For almost a decade Emelia Gorecka has spent her winters pounding through the mud, snow and whatever else, climbing the various hills and woodlands in England and further afar with the sole aim of maintaining a near perfect cross country record. So impressive that it now sees her own a tally of gold medals longer than a side of A4 paper, and I’ve counted.
Emelia Gorecka, SPAR Euro XC 2013, photo by PhotoRun.net
Not that all her success has come on the cross; with track achievements, most notably, 2012 world junior 3000 metre bronze and a 2014 senior British 10,000m title strong evidence of that, but it is in the dirt where she has made her biggest impression and where we first discovered her unique surname.
The constant image of her emerging towards the finish line, arms stretched out, splattered in mud, ready for victory, donning either the bright yellow of Surrey or the famous red white and green of Aldershot Farnham and District, is something we have come to expect, in the same way you assume it to rain in Scotland or to snow on the ski slopes.
Wherever she has gone the victories have followed. Since taking her first national title aged 13, the distance prodigy has left almost no stone unturned in her elevation towards ultimately qualifying for Rio 2016, and it is so with that target in mind, that this weekend she decided to try something different.
Now finding herself in the realm of a senior athlete the main focus appears to be taking a rapid diversion towards the track and not just outdoors. This afternoon as she undertook her warm up strides at the English Institute of Sport, Sheffield, Gorecka’s feet made impact with an indoor track for the very first time, just minutes before she was due to embark on her racing debut on the surface, in the 3000m.
Going in one the most packed events of this year’s British Championships, the 21 year-old seemed unfazed by the challenge and was soon showing the front running tactics that we have all become accustomed to. Leading the likes of Hannah England, Jessica Judd, Ireland’s Sara Treacy and reigning champion Charlene Thomas at the 2k mark, the stage was seemingly set for victory and the dream beginning to another segment of her resumÃ©. As she head towards the bell in pole position, Treacy surprisingly emerged beside her, before pushing on and going for broke, seemingly leaving her rival without reply. Yet the battle was not over; showing the determination which recently saw her crowned the winner of the Great Edinburgh Cross Country, Gorecka drove back at her opponent pushing her all the way to line, only to be defeated by the smallest of margins. The Irish athlete clocking 9:06.23 to the Brit’s 9:06.27 for the win.
Yet with Treacy ineligible for the title; glory was found in a bittersweet defeat as it meant that Gorecka had secured her second senior British gold and conquered her latest challenge just as she had with so many others by ‘feeling the fear and doing it any other way.’
What lies ahead for the youngster both between now and March and beyond remains unclear, with a seemingly proven process towards success starting to be rebuilt, yet on this performance she is prepared for change.
Speaking before the race Gorecka told me how illness in 2014 and a subsequent early start to training for the outdoors last season had changed her psyche for the years ahead: “Last year I changed my season because I got pretty ill, so I decided to take the rest the cross country season out and start training for the track quite early, around this time of year which ended up working really well for summer. So this year I though ‘I’ve spent the last 10 years doing the exact same racing schedule and all the same cross country races and it’s probably about time I start changing it up a bit.’
With today’s success the first alteration, the next may come on Saturday when she decides whether or not to compete in the famous English cross country championships in what what would be her first time racing as a non-junior: “I’m still entered for the nationals the week after [The British Champs] I just thought if I try an indoors I’ll give my self the opportunity to start a bit of track training early and I can see if it works and I enjoy it because I should start a few different things I guess.”
Emelia Gorecka, World Junior 2012, photo by PhotoRun.net
Whatever her decision is, Gorecka confirms that she will not be competing for Surrey in this year’s inter-counties therefore ruling herself out of a chance to run at the world cross country championships. Due in part to a busy schedule around the time of the event that includes university exams, but also because of her focus on making it to this year’s Beijing world championships: “I had a meeting with British Athletics earlier in the year and [we decided] it would be great to make a big international senior championships leading into Rio, it would be good to have one behind me. Obviously I got a bit of experience last year and the aim is to build on that. I’ve never done a heat and a final before either so that’ll be really important for me to do if I’m to go and make Rio. So the aim would be to try and get that done at the worlds and just get that international experience because I think there’s a lot more to learn there and you have to get it the highest level.”
Similarly to last year, Gorecka will first look to run a fast time early on in the year in America, with altitude training already arranged in Utah before she hopes a chance to run at the famous Prefontaine meet will appear.
If the latest evidence is anything to go by then she shouldn’t be phased by the euphoria of Hayward Field.