The British athlete opens up about building on an unforgettable Budapest experience, navigating the NCAA system and getting ready to turn professional
Amber Anning had never experienced anything like it before. Her first taste of competing at the World Championships last summer, an event from which she returned with a 4x400m bronze medal, will stay with the 23-year-old forever.
“To be selected and for them to trust in me to do what needed to be done to make the final and then win a medal, it was just amazing,” she beams. “The atmosphere was really special and I learned a lot about myself going out there. Even when I was running the heat, I’ve never experienced what I felt when I raced. It was effortless. It was like the crowd was taking me around.
“In all my years of running track, it was such a such a beautiful moment. Don’t get me wrong, after the race I was on the floor with lactic and everything, but it was like I was being propelled around the track.”
The feeling was made all the sweeter given that, at times last year, the University of Arkansas student hadn’t even wanted to put herself in with a chance of going to Budapest. After a brilliant indoor season, during which she had been part of the ‘Razorbacks’ line-up that ran the fastest 4x400m time in history as they grabbed the NCAA title, a lower back problem reared its head.
“A couple of days after [the end of the indoor season] I woke up and I couldn’t walk. It was an ongoing issue throughout the outdoors,” she says of what proved to be trouble with the sacroiliac joint that affected her hamstrings.
The frustration grew and Anning began to doubt the idea of making the British team for Hungary. Since switching from Louisiana State Univeristy to Arkansas, the 2019 European indoor 4x400m medallist says she has been truly made to feel like one of the family, even spending Thanksgiving and Christmas at the home of her coach, Chris Johnson.
It was his wife who urged Anning to head home to England last summer – not just to compete at the UK trials but also to see her own family.
“She was telling me: ‘Maybe a change of location and being back home might bring something out of you’. And it really did. I ran back-to-back outdoor PBs at the Champs.”
Anning’s 51.62 run in coming fourth in Manchester put her name in the frame for Hungary and that unforgettable team experience.
Now on top of her injury…