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Amber Anning: Paris 2024 Olympics would be 'icing on cake' for record-breaking Team GB sprinter

Amber Anning, who is studying at the University of Arkansas, has won two international medals with Great Britain's relay team
Amber Anning, who is studying at the University of Arkansas, has won two international medals with Great Britain's relay team

British sprinter Amber Anning says becoming an Olympian would be the "icing on the cake" after breaking a 25-year-old UK indoor record.

By running a 200m time of 22.60 seconds in Fayetteville, Arkansas, last month, Anning eclipsed Katharine Merry's 22.83 mark, set in Birmingham in 1999.

Later the same day, she ran a personal best 50.56secs in her favoured 400m to achieve the Olympic qualification time.

"I was in utter astonishment," the 23-year-old told BBC Radio Sussex.

"I didn't expect to go out and produce those times. I was just shocked because we [Great Britain] have produced so many good athletes over the years.

"I was actually surprised that the record hadn't been broken [earlier]," she added.

Part of the surprise was because Anning didn't know that she had run a British record until she looked at social media afterwards.

Katharine Merry won 400m bronze at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, a year after setting the old UK indoor 200m record
Katharine Merry won 400m bronze at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, a year after setting the old UK indoor 200m record

Merry was one of the first to congratulate her, with the Olympic bronze medallist posting on X: "The record stood for a good amount of time. Amber wasn't even born when I sped my short back and sides around the NIA [National Indoor Arena]!"

Anning has already had a taste of medal success, winning 4x400m relay bronze at the 2023 World Championships in Budapest, following a silver in the same event at the 2019 European Indoor Championships in Glasgow.

The Scottish city will host the World Indoors in March and that could be where Anning breaks her next target - the 50.02-second UK indoor 400m record, held by five-time world medallist Nicola Sanders since 2007.

Anning is one of a number of British athletes hoping to improve their performances by training in America, with three of the women's relay quartet that won world bronze last year all living there.

There will be fierce competition for places in Team GB's Olympic squad this summer, with a top-two finish at the UK Athletics Championships needed to guarantee individual 400m selection.

A lower finish at those trials will leave selectors to consider other criteria, including world rankings, form and previous international success.

"There is lots more to give - I don't want to be complacent," said Anning, who was disappointed to miss out on the previous Olympics in Tokyo three years ago.

Britain's world 4x400m bronze medallists Amber Anning, Yemi Mary John and Nicole Yeargin are all based in the USA, while Laviai Nielsen used to train there
Britain's world 4x400m bronze medallists Amber Anning, Yemi Mary John and Nicole Yeargin are all based in the USA, while Laviai Nielsen used to train there

"It's the pinnacle of track and field, of any sport. I want to be in Paris, I want to represent my country," she asserted. "It has to be this year. I don't want to wait another four years.

"It's just like the icing on the cake for me. Seeing my idols - Usain Bolt, Shelly-Ann [Fraser-Pryce], Christine Ohuruogu do their thing - I want to be on that stage."

It is easy to forget that while pushing herself to new heights in Arkansas - where Anning is studying at university - she is more than 4,000 miles away from where she grew up in Hove.

"It's so hard," Anning admitted. "I went back last summer for maybe just over a week. I rarely do.

"Some of my closest friends I haven't seen for two years. It's not easy, but I think everyone understands.

"Not being home for Christmas is a sacrifice and it hurts me because I love being around my family at that time."

Amber Anning was speaking to BBC Sport's Juliette Parkin.