Athletics: Morrison sets sights on London
Derry triathlete Aileen Morrison has made a New Year's wish to stay injury-free as she sets her sights on qualifying for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Just back from a pre-Christmas training break in Portugal, the recently-crowned Vodafone Triathlete of the Year, has her feet firmly on the ground after a 2010 season that saw her shoot up the international rankings, thanks mainly to a podium finish at one of the world's leading triathlon events.
Morrison was the surprise package at the elite Triathlon ITU World Championship event in Hamburg in July as she finished third, behind world No 1 Emma Moffat and No 3 Lisa Norden of Sweden. Her sights are now set on Olympic qualification in 2011.
"Definitely, that third-place finish at the World Champion-ship event in Hamburg would suggest that there is no reason why I cannot compete at the highest level, but it's far too early to read anything more than that into this," said Morrison.
"At the end of the day, however, my focus is very clear and next year is essentially about qualifying for the Olympics. I want to secure that by the end of the year and still be fresh enough to peak for the games.
"First and foremost, I have to be consistent in my races next year and ensure that by the end of the year I not only qualify for the Olympics, but do so without having had to push myself so hard that I empty the tank.
"The second most important thing I have to do is stay injury free. If the Olympics were tomorrow I would be in the 11th slot (55 will qualify for the games) and if I can avoid injury next year and stay consistent, I should achieve qualification."
Her consistency throughout 2010 showed the Hamburg podium finish was by no means a flash in the pan. She finished fourth in a World Cup event in Korea -- the second tier competition for international triathletes after the World Championships -- as well a fifth place in the hugely successful European Championships staged in Athlone in July, which was the best finish by an Irish triathlete in the event.
As she relaxed with family in Derry for Christmas, Morrison, whose weekly training schedule averages out at an arduous 25 hours between pool work, road-running and cycling, was already looking forward to the first major event of 2011, a World Championship race in Japan in April.
"There are eight World Championship events and I expect to compete in four of those, as well as a number of World Cup races.
"Although it is a tier below the World Championship races, if I pick the World Cup races right, I could pick up some valuable points for Olympic qualification.
"There will also be the World (championship) Final race. Last year I finished 17th in this in Budapest and while it was not one of my best results, it was still pretty consistent, given what I achieved throughout the year.
"I am excited about what's ahead in 2011. It's a very big year for me and everything is pointing towards London. I am peaking at the right time of my career and if I stick to my coach's (Chris Jones) plan, I will land in London fit and well and who knows what can happen then," she concluded.