Mukhtar aims to be in top shape for Olympic place

Mukhtar Mohammed athlete 800 metres
Mukhtar Mohammed athlete 800 metres
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Can you believe the New Year is just a couple of days away?

Suddenly, the year we’ve all been waiting for is just around the corner. Before we know it 2012 will be upon us and Olympic fever will really set in.

I must admit, the Christmas break has become a lot more enjoyable since I retired from competition.

While I had my feet up over the festive period I did spare a thought for the current GB athletes, who won’t have skipped a beat with their training schedules over the recent holiday. Missing out on all the festivities was never something I enjoyed when I was in training.

For the world’s best athletes, the New Year gets under way in earnest with the Aviva Series 2012, highlighted by the Aviva Indoor UK Trials and Championships right here in Sheffield in February.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be profiling four of Sheffield’s best track and field athletes, some of whom you might see compete at the Aviva Indoor UK Trials and Championships and all of whom are working hard to earn a start in London next summer.

One athlete I’ve loved watching over the past few years is Mukhtar Mohammed.

A keen footballer, Mukhtar switched his attention to athletics in recent years and has quickly made strides on the track.

While Mukhtar, who was on the books at Sheffield Wednesday as a teenager and seriously considered a career in football, only found his talent for running a couple of seasons ago, he hasn’t looked back since.

In just a few seasons Mukhtar has become a leading talent on the GB athletics scene, culminating in his bronze medal win at the European Under 23 Championships in Ostrava in July.

In August the reigning Under 23 UK champion set a new personal best of 1:45.90, shaving over a second off his previous best time and capping a stellar outdoor season.

But it wasn’t all roses for Mukhtar in 2011 – at the Aviva UK Trials and Championships in Birmingham this summer he stumbled just 150m before the finish line and did not finish the race.

Now with his sights set on selection to his first Olympic team, the 21-year-old is hard at training in a bid to realise his Olympic dream.

In October his training took him to Kenya, with a squad of British athletes in the warm, high-altitude environment of southern Africa.

A second stint in Africa before the UK outdoor season begins will have Mukhtar in the shape of his life when the Aviva 2012 Trials roll around next summer.

And career-best form is just what Mukhtar will need if he’s to crack the Olympic team, with competition for a place on the squad set to go right down to the wire.

Also fighting it out for one of only three 800m berths up for grabs are fellow two-lap athletes Michael Rimmer, Andrew Osagie, Gareth Warburton and James Shane.

At such a young age and being fairly new to the sport, it’s an achievement in itself that Mukhtar is in the frame for Olympic selection.

At 21, he has years in the sport ahead of him and will only continue to develop in the seasons ahead.