Alexandra Bell set on achieving her Olympic dream - with or without help from UK Athletics

LEEDS athlete Alexandra Bell is already used to proving people wrong.

Olympic aim: Great Britain's Alexandra Bell.
Olympic aim: Great Britain's Alexandra Bell.

After being overlooked by selectors for Team GB’s 2018 European Championship squad, the 800m runner vowed to return better than ever in 2019.

By finishing highest-placed Brit at the 2019 World Championships, the athlete did exactly that.

But four months on, a new year has left Bell with another new point to prove with the runner out to defy her latest British Athletics funding snub by stepping out at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Bell controversially failed to make her nation’s 800m team for the 2018 European Championships in Germany as Lynsey Sharp, Shelayna Oskan-Clarke and Adelle Tracey instead represented Great Britain despite Bell running a quicker time than all three earlier in the year. One year later, Bell then proved she was her country’s best women’s 800m runner in the autumn’s World Championships in Doha.

This time, Bell, Oskan-Clarke and Sharp all flew the flag for Team GB in the 800m with Bell and Oskan-Clarke making the semi-finals and Bell faring best in finishing 14th.

A fine year that included a personal best time of 1:59.82 then featured further glory the following month as Bell won her event representing Europe in a team competition against the USA in Belarus.

The former Leeds Beckett University student hoped she would then be rewarded with funding for the first time in four years through the Lottery support programme for 2020.

DETERMINED: Alexandra Bell during the Womens 800 metres heats at the IAAF World Championships at the Khalifa International Stadium, Doha, Qatar last September. Pictures: Martin Rickett/PA

Yet not for the first time, the Apperley Bridge-based runner was left disappointed in being overlooked with preference given to Oskan-Clarke and Sharp with Bell unsuccessful in her appeal.

Hardly ideal for an athlete already combining the hard yards of training with a part-time day job in a retail shop in pursuit of Olympic dreams.

Yet Bell has been here before with the 27-year-old vowing to provide exactly the same response to her Euros snub, only this time by bouncing back to excel on the biggest stage of all at Tokyo this summer.

Bell told The Yorkshire Post: “Obviously it’s frustrating because everybody around you believes in you and I believe in myself.

“But the people who we are supposed to be looking up to and who are supposed to be looking out for us, are the only people who are not agreeing or seeing it.

“That’s the frustrating thing and it’s almost a case of ‘what is the point?’ but I have got my own goals and my own targets and I am going to do whatever I can to reach them.

“It’s always been the case, I will do whatever I can in whatever way possible to get on the team again and get to the Olympics this year.

“Every year, I have progressed and if you look at my performances, times and profile compared to the rest of the girls I believe I am the only improving athlete.

“If you were to read the selection policies for both funding and team selection, it’s not just me sucking sour grapes, I am being neglected and I don’t know why.

“But every year that has just made me more determined to go and push on and to do that bit extra. On those miserable mornings, it’s just that extra hunger and drive that spurs me on to want to do more and prove everybody wrong – to show that you don’t need funding, you don’t need British Athletics to be successful and to get what you want out of sport.”

For Bell, the right result at June’s British Athletics Championships in Manchester would seal a place on the plane to Tokyo with the event doubling up as Team GB’s Olympic trials.

A third-placed finish also offers hope with Great Britain able to take a third athlete at their discretion and with a new points system also to consider, Bell is determined to leave nothing to chance by ensuring a top-two placing at the trials.

“That’s all you can do and that’s the easiest way,” said Bell.

“That’s what everybody wants to do but it’s not always that easy to complete!

“I am absolutely certain I will run the qualifying time, I have had a good winter again and I always judge the summer season based on how well I have done in the winter season – so far, so good up to now.

“Top two at the trials is guaranteed a spot at the Olympics if you have got the qualifying time and points come into it as well because this year they are working on a points system.

“Throughout the year, you will accumulate so many points based on what events you get invited to or compete in.

“It’s pretty new this way that they are doing it but, for instance, if I was to run 1.59 at Watford BSE again and I did a Diamond League and I ran two minutes two then I would get more points for running the slower time in the Diamond League.

“It means that this year we are going to have to be very specific and selective and, hopefully, get into some better races and some of these higher points/higher-ranked races so we can get as many points as possible.”

As part of that plan, Bell is already eyeing a stint competing in Japan and China in May before attacking the trials. By then, as part of an extremely busy and eventful year, the athlete will be married to fiancee Josh Norman. They tie the knot in April and are getting married in York.

The 800m runner who takes everything in her stride insists arranging a wedding three months before a potential Olympic outing has actually been relatively stress-free.

“I’m calm,” insisted Bell. “It’s all planned. We have been pretty organised throughout the last year just so we didn’t get the stress. Everything is in place, we just need to get married and get on with the season.”

Thereafter, if Bell has her way, even in light of another funding rebuff, all roads will lead to Tokyo.

The runner has already excelled twice in major events for Great Britain with her 2019 Worlds efforts coming one year after a fifth-placed finish at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast of Australia.

Yet, despite all the frustrations, representing her country at the Olympics would be the ultimate fairytale conclusion.

“It would be so satisfying, and to say that you had done it on your own as well,” continued Bell. “I have got my own team around me and it would make it even sweeter to do it with me and my own team as opposed to relying on anybody else.

“That’s the drive and the determination every morning. Year on year so far it’s just been progress, progress, progress. It’s the tiny one and two per-centers every year that matter and, hopefully, it will all pay off in this Olympic year.”