GB hurdler Andrew Pozzi on testing athletics season and looks ahead to Tokyo Olympics

By Mark Ashenden

Last Updated: 29/11/2019, 11:48 GMT

Andrew Pozzi
Image: Andrew Pozzi only had 20 days to prepare for the World Championships in Qatar

Moving to Italy, changing coach, injury misery and tumbles on the track.

It's no wonder Andrew Pozzi describes the last year as "turbulent" - events that even pushed the relationship with his new coach to the max.

But Great Britain's top hurdler has been through all this before and his wisdom, mentality and track skills should put him in a great position to get on the podium at next summer's Olympics.

So how has the 27-year-old coped with such trauma and why is he still in good spirits with Tokyo just seven months away?

"In a long season full of ups and downs, it was very easy to focus only on the closing moments and reflect with disappointment and frustration.

This short-termism slowly disappeared and the learning began. Analysing the year week by week, competition by competition, I began to realise areas we could improve - accepting what could be changed for 2020 and recognising what was simply out of our control and down to bad luck.

2019 was a turbulent year. So much happened - both good and bad - in the longest season of my professional career.

Andrew Pozzi is getting back into rhythm after struggling with injury

I started the season in October 2018 with a move to the west coast of Italy, changing coach (Santiago Antunez), environment, language and philosophy in the hope of finding improvements that would take me to the World Championships podium in Doha.

I settled into training and began adapting to the new style. Training was similar to the work I'd done over the last few years but with a focus on technique and all the minute details of my event. The first few months were challenging, engaging but ultimately rewarding, and I was incredibly excited about my progress.

As we approached Christmas and I flew back to the UK for a short break I had my first taste of injury - a large tear in my right quadriceps. This altered our plans and almost two months later I was only just coming out of the other side to train.

This injury tested the relationship I was building with my new coach, and while it ruined any aspirations I had of retaining my European indoor 60m hurdles title, it brought me closer to my coach and training environment; providing us with a first test to negotiate and an early opportunity to learn.

After a sporadic indoor season and with eight weeks until my first outdoors race, we started the hard graft needed and I finally had some uninterrupted progress.

I started my season strongly with second-place finishes in the Rome and Rabat Diamond Leagues before taking my seasons best down to 13.28s with fourth in the Lausanne Diamond League.

I was in really heavy training through this period so racing as well gave me great confidence. Technically my races were solid and the second half of these races were improving.

The first half was good and I was regularly in a competitive position at hurdle five but I lacked sharpness, although this was expected.

Due to the length of the season (World Championships were in October, not the usual August) we were always planning on working heavily until mid-late July before entering a slightly lighter, more competition-specific, phase.

What wasn't anticipated was my second big taste of injury this year, when I had a fall in training after my race in Lausanne. When hurdling under fatigue I made a technical mistake and I suffered a heavy tumble.

I was in a lot of pain but it wasn't clear what the issue was and for two weeks we were under the impression it was manageable. Warming up for the Anniversary Games my symptoms were worsening and immediately after the race I was struggling to walk.

Andrew Pozzi

It turned out I had significantly damaged my soleus muscle and tendon as well as some structures around my knee. It was a disaster and cost me eight weeks of training and preparation.

We worked tirelessly to give ourselves every chance of success in Doha but with the high hurdles being such a technical and rhythmical event the lack of specific training really hurt the season's progress.

I was left at the World Championships out of sync and struggling to recreate the form of earlier in the season. I didn't make the final.

So it was a tough season but I quickly moved on and we are starting preparations for the 2020 season and the Tokyo Olympics.

I feel in a much better place physically and mentally thanks to a challenging, but insightful 2019! Settled and extremely motivated, I'm excited for what next year has in store.