St Helens athlete has gold ambition

Pentathlete Danielle McGifford
Pentathlete Danielle McGifford

Rainford heptathlete Danielle McGifford believes time is on her side as she aims to give Great Britain’s golden girls Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson a run for their money.

The 18-year-old placed No.2 in the British under-20 rankings last season and earned her first call up to the national team for the Combined Events International Indoor Match in Sheffield in January.

McGifford, a former De La Salle School pupil, finished seventh in the Steel City while also this indoor season British rival Johnson-Thompson won World Championship silver in the long jump in Poland.

Ennis-Hill is unlikely to compete this year after falling pregnant but McGifford isn’t concerned.

“The Rio 2016 Olympics will possibly come too soon – I’ll be slightly too young, especially in heptathlon where you’ve got incredible athletes at the minute like Katarina and Jess,” said McGifford.

“You’ve got such amazing talent already so to try and break through is going to be the hardest bit but it’ll be a great challenge. I’ve met Jess – I’ve actually competed with her. In 2012 I was invited to do the Olympic trials in Birmingham and it was insane.

“To be warming up next to Jess didn’t feel real – I kept looking and thought ‘should I really be here?’ It was a great experience, athletes like Greg Rutherford were there as well, and that’s exactly where I want to be.

“In the next couple of years I’d like to break through and be given the opportunities. That’s the hard thing in athletics, you need to make opportunities yourself and put yourself forward.”

McGifford, who is hoping to be selected on the British team for the World Junior Championships in America in July, is used to punching above her weight.

“People want me to step up into a higher age group to the under-23s from under-20s, and I was quite surprised they did, because at youth level too there are a lot of talented girls,” she added.

“I just wanted to go to Sheffield and perform how I know I can. I knew they were older but it was nice to not have as much pressure because people didn’t expect me to do well.”

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