All bets are off as Drew gets lift from golden girl’s return

Karla Drew, heptathlete, trains with Toni Minichiello and studies at Sheffield Hallam University.
Karla Drew, heptathlete, trains with Toni Minichiello and studies at Sheffield Hallam University.
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Sheffield hosts a busy two days of elite indoor athletics this weekend. Nick Westby spoke to Karla Drew, one of a number of the region’s contenders.

Search for the name Karla Drew online and one story dominates – that of Jessica Ennis-Hill’s training partner winning £50,000 on a football bet.

In November, the 25-year-old Sheffield Hallam student put a £5 accumulator on 10 international football results, and thanks to Panama and Uruguay in particular, Drew hit the jackpot.

But as she enters her sixth year as part of Toni Minichiello’s renowned training group, Drew is hoping to make athletics the first thing that pops up when her name is typed.

“I couldn’t believe it at the time. It was a life changing win,” said the Exeter-born multi-eventer, who combines her training with a masters in sport and exercise psychology.

“I’ve not spent it yet. It’s safely tucked away in a bank account.

“I’ll use it for financial support for my PhD and then use it as a deposit for a house. Not very exciting, but sensible I hope.”

It is that kind of level-headed approach that was part of the reason Minichiello invited a promising, but raw, athlete up to Sheffield five years ago.

For Drew, the attraction was obvious, training with the best multi-event coach in the country and alongside Britain’s queen of heptathlon, as well as furthering her education at Sheffield Hallam.

Her development has been steady, if not as spectacular as her football forecasting, but she hopes to change that in 2015 after a new approach to her favoured event, the sprint hurdles.

“Last year, I focused a little too much on the hurdles and took everything else out,” said Drew, who contests the 60m hurdles at the Indoor British Championships at Sheffield English Institute of Sport this weekend.

“But this year we’ve also reintroduced the heptathlon into my training.

“It’s important to keep the jumps training in for that explosion and I feel good after doing
a few pentathlons over the winter.”

Like her fellow multi-eventer, Jess Taylor of York – who contests the long jump in Sheffield tomorrow – the star names at the top of the heptathlon field like Ennis-Hill, Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Morgan Lake, mean it is over-optimistic for an athlete to put all their eggs into the athletics basket. Hence the dedication to her education.

Yet even though Ennis-Hill may be blocking her path in the heptathlon, the return of the Olympic champion to training after starting a family last year has given Drew a boost.

“It’s so much better to have her back, and it’s great to see her with 100 per cent focus like she had before,” said Drew.

“Last year was a difficult season for me and part of that was because Jess wasn’t there.

“We always used to hurdle together and having her there was a great inspiration. We were constantly pushing each other, and I missed that last year.”

This weekend’s British Championships at her ‘own backyard’ of the EIS offer Drew and the competitors a chance to seal their place at the European Indoor Championships in Prague next month.

British No 1 hurdler Tiffany Porter is not in action this weekend, giving Drew and rivals such as Johnson-Thompson the chance to claim a place.

“The aim for me is to get into that final,” said Drew. “If I can get a personal best, somewhere in the 8.2s, then that’s all I can do.”

Hull’s Annabelle Lewis hopes to be in the women’s 60m final at 5pm tonight before Stockton-on-Tees’ Richard Kilty defends his 60m title 10 minutes later.

Tomorrow is a busy day for Yorkshire athletes, headlined by the men’s pole vault final which is set to be a shootout between Dearne training partners Adam Hague and defending champion Luke Cutts.

Sheffield’s Mukhtar Mohammed, in the 800m, and Wakefield Harrier Charlene Thomas, in the 1,500m, defend their respective titles while a name to watch is York’s 200m sprinter Thomas Somers.