anyone can take my world or European records, it is this young man.

“He has all that is needed: he has good basic speed and now he has proved he can win major championships and already we had seen that he can run the fastest time in the world. You cannot ask for much more than that.

“Now it is for him to get more training under his belt and to progress the same way he is going. It may take him two years but I am thinking that those 7.30 and 12.91 are marked figures.”

It some compliment, considering Jackson's outdoor time has stood since 1993 and the indoor one since 1994.

Pozzi showed real mental strength after not the best of starts in the heat of a thrilling race to turn all his great preparation into gold.

Now coached in Loughborough by Benke Blomkvist, Pozzi was previously guided by Malcolm Arnold in Bath, the guru behind Jackson's golden glory and he listens intently to all the advice the Welshman has given him in the past.

Pozzi said: “If I can get anywhere close to Colin's kind of legacy, I will be doing all right.

“I have been very lucky, that we trained with the same coach. I have had a lot of his help and his knowledge. It has probably been easier for me than it was for him when he was starting out and I am very grateful for that. We have a good history in Britain with high hurdles. I am trying to keep this going and building on that.”

The key, said Pozzi, the 2011 European junior 110m hurdles silver medallist, was the depth of his preparation.

He said: “This winter I have been able to accumulate a much bigger work load. Not having any major injuries last year meant I could build a foundation into this year.

“If you look at the last four years, pretty much anywhere from 2012 onwards, I just had so many injury problems to contend with that I have not been able to pick up any momentum before having a major interruption. We are seeing the result of regular training.

“Before I even took my first stride (in the final), I saw that everyone had got out ahead. My heart stopped but my head kicked into overdrive. I fought all the way – it wasn't pretty and it was very messy. It's everything. It has been so long.”

And, as Jackson said, it the start of what could be a long and glorious journey.