Commonwealth Games champion Louise Hazel has been confirmed in Britain’s team for the World Championships in Daegu later this month.
She will line up with world champion Jessica Ennis, who paid Hazel the compliment by admitting the March athlete has become a serious rival as well as an international team-mate.
This time last year Hazel was arguably seen as just a talented understudy but such has been her rise to prominence over the last 12 months that even world and European champion Ennis is now looking over her shoulder.
She announced herself as an athlete to be feared 10 months ago when claiming Commonwealth Games gold in Delhi after a stunning heptathlon performance.
The 25-year-old has already achieved the Olympic A qualifying standard with a personal best of 6,166 points in Germany last month, making her a near-certainty to be competing at London 2012.
Before then, the World Championships in South Korea represents the final opportunity for Britain’s multi-eventers to put down a sizeable marker ahead of the London Olympic Games.
As Ennis prepares to defend the crown she won in Berlin in 2009 she admits it will be Hazel who will be causing her some sleepless nights in the coming days and weeks.
“I will always look out for Louise’s results and I wish her all the best, but of course at the end of the day we are rivals,” said a defiant Ennis.
“That’s what it comes down to really. I want her to do well, just not as well as me! Louise and I have been competing against each other for so many years, right the way through from the junior ranks, and I know her very well.
“Her performance at the Commonwealths was really impressive and she’s improving all the time and with the Olympics in mind that’s a very good sign. That sort of rivalry can only be a good thing for us as individuals and British athletics as a whole.
“We have a great tradition of heptathletes in this country and if we can continue to push each other on then that’s fantastic.”
Hazel can’t wait to go toe-to-toe with her great friend and now rival Ennis in Daegu.
Ennis is British Athletics’ poster girl and, like Hazel, seems to pull out her best performances on the big stage.
“Jessica is so composed on the track and field,” said Hazel. “She never panics, always stays very focused and she’s always able to pull something out in the third and final rounds, which shows she’s a real fighter.
“There are a handful of contenders in Daegu. The heptathlon is not an event where you can hang the gold medal around anybody’s neck. Tatyana Chernova has been in very good form while Natallia Dobrynska tends to be a major threat at a major championship even though she’s not scored highly this season.”