Great Britain cross country and middle-distance runner Harriet Knowles-Jones claimed bronze at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Sardinia earlier this month. Her successful run helped contribute towards her country winning team gold at the Championships just a few months after she made her debut at the IAAF Diamond League in Lausanne in Switzerland.
Harriet, who is in her first year studying at Liverpool University, has received support from SportsAid through MyLotto24 this year. She is now preparing for the Great Edinburgh XCountry on Saturday 7 January with many of her family coming up to support her. Warrington Athletics Club runner Harriet won silver in the women's junior race in 2016 as she finished just behind team-mate Bobby Clay.
Congratulations on your bronze medal at the European Cross Country Championships! How pleased were you with your performance? How did you approach the race?
"The race was run very differently to last year - Konstanze Klosterhalfen set a very fast pace. It was a tough race so I was very pleased to be able to come away with a medal. My parents and coach came out to Sardinia to support. I love having them at races, they helped me to get into a positive frame of mind and sort out a race plan."
The women’s team also won a gold medal at the Championships - how did it feel to be part of it? Are there a strong group of young athletes coming up through the ranks?
"The team was so strong, and a lovely group of girls. Liz Yelling (our team manager) really helped us to prepare for the competition. The majority of the team were older, but we will have quite a young team for the Great Edinburgh XCountry."
Both of your parents [Jayne Knowles and Martin Jones] were successful athletes - how instrumental have they been in supporting you through your journey? Have they passed on any family tricks or tips?
"My mum is the best person at helping me to control my nerves, she helps me to keep things in perspective. From all her experiences she knows what I'm going through before I race, so knows exactly what to say. I'm very lucky to have such a supportive family, my grandparents, my aunties, uncles and cousins are also coming to watch me in Edinburgh."
What have been your highlights of 2016? What accomplishments are you most proud of?
"I had a great time in Poland for the World Junior Track Championships, with Bobby Clay, I got a 1,500m personal best in the final. This European XC in Sardinia was a great race - it was such a beautiful place. I enjoyed the whole experience and I didn't get too nervous, because I didn't feel there was any pressure on me."
You've received SportsAid support through MyLotto24 in 2016 - what difference has this made to you? How important is the recognition as well as finance?
"Being recognised by SportsAid gave me a big confidence boost, because some great senior names have been supported by SportsAid, so it shows me that I'm heading in the right direction. The financial support has been a huge help with travel expenses - I'm living at home and driving into university each day and then to training in the evening."
What are your targets for the future - both short-term and long-term?
"My aim for this season is the Great Edinburgh XC, I think it is going to be a strong field this year so it will be difficult to get amongst the medals, but that's what I'd like to do."
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