PURFLEET’S sprint hurdler Khai Riley-Laborde revealed competing alongside the best athletes in the country has given him even more desire to reach the very top of his sport.
The 18-year-old Palmer’s College student ran a new personal best of 8.0s for the 60m hurdles at the UK Indoor Championships in Sheffield.
Also competing at the championships were some of the stars of the sport, including a whole raft of Olympians. And just to be in there company has given Riley-Laborde a real injection of confidence.
“It really has,” he said. “I was racing against people I’ve only watched on telly before, Olympians and British record holders. It does get you thinking ‘wow, I’m close to their level now’.”
Riley-Laborde, who competed at the European Junior Championships last summer, was invited to compete in the senior championships after just a month of racing over the senior hurdles, which are three inches higher than the junior barriers he is used to.
The former William Edwards School pupil sat down with his coach Ray Gibbins at Enfield & Haringey at the start of the winter and decided to compete against the seniors for the first part of his indoor season.
“I’m not sure whether it’s because I’m tall, but when I did it before it came naturally to me,” said Riley-Laborde. “So my coach suggested I try racing against the seniors.”
After proving himself capable of competing alongside the seniors, Riley-Laborde will now revert back to racing in the under-20 age group for the rest of the season, starting with the under-20 Birmingham Games this weekend.
“I’m scared to be honest,” laughed Riley-Laborde. “I’ve not gone over my hurdles since the European Junior Championships in Italy, so I don’t know how I’m going to find it. Some people say it’s hard to go up and back down again.”
Whatever happens between now and the end of the indoor season, Riley-Laborde is looking at the bigger picture, with the outdoor season, and in particular the World Junior Championships, his main priority.
“I’m just using the indoors as a stepping stone for the outdoor season,” he said. “World Juniors is the aim but it’s going to be so hard to get there. I’m not sure whether it’s because it’s in America (it’s being held at Oregon’s famous Hayward Field) or what, but everyone is working so hard to get there. I’ve got to do the same, be on my game and hopefully stay injury free.”
Also competing at the UK Indoor Championships at the weekend was Stanford-le-Hope’s European Junior 400m hurdles champion Hayley McLean.
McLean, 19, ran 55.25s for the flat 400m – just outside her personal best – but missed out on a place in the semi-final.
Afterwards she said she was disappointed with her performance, tweeting: “Bad day at the office but that will teach me for going off too slow. However, what a great learning experience.”