6:00am Thursday 7th February 2013
By Ned Payne
LAURA Halford is poised to compete in her first international of the year today and the Cricklade starlet is relishing the prospect.
Halford, 16, will give her new routines their first outing at the Miss Valentine event, which takes place in the Estonian city of Tarttu and features rhythmic gymnastics talent from across Europe.
Performing under the Welsh flag, the New College pupil will use the next few days as the latest stage in her preparation for next year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
The youngster’s mentor at the Swindon-based Esprit club, Deb Hows, has been handed the role of Welsh coach for Miss Valentine and will therefore be present to lend valuable advice and support.
But as a Great Britain and Wales gymnast since the age of nine, Halford has significant experience of international events and cannot wait to step onto the floor today.
“I’m excited to perform my new routines in competition,” she said.
“I’ve only been practising them for a couple of months as they are brand new and put together after new rules came in.
“My aim is to get more confident with my new routines and practise them under pressure.
“I’m not looking for a particular placing, I’m just going to see how it goes.”
Halford is due to compete in four qualification rounds across two days, the second of these being on Saturday.
The competition will serve as one of many significant points for rhythmic gymnasts looking to qualify for major events over the next few years.
In addition to the Commonwealths, Halford has been identified by the British Olympic Association as a potential Rio 2016 athlete, while she also has the targets of the European and World Championships this year.
Coach Hows said that Miss Valentine and other events in the near future would be of paramount importance to Halford.
“It’s three years until the Olympics and a year and a half until the Commonwealths, so it’s all about raising profile and getting good scores,” said Hows.
“You have to get those good scores to ensure you can get up the rankings and get to other competitions.”
The Miss Valentine was the brainchild of world champion Janika Mölder and was first held in 1995.
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