Brit wins his battle against injuries to target Olympic glory
By Nicola Bamford.
Having put his a seven-year injury nightmare behind him, Chris Thompson has started the year in even better shape as he looks towards the ultimate goal - glory in London 2012.
The 30-year-old US-based Brit pushed World marathon record-holder Haile Gebrselassie all the way to the finish-line at the Bupa Great Manchester Run, earning the Aldershot runner praise as 'the future of 10,000m running' from the Ethiopian distance-running legend.
Placing runner-up in 28:21, Thompson had earlier moved to third on the British all-time 10,000m track rankings with 27:27.36 in California so is understandably pleased with his current form.
"I'm feeling pretty happy and excited to race every time after putting in a lot of hard work over the winter," the European 10,000m silver-medallist explained.
"The 10,000m time was good and I've been running a lot faster in training than last year - I felt strong in the race so I'm excited where that will take me as there's more in the tank.
"My running career should have been over a couple of years ago so I feel like this is my 10th life as a cat, which helps me to relax and enjoy it all - there's no fear there and the performances are really exciting and surreal for me."
Guided by John Nuttall and Mark Rowland, the 2003 European 5,000m junior champion spent much of the winter in Melbourne and Flagstaff, Arizona at high-altitude before returning to his home in Eugene, Oregon for the summer's final preparations.
Determined to capitalise on his continental silver last season, Thompson will head to Font Romeu in the French Pyrenees later this month, ahead of the UK Championships and World Championship trials in Birmingham in July.
With the major aim of 2011 being a top-eight finish in the 5,000m event at the global event in Daegu, South Korea in August, Thompson will seek to get the qualifying time under his belt at the trials and also the Aviva British Grand Prix in Birmingham next month.
It is both this event and the Aviva London Grand Prix in London four weeks later, in which the British 5,000m champion will face his British team-mate, European 5,000m and 10,000m champion Mo Farah.
His fierce rival and friend ran a 26:46.57 European 10,000m record on the track in Thompson's backyard last weekend but the elder runner by two years admits to finding his counterpart's world-class performances more inspiring than frustrating.
"Mo's a great guy and he's well and truly got me covered, but he's a big driving force for me," Thompson revealed.
"The history we have helps me to use him as a person to aspire to and getting back to matching and beating him would be awesome - he's the best male British runner we've ever had.
"He's in Portland and I'm in Eugene, which is two-hours apart so we won't train with each other but when running's done, it will be good to see more of him.
"I'm not into mind games - your emotions should be different on and off the track and we get on, as he sees the sport in the same relaxed, friendly way."
With a refreshing outlook on his competitors, it is little wonder Thompson's popularity in the sport has risen as quickly as his times of late and with Daegu fast-approaching, he cannot help but look ahead with optimism.
"The dream is (in a big jump from European to world level) to make the final in Daegu and try to be as competitive as possible," he explained.
"Ultimately, a top-eight is a massive aim to get experience for (London) next year.
"It's not necessarily about running the times but racing the finals well - I'll need to learn those skills more and having a faster 5,000m personal-best will help my speed in the 10,000m so I won't get eaten alive."
As to whether his short-term decision to focus on the shorter event will pay dividends in the 26-lap event in the Olympic stadium next summer is yet to be seen, but Thompson is ready to grab the opportunity regardless.
"Now I have the Olympic 'A' standard, it's a big help and it's exciting," he said.
"Ever since the day we won the Olympics, my enthusiasm has remained the same and I see it as a huge opportunity to run the race of my life there.
"Maybe as I have had all the injuries, it's put my retirement back so I'll hopefully be in the best form of my life and it will be redemption rather than a nice end to my career - it really would be the icing on the cake."
Written for Sky Sports by Nicola Bamford.